BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns coach Hue Jackson knew if he complained about Sunday’s officiating he could be fined. The NFL is always watching and listening.
He may soon be writing a check to Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Still smarting after Cleveland’s road losing streak reached 22 consecutive games with an overtime loss at Oakland, Jackson was asked Monday if he was satisfied the officials had correctly spotted the ball in the closing minutes on a critical measurement that was overturned by a replay review.
“There are a lot of things that I am not satisfied about,” he said.
Jackson then clicked off a few.
“The kicking of the football down the field right next to the official, the sack-fumble on a quarterback … Do you guys want me to keep going?” he asked reporters. “The spot. It goes on and on and on. We have to do a better job of being in control of it, not the officials being in control of it.”
Although Jackson didn’t solely lay the 45-42 loss to the Raiders on the refs, there’s no denying that some questionable calls that went against the Browns (1-2-1) led to another heartbreaking loss.
The Browns appeared to pick up a game-ending first down — and were poised to win rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield’s first start — with 1:38 left in regulation as running back Carlos Hyde gained 2 yards on third-and-2.
But replay official Billy Smith ruled Hyde was short of the marker and overturned the conversion, the Browns were forced to punt and the Raiders wound up tying the score and winning in OT on a 29-yard field goal.
Even by Cleveland standards, this one hurt.
Jackson, though, came away feeling encouraged by his young team. The Browns overcame a litany of their own mistakes and were in position to win before their defense crumbled at the end of regulation.
The losses keep mounting for Jackson, now 0-18 on the road and 2-33-1 during his two-plus seasons in Cleveland. But he’s convinced these Browns are not the old Browns.
“We have never been this close since I have been here, not as close as we have been in these four weeks,” he said.
“There have been some games (in past years) where I think that we played as well as we could play and had a chance to win and make a play down the stretch. This team feels different. This team is more talented. I do not think that there is any remains of the past teams.”
However, the Browns continue to be plagued by familiar problems. They’re committing too many penalties and special teams have been special in name only.
But unlike the past two seasons, Jackson said there’s no sense of doom on the sideline during games, no feeling that things will go from bad to worse.
“I do not get the sense of what I felt before down there,” he said. “I get the sense that this is a team that is really starting to come together and understand how close they are. Now what they have to do is go finish those things.”
It’s not a stretch to think the Browns could be 3-1 or even 4-0. But a blocked field goal in the opener against Pittsburgh and several missed kicks at New Orleans cost them two wins before they blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter Sunday and were swallowed up in the Black Hole.
They have to learn to finish, and center JC Tretter believes the Browns are learning while taking a few more lumps.
“We have a lot of grit on this team,” he said. “Even last year, you saw it. Obviously, last year we were not able to get any wins, but we never stopped fighting no matter what the circumstances were during the game, and I think that mentality has carried over. Now with the added talent and experience, that effort late in games you can come back from almost anything.
“We lost our 14-point lead, and those are sometimes tougher to bounce back from after you have it and you lose it. Just that we kept plugging along and kept pushing, and obviously, we come back. There is no quit and there is no rolling over on this team.”
NOTES: Jackson said rookie RB Nick Chubb needs more touches after scoring on TD runs of 63 and 41 yards. “I watched those two touchdowns on tape today, and they were even better than they were on the field,” he said. … CB Terrance Mitchell underwent surgery on his broken right wrist and will be sidelined indefinitely. Jackson is optimistic Mitchell will return at some point this season. … Jackson said he never considered trying to going for it on fourth down after Hyde’s run was overturned. “It did not enter my mind,” he said. … Despite Mayfield’s four turnovers, Jackson liked how his rookie QB played. “I did not see any blink in Baker on any of those things,” Jackson said. “That is what was very pleasing to me. I get a chance to look in his eyes, and he did not flinch. Matter of fact, he was like, ‘Come on guys, let’s go.’”
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