The New York Jets nearly forced overtime Sunday in Cleveland but dropped to 4-4 on the season, falling 20-13 to the Browns. Reuben Droughns rushed for 125 yards and one touchdown and Cleveland took advantage of three Jets turnovers as the Browns held on for a hard-fought victory.
"We knew we had to stop the running game and we didn't do that as effectively as we needed to," said New York head coach Eric Mangini. "We wanted to get into a rhythm offensively and play fast, and we didn't do that consistently enough. I thought there were times when we did it pretty well and there were times we couldn't sustain that rhythm – anytime you have three turnovers it's tough to win."
On a 4th and four at the Browns 24-yard line with a minute remaining, tight end Chris Baker hauled in a remarkable one-handed catch of a Chad Pennington pass in the end zone. But Baker, who was crashed into, landed out of bounds and the field officials ruled that he would not have landed in bounds. They also indicated that it was not a reviewable play.
"I need to see it, but I'm pretty sure from the way I jumped that I was going to come down in bounds," Baker said.
"There was nothing we could do at that point because it's all controlled by the officials in the booth," Mangini added. "We took that timeout there to give more time for everybody to take a look at it and it played out the way it played out."
Following Mangini's core Jets values, his club went for a fantastic finish after falling behind by 17 points late in the third quarter. Justin Miller made it a 10-point game, returning a Phil Dawson kickoff 99 yards for a score. It was Miller's second kickoff return touchdown on the season.
"The return team has done well. I saw a lane in there and I took it," Miller said of his return. "They blocked like they did all week and have done everything we've asked them to do. It's all you can ask for out of your return team."
Then after an impressive defensive stop which included two sacks of QB Charlie Frye, Mike Nugent cut the lead to seven as he snuck a 47-yard kick inside the left upright. With 12:54 remaining, the Jets trailed only 20-13.
The Browns didn't look like a 1-5 team in the first half, playing a physical, blue-collar brand of football on their way to a 10-3 intermission lead. Droughns ran for 69 yards in the opening two quarters and accounted for the game's first touchdown as the Browns were able to take advantage of Pennington's first interception.
Mike Nugent, a Centerville, Ohio native and Ohio State alum, got the Jets on the board first, connecting from 27 yards out. The Green & White started at their own eight yard-line but moved the ball effectively down the field. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer continued his innovative play-calling as he had Jerricho Cotchery take a reverse on the game's first play. Brad Smith, a multi-purpose rookie threat, took two snaps at quarterback for the Jets on the 16-play possession that kept Browns fans quiet for eight minutes and 30 seconds.
The Browns would answer with Phil Dawson knotting the game late in the first quarter, rocking the ball through the uprights from 47 yards. The Jets moved into opposition territory again on their second possession, but Pennington had a pass deflected by a Browns lineman and safety Sean Jones intercepted for Cleveland. The home team, playing inspired ball under newly appointed offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson, took advantage of the takeaway and Droughns culminated a 69-yard drive with a bruising two-yard score.
"I didn't throw the ball well today," said a dejected Pennington. "I had opportunities and chances to make plays, but I didn't make them."
Midway through the second quarter, two members of the Jets' prized draft class made significant contributions for Mangini's club. After a drive stalled in Cleveland territory, Brad Smith, a fourth round selection from Missouri, downed a Ben Graham punt at the Browns' two-yard line. Three plays later, Frye scrambled for a few seconds before unleashing a long ball up the left sideline. Reserve safety Eric Smith, a third round selection in last April's draft, leaped up and collected his first career interception for the Jets at the Cleveland 41-yard line.
The Smith combo didn't lead to points though. The Jets moved seven yards before Nugent entered for 52-yard attempt. Nugent's kick flew right and the Browns looked to pad their lead. But Dawson inexplicably butchered a 26-yard kick, which would have given the Browns a 13-3 advantage at halftime. Justin Miller made a touchdown-saving deflection on a 3rd down fade from quarterback Charlie Frye to tight end Kellen Winslow.
Frye and Winslow were able to get it right in the third quarter. Following five Droughns runs for 27 yards, Frye displayed good arm strength on a 30-yard scoring pass to Winslow.
Down 17-3, the Jets turned the ball over yet again. Leon Washington put the ball on the grass after taking a big hit from defensive tackle Nick Eason and Kamerion Wimbley recovered at the Jets' nine-yard line. Dawson came on for a 21-yard chip shot to give his club a 20-3 advantage.
Pennington was intercepted by Sean Jones for a second time midway through the final quarter. He spotted a wide open Justin McCareins as the Browns came on a blitz and forced a hurried throw from the Marshall alum. The three turnovers proved just too much for the Jets to overcome. Their opponent Sunday entered the game with a -10 turnover differential.
The Jets reached the season's midway mark with a 4-4 record. Mangini's club will have a bye next weekend and then return to action November 12th at New England.
NotesThe Browns had a strong defensive effort while limiting Chad Pennington to just 108 yards through the air. Pennington completed 11 of 28 and was intercepted twice… Rookie corner Drew Coleman racked up his first professional sack Sunday, getting to Charlie Frye in the third quarter. Bryan Thomas and Eric Barton also picked up second half sacks of Frye. Barton led the club with 10 tackles including nine solo stops…The Jets did a nice job containing Josh Cribbs, holding the league's top kickoff return man to just a 20.7-yard average on three returns…Cornerback Andre Dyson, who leads the Jets with three interceptions, left the game in the second quarter and was replaced by Justin Miller. The Browns also saw two players lost to injury in the first half. Veteran guard Joe Andruzzi was carted off in the first quarter with a right knee injury and replaced in the lineup by Lennie Friedman. Orpheus Roye, a defensive end in his 11th season, had a hamstring injury and his return was listed as questionable… Ben Graham averaged 51.3 yards on three punts including a 69-yard boot.