Rashard Higgins

Woe and 16: Browns go winless after 28-24 loss to Steelers

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PITTSBURGH (AP) The Cleveland Browns joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams in NFL history to go 0-16 when they failed to find a way to beat the backup-laden Pittsburgh Steelers in a 28-24 loss on Sunday.

Cleveland had a chance late in the fourth quarter, but quarterback DeShone Kizer‘s fourth-down pass to Corey Coleman bounced off Coleman’s hands and fell incomplete.

And for the 16th time in 2017, the Browns walked off the field searching for answers that are as elusive now as they’ve been at any point since the franchise’s return to the NFL nearly two decades ago. Head coach Hue Jackson is expected to return despite a 1-31 record and the Browns have two of the top four picks in the 2018 draft.

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Kizer finished with 314 yards passing and two touchdowns to Rashard Higgins but also threw a fourth-quarter pick, his NFL-leading 22nd of the season.

The AFC North champion Steelers (13-3) sat stars Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell among others but it hardly mattered. Landry Jones completed 23 of 27 passes for 239 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster caught nine passes for 143 yards and a score. He also returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown.

Pittsburgh sacked Kizer six times, boosting its season total to 56, a franchise record.

Nearly four months removed from a taut 21-18 loss to Pittsburgh in the season opener – a game that seemed to indicate the Browns were ready to take a significant step forward in Jackson’s second year – Cleveland walked onto frigid Heinz Field still looking for its first win in 372 days.

The wait will continue for another eight months following three hours that symbolized Cleveland’s historically miserable season.

While there were bouts of competency, including a pair of takeaways by the defense and long Kizer hookups to Higgins and Josh Gordon, the Browns simply could not get out of their own way. Twice in the first half they drew third-down defensive penalties that extended Pittsburgh drives. Three times in the fourth quarter they had the ball and a chance to go ahead.

The first two ended with turnovers, giving Cleveland an NFL-high 41 on the season. The third ended with Kizer somehow escaping pressure on fourth down at the Pittsburgh 27 only to have his pass clank off Coleman’s hands and fall to the frozen turf, one last missed opportunity in a year filled with far too many.

While Jackson, who will jump in Lake Erie at some point in the near future to fulfill his vow the Browns wouldn’t go 1-15 as they did in 2016, is expected back in 2018, another offseason filled with searching awaits.

UP NEXT

Browns: “With the first pick in the 2018 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select … ”

Steelers: Will enjoy a week off before hosting the divisional round the weekend of Jan. 13-14.

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Browns move to brink of winless season, lose 20-3 to Bears

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CHICAGO (AP) The Cleveland Browns got pushed to the brink of a winless season, hurt by two more interceptions by DeShone Kizer and two turnovers in the red zone on the way to a 20-3 loss to the Chicago Bears on a snowy Sunday.

One more loss and the Browns will join the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to go 0-16.

And the Browns will wrap up the season at AFC North leader Pittsburgh next week.

Then again, the Browns (0-15) keep racking up losses no matter whom they’re playing.

They’re 1-30 in two seasons under coach Hue Jackson. And after beating the then-San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve last year, there was no holiday celebration for them this time.

Kizer threw for 182 yards and ran his league leading-interception total to 21. One of those was to a wide-open Kyle Fuller in the end zone in the second quarter.

Defensive end Myles Garrett had what looked like a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter wiped out because Carl Nassib was offside.

Rashard Higgins lost a fumble near the goal line that Chicago (5-10) recovered in the end zone.

Mitchell Trubisky threw for 193 yards and ran for a touchdown against his hometown team to help the Bears pick up the win in what might be coach John Fox’s final home game at Soldier Field. With a 14-33 record, he could be on his way out after three seasons.

The Bears at least avoided the ultimate indignity in a season full of them by not losing to the Browns.

Trubisky, who grew up near Cleveland, played a big role, completing 14 of 23 passes. He also scrambled for 44 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Jordan Howard ran for two scores, and the Bears came away with the win after dropping six of seven.

The Bears were leading 6-3 when Garrett had his big interception return wiped on the first play from scrimmage in the third. And the Bears drove 60 yards on four plays, with Howard scoring from the 16.

Trubisky made it 20-3 when he scored on a 4-yard draw. That capped a 12-play drive that Howard kept going with his 8-yard run on fourth-and-1 at the 15.

Danny Trevathan then stripped Higgins at the Chicago 3 after a 17-yard reception near the end of the quarter, and the Bears’ Prince Amukamara recovered the fumble in the end zone.

INJURY REPORT

Browns: DE Myles Garrett got poked in the eye on the first play of the fourth quarter but returned to the game.

Bears: RT Bobby Massie suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and played through it. … G Josh Sitton (ankle) and TE Adam Shaheen (chest) were inactive.

