Bloodied but unbowed, frustrated but not finished.
“You're not in the right profession if you're worried about it being hard,” Bitonio said as the Browns rode a 3-5 slump into the bye week.
At 6-6 overall, the Browns are frozen behind the playoff 8-ball. It would take a 4-1 thaw after the return from the bye to reach the 10-7 record that might be a postseason cutoff point.
“I know we have the guys in this building to win every game we play,” Bitonio said on the Monday after a 16-10 loss. “We haven't shown it consistently enough. So it's on us.”
The remaining games are against the Ravens (8-3), Raiders (6-5), Packers (9-3), Steelers (5-5-1) and Bengals (7-4). Four of those teams are ahead of Cleveland in the AFC playoff race, as are the Patriots (8-4), Titans (8-4), Chiefs (7-4), Bills (7-4), Chargers (6-5) and Broncos (6-5).
Beating the Ravens to get to 7-5 would have made the postseason seem so much more plausible.
“It's the NFL,” Bitonio said. “You see teams lay an egg one week and come back and play well the next week.”
When the Browns come back, it will be with Baker Mayfield at quarterback, despite his struggles with injuries.
“Baker's our starting quarterback,” coach Kevin Stefanski said Monday. “He's healthy and getting healthier. We just need to be better as an offense. Baker needs to play better. I need to coach better.”
Bitonio extended his support, saying, “We have not wavered on Baker Mayfield.”
Since sitting out a win over Denver, Mayfield has presided over one strong game for the offense, a 41-16 win at Cincinnati. The Browns have been outscored 86-40 in the other four games. The vaunted rushing offense has been held below 100 yards in three of those games.
Opponents too often have outschemed the Browns.
“[The Ravens] outguessed a couple of times,” Bitonio said. “It was definitely an issue.”
He said bye-week work will be done to uncover things the Browns are tipping off.
Stefanski said bye-week study is part of “a very, very big week for the football team.” He said the team will take “a deep dive into who we really are.”
At least one side of the football is coming around.
“The defense played really good football for a large part of the game at Baltimore,” Stefanski said.
Rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who has played the last three games after missing the previous three, says his teammates tell him he has “fresh legs.”
The defense outguