The Cleveland Browns entered the 2022 season knowing that Deshaun Watson wouldn’t play until Week 13.
Deshaun Watson’s return is now slated for Week 13…
against the Texans. pic.twitter.com/WOuz6rNczJ
— Heismans (@heismansIG) August 18, 2022
However, the team acquired a solid backup quarterback in Jacoby Brissett and also added receiver Amari Cooper.
All Cleveland had to do was get through a soft early schedule before handing off the baton to Watson for the last third of the season.
In fact, three of the Browns’ first four opponents, the Panthers, Jets, and Falcons, had losing records in 2021.
None of those three teams was a serious threat to Cleveland and it was completely believable that the team could be 4-0 after the first month.
That didn’t happen, unfortunately.
Now sitting at 3-5 after ending a four-game skid against Cincinnati on Halloween, the Browns hope to get Watson just enough wins for a possible playoff push.
With the benefit of hindsight, here are three losses already haunting the Browns so far in 2022.
Week 2, New York Jets
A week after defeating former Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield in Carolina, Cleveland faced a New York team that went 4-13 in 2021.
Even worse for the Jets, they didn’t look much better in 2022 after losing 24-9 to Baltimore in Week 1.
Second-year quarterback Zach Wilson was out and journeyman quarterback Joe Flacco was New York’s starter.
Surely the Browns could win this game, especially at home.
Joe Flacco has Browns fans SHOCKED pic.twitter.com/RtVsdfW89V
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 18, 2022
By the time there were less than two minutes in the contest, Cleveland was comfortably ahead 30-17 after a Nick Chubb 12-yard touchdown run.
With New York now on offense, all the Browns’ defense had to do was hold the Jets to a punt (or a field goal at the least), get the ball back, and run out the clock.
The ‘D’ was doing their job through the first two downs and the Jets had the ball on their side of the field on third and ten.
Then, the Browns allowed Flacco to find receiver Corey Davis for a 66-yard pass with 1:22 left.
Still, up by six (Browns kicker Cade York had missed an extra point earlier), Cleveland needed to fall on the Jets’ obvious onside kick attempt.
They were unable to do so and New York got the ball back.
Just a few plays later, Flacco zipped a pass to rookie receiver Garrett Wilson for a 15-yard score and kicker Greg Zuerlein’s PAT attempt was true, giving the Jets an improbable win.
#TakeFlight QB Joe Flacco on game-winning TD pass to rookie Garrett Wilson in 31-30 win at #Browns: “When Mike (LaFleur) called the play, I kind of had a smile inside. Their safeties were playing pretty soft, so I was going to find a window to get it to him.” @nyjets @Browns @NFL pic.twitter.com/oeEp39CA61
— Brian Dulik (@BrianDulik) September 18, 2022
Instead of sitting at 2-0, the Browns were 1-1 and the Jets found new life, winning five of their next seven games.
Week 4, Atlanta Falcons
On October 2, Atlanta was 1-2, and just like the Jets, started a journeyman backup quarterback.
Cleveland was coming off a good bounceback win over the Steelers and this game against Atlanta promised another victory.
After all, the Falcons’ do-everything back, Cordarelle Patterson, who had a smooth 141 rushing yards against Seattle the week before, was struggling with an injury.
That meant the Browns had to focus their preparation on someone named Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta’s backup running back.
Tyler Allgeier is PFF’s highest graded rookie RB for week 4.
The Falcons RB put up a career high 84 rushing yards against the Browns 👀 pic.twitter.com/zrcmz3vjSI
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) October 3, 2022
With 9:51 remaining, Cleveland held a 20-17 lead after a 28-yard Chubb touchdown run.
Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo proceeded to kick field goals of 21 and 45 yards respectively to pull ahead 23-20.
The Browns still had enough time to get into field goal position until Brissett threw a pick to Atlanta’s Dee Alford to stop the threat.
Cleveland was now 2-2 and had only themselves to blame.
Allgeier had 84 rushing yards and Olamide Zaccheaus was the Falcons leading receiver with 55 yards.
Perhaps the most embarrassing stat for the Browns’ defense, Mariota completed just seven of 19 passes and his squad still won the game.
Week 7, Baltimore Ravens
Cleveland’s two-point loss to the LA Chargers in Week 5 was agonizing, but this was a division game.
It would be something if the Browns could stop their three-game losing streak against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.
Baltimore had recently given up huge leads against the Bills and Giants in the previous three weeks and lost both games.
There were obviously holes in the Ravens’ game plan that could be exploited.
The amount of teams in NFL history to hold a double-digit lead in each of its first 6 games: 39
The amount of those 39 teams to not have a winning record: 1*
*2022 Baltimore Ravens
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) October 17, 2022
Sure enough, even in the unfriendly confines of Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, Cleveland never let up.
Down 20-10 and then 23-13 in the third and fourth quarters respectively, the Browns got to within 23-20 on a Kareem Hunt touchdown with nine minutes remaining in the contest.
After getting the ball back with plenty of time to tie or win the game, Amari Cooper was called for offensive pass interference, negating a Cleveland touchdown.
Then, the Browns fought back to get within field goal range, only to suffer from a false start on a York field goal attempt.
Now forced to boot it from 60 yards, York’s kick was blocked and the Ravens ran out the clock, preserving their three-point win.