UP NEXT

Browns: At Pittsburgh on Dec. 31.

Bears: At Minnesota on Dec. 31.

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Packers stun Browns 27-21 in OT, set up Rodgers’ return

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CLEVELAND — Your turn, Aaron Rodgers.

The Green Bay Packers saved their season just in time for their star’s return.

Brett Hundley threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams in overtime as the Packers rallied from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter for a 27-21 win on Sunday over the winless and luckless Cleveland Browns.

Hundley pulled out his third win – and second straight in OT – since replacing Rodgers, and now the Packers (7-6) will get back their quarterback after their season appeared doomed when he broke his collarbone in October.

“My No. 1 thought going into it was to keep our hopes alive to make the playoffs,” said Hundley, who had three touchdown passes. “At the end of the day, whatever happens, happens. Whenever I’m called upon, I’ll be ready. In the meantime, we’re still in this.”

Barely.

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On third-and-6 in overtime, Hundley threw a short pass to Adams , who spun out of Myles Garrett‘s arms and went in untouched with 5:05 left as the Packers set the stage for Rodgers’ return. He returned to practice this week, and as long as he’s cleared by Green Bay’s medical staff, Rodgers will be back on the field next Sunday when the Packers play Carolina.

“We kept the playoffs alive,” said safety Josh Jones, who intercepted rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer to set up the winning score. “We got the best quarterback in the league coming back, so we feel a lot better.”

It was another devastating loss for the Browns (0-13), who made several critical mistakes late in regulation before Kizer’s poor decision on his final throw.

Kizer was rolling to his left and tried to throw across his body to Rashard Higgins when his arm was hit by linebacker Clay Matthews. If not for the contact, Kizer felt the Browns would have won.

“I thought we had control of the game pretty much the majority of the game,” Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “It’s definitely frustrating. Green Bay had the better team today. I don’t know why it keeps happening.”

Down 21-14 heading into the fourth period, the Packers, who beat Tampa Bay last week in overtime, rallied on Hundley’s 1-yard TD pass to Adams with 17 seconds left in regulation.

A 65-yard punt return by Trevor Davis set up Green Bay’s score, which came after Hundley was ruled down inside the 1 after an apparent 6-yard scoring run. Out of timeouts, coach Mike McCarthy elected not to risk a run and Hundley rifled his pass into the corner for Adams, who beat Jason McCourty on the play.

Hundley’s tight spiral was reminiscent of so many thrown by Rodgers, who stayed warm on the sideline inside a large green sideline jacket.

Hundley finished 35 of 46 with three touchdowns and made the big plays when he had to against the lowly Browns.

“He plays his best football when the game’s on the line,” McCarthy said of the young QB. “You can’t teach that. He’s a winner.”

Cleveland was in position to run out the clock before overtime but rookie tight end David Njoku dropped a key third-down pass. Cleveland’s punt team couldn’t bring down Davis, who weaved his way to the Browns 25.

Kizer threw three touchdown passes, one to Josh Gordon, and went 20 of 28 for 214 yards. But he’ll be haunted by the late pick.

“You can’t make that,” coach Hue Jackson said. “If it does not feel right, it probably is not right.”

Cleveland’s heartbreaking loss closed a turbulent week: The team fired Sashi Brown, its top front office executive, and owner Jimmy Haslam said Jackson will return next season.

Isaiah Crowell rushed for 121 yards on 19 carries. Gordon, playing his first home game since Dec. 14, 2014, had three catches for 69 yards and caught an 18-yard TD pass in the first quarter that he celebrated by putting on sunglasses.

GORDON SHINES

After missing some scoring opportunities last week in Los Angeles, Gordon was confident he and Kizer would connect against the Packers. They did just that on Cleveland’s first play, hooking up for 38 yards. Moments later, Kizer threaded a perfect pass over the middle to Gordon, who made a leaping catch in the end zone for his first TD since Dec. 15, 2013. When he returned to the sideline, Gordon pulled off his helmet and put on a pair of dark sunglasses, then strutted in celebration before hugging Jackson.

Gordon did not speak to reporters.

OPENING ACT

They had to fake a punt to keep their first offensive drive going, but the Packers scored their league-leading seventh touchdown on their opening possession.

HALFWAY HOME

Cleveland’s halftime lead was its second this season, and first on American soil. The Browns led the Vikings 13-12 at halftime of their Oct. 29 game in London before losing 33-16.

INJURIES

Packers: CB Davon House was carted off in the fourth quarter with a back injury. House’s feet got tangled and he fell hard to the turf. … TE Lance Kendricks returned after sustaining a jaw injury in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Packers: At Carolina on Sunday

Browns: Host Baltimore in their final home game Sunday.

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