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Browns unable to finish off Jags
BEREA, OHIO (AP) - Normally, any NFL team that forces six turnovers wins.
These Cleveland Browns seem to be anything but normal.
On Sunday, they picked off four Jacksonville passes, recovered two fumbles, returning one for a touchdown, and outplayed the Jaguars for most of the game. But when it mattered most, the Browns collapsed and lost 24-20, dropping them to 1-5 this season in games decided by seven points or less.
They can't complete the job.
"You gotta finish games," lamented Browns coach Eric Mangini.
Cleveland's latest punch-in-the-belly loss, which included rookie quarterback Colt McCoy spraining his ankle, was an oddity.
According to STATS LLC, since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, teams that have been plus-5 in turnover margin have gone 363-16-2 _ a .957 winning percentage. Also, teams that have recorded six takeaways in a game are an equally impressive 450-44-2, a .910 percentage.
In the past 40 years, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 25-0 in those games. The Browns are 15-4.
Mangini simply shook his head Monday when asked if he could have imagined losing when his team had such a lopsided statistical advantage in turnovers.
"Nope," he said. "But we lived it."
This loss was tough to stomach on so many levels for the Browns (3-7), who showed improvement and progress in consecutive upsets of New Orleans and New England and an overtime loss last week to the New York Jets. Suddenly, those performances seem forgotten.
Cleveland's running game, so vital to the recent turnaround, was almost nonexistent as the Jaguars held powerful running back Peyton Hillis to 48 yards on 21 carries and Jacksonville's defensive front dominated the Browns' revamped line.
The Browns' offense scored just 10 points off the six turnovers. More troubling, on Cleveland's five drives after five consecutive turnovers, the Browns totaled minus-9 yards and did not complete a pass or pick up a first down.
After playing nearly flawless football in the second half, the Browns' defense gave up the game's biggest play, a 75-yard screen pass late in the fourth quarter. Jags' running back Maurice Jones-Drew darted in and around the entire Cleveland defense, with at least four Browns fanning on possible tackles, to set up Jacksonville's go-ahead TD with 1:20 remaining.
Mangini didn't have his best game, either. He and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll are under renewed criticism for Cleveland's conservative gameplan. Given excellent field position following the turnovers, the Browns chose to run the ball, hoping Hillis would finally bust a long run.
"We felt like we had some good answers there," Mangini said. "We didn't execute very well and our answers weren't as good as we thought they were. That's frustrating."
Mangini, too, burned up all three second-half timeouts before Cleveland's final, frenetic drive.
"That just can't happen," Mangini said.
And getting your healthiest quarterback hurt can't happen either. But it did.
In the third quarter, McCoy was injured on a sack, becoming the third Cleveland QB to sustain an ankle injury so far this season. McCoy left the stadium with a cowboy boot on his right foot and a plastic walking boot on his left.
Mangini confirmed McCoy's sprain, but was unclear when asked if it was a dreaded high ankle sprain like the ones that have kept Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace sidelined for weeks.
McCoy underwent more tests on Monday, and Mangini said he will wait to see if McCoy can practice on Wednesday before making any decision on a starter for Sunday's home game against Carolina. Wallace was McCoy's backup in Jacksonville with Delhomme as the No. 3 quarterback.
Mangini said wide receiver Joshua Cribbs is making progress after missing Sunday's game with dislocated toes.
Cribbs did not make the trip to Florida, and neither did linebacker Scott Fujita, who is sidelined with a ligament injury suffered against the Jets and may be out a few more weeks. Fujita spoke to reporters for the first time since getting hurt.
Fujita said watching the Browns lose from his living room was tough, especially because of all the turnovers Cleveland caused.
"I've never seen a game like that," he said. "I've never heard of a game like that."
Fujita, though, has been with teams which have struggled to close out games. Like anything else, learning to win is a process.
"The last couple weeks it's just a play here and a play there, and when you don't make those big plays at those critical moments in the game, that's what prevents you from winning," said Fujita, a captain. "It's disappointing. This team has shown a lot of progress. There are a lot of things to be proud of, but it's just that the margin of error is so small in this league, and I feel like we've learned that more than anybody this season."
By David A. Clarke Jr.
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