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Mistakes undermine Browns again in close loss to Buccaneers

TAMPA, Fla. — Once again, close wasn’t good enough for the Cleveland Browns, who keep finding ways to lose.

Chandler Catanzaro’s 59-yard field goal in overtime officially took them down in Sunday’s 26-23 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, the Browns themselves also had a lot to do with the result.

In addition to failing to score on two possessions deep in Buccaneers territory, Cleveland was penalized 14 times for 114 yards, lost a fumble near midfield in overtime and managed to turn four Tampa Bay turnovers into only seven points.

“It’s very frustrating any time you lose, especially because you could have done a lot of things better,” rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “That seems to be the moral of the season.”

The Browns (2-4-1) fell to 1-2-1 in overtime games this season and tied the NFL record with their 24th consecutive road loss dating to October 2015.

Six of their seven games have been decided by four or fewer points. Their four OT games are the most any team has played since 2011, when Arizona won all four it played. The league record is five by the Green Bay Packers in 1983.

“We’ve got to capitalize on defensive turnovers,” Mayfield said. “The defence is playing great. … If we take those points when we can, I don’t think some of these games would be close.”

A sputtering offence has been part of the problem. The Browns had 126 yards through three quarters and finished with 305.

Coach Hue Jackson said that has to change, even if he has to get more involved.

“I totally have to figure that out, and jump in head-first, all hands, feet, everything. It’s just that simple,” Jackson said, adding that he’s not concerned that interjecting himself might be perceived as interfering with offensive co-ordinator Todd Haley.

“I feel I have to, and I want to. That’s nothing against anybody on our building. … If the offence isn’t playing well, and we haven’t over a period of time, I think I have every right as a head coach to jump in and see if I can help and assist, and get this thing to where it needs to be,” Jackson said. “If that’s my specialty, then I need to be involved more, and I will be.”

In addition to being stopped on downs at the Tampa Bay 1 when they were trailing 23-16 in the fourth quarter, the Browns also came away without points in the closing seconds of the first half when Mayfield — scrambling on fourth-and-2 from the Bucs’ 11 — fumbled backward out of bounds as he appeared to be closing in on a first down.

Jackson said he gambled on fourth down because he felt the team, trailing 16-2 at the time, needed a spark.

“Baker was running for it, and the guy stripped the ball out and the ball goes backwards. That normally doesn’t happen,” Jackson said. “We could have kicked the field goal, no question, but I thought our offence needed something to feel good about in the first half.”

For his part, Mayfield — 23 of 34 passing for 215 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions — said he should have done a better job of protecting the football.

“I wish I would have switched hands, that’s the main thing,” the No. 1 overall draft pick said.

“Either kicking the field goal or me switching the ball to the other hand, those points matter down there,” Mayfield added. “Any points are good points at that point of the game. You’ve got to take care of the ball.”

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