Bucs lose to Browns, drop to 1-7

Browns wide receiver Taylor Gabriel begins to celebrate after catching a 34-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brian Hoyer during the fourth quarter. [Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal/MCT]
Browns wide receiver Taylor Gabriel begins to celebrate after catching a 34-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brian Hoyer during the fourth quarter. [Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal/MCT]
Published Nov. 3, 2014

CLEVELAND — It has become a routine that the Bucs players have down pretty well this season. Make some plays, take the lead and give the game away.

Shower. Rinse. Repeat.

So after their 22-17 loss to the Browns on Sunday to hit the midpoint of the season 1-7, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy stood in the middle of the locker room and called out his teammates for too casually accepting defeat.

"I don't think anybody is upset enough with losing," said McCoy, who had two sacks and three quarterback hits in the game. "When are we going to get tired of it? It's like, we've got to get tired of allowing the other team to make the play at the end. We sit here and every time the game is over, we say, 'Oh, they made a play, we didn't.' When are you tired of that, man? It's getting old.

"I've been dealing with this for five years, I'm tired of it. So I don't know how everyone else feels, but I'm sick of dealing with it. I'm just being honest. I probably shouldn't have said that, but I am."

The Bucs spoiled a big game by rookie receiver Mike Evans, who had seven catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns, the last giving his team a 17-16 lead with 2:49 left in the third quarter.

Evans, who made the trademark "money fingers" signs of former Texas A&M teammate and Browns backup quarterback Johnny Manziel, could've had two more scores. But quarterback Mike Glennon twice underthrew him when he had gotten behind the defense — one resulting in one of his two interceptions.

Poor special teams play also had its fingerprints on the defeat. The Bucs had a missed field goal, a blocked field goal and a blocked punt that set up the Browns' winning touchdown, and defensive lineman William Gholston jumped offside on a Browns field-goal attempt that extended the drive, resulting in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Brian Hoyer to running back Terrance West.

The Browns rallied in the fourth quarter and took the lead for good when Hoyer connected with rookie Taylor Gabriel for a 34-yard touchdown pass two plays after the blocked punt.

"Good football teams don't do that, simple as that," coach Lovie Smith said of the mistakes. "We're not a good football team right now. I think that's fairly obvious."

The Bucs had a chance for a winning drive after Evans made catches of 31 and 9 yards, setting up second and 1 at the Cleveland 30-yard line with 1:55 to play. But Vincent Jackson had a costly drop on second down, Glennon threw out of bounds on third down and Evans was flagged for offensive pass interference on fourth down, negating what would have been a first down.

Glennon's final pass went incomplete and the Browns were able to run out the clock.

After the game, a visibly upset Smith walked into the locker room and told his players that they have to have more pride and not accept losing so many close games.

"You could see the frustration in Lovie's face when he came in" the locker room, tackle Demar Dotson said. "He was saying, 'Guys have got to get sick and tired of losing.' I think that's what Gerald was feeding off. Guys have got to get sick and tired of losing. And coach is right, and Gerald is right. We've got to step up with some pride."

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Smith noted that his team is running out of time to turn things around.

"There's no doubt we're headed in the right direction, but you say that about four games ago," Smith said after leaving the locker room. "We've got to find a way to win a game now. … That's what we haven't been able to figure out, and we're running out of time."

Glennon, who fell to 1-4 as a starter this year since taking over for Josh McCown, had arguably his worst performance of the season. He missed open receivers, failed to sell out for the first down on two scrambles from the pocket, and threw buzz-kill interceptions.

Leading 7-6 in the second quarter, the Bucs had a chance to extend their lead after an interception by cornerback Johnthan Banks gave them first and goal at the Cleveland 10. But Glennon missed Jackson high over the middle, and the pass was picked off by safety Tashaun Gipson in the end zone.

"You've got to protect the ball better than that, it's as simple as that," Smith said. "Those were big. Especially after a turnover, you can't give it right back to them."

The Bucs got another takeaway early in the fourth quarter when defensive tackle Clinton McDonald intercepted a deflected pass near midfield. But the drive went nowhere, and Michael Koenen's punt was blocked and recovered at the Bucs 35.

Two plays later, in three-deep coverage, cornerback Alterraun Verner lost track of Gabriel, who got open for an easy touchdown.

"No excuses on my part. I've got to be there to make the play," Verner said.

McDonald, one locker down from McCoy, seemed to echo McCoy's sentiments.

"The true measure of a man is how consistent he is," McDonald said. "If we can't be consistent, we're not going to win close games, and we're not going to get up and win games at the end."

Dotson was even more critical. "Right now, we're the laughingstock of the NFL," he said. "We're a 1-7 football team and we're better than that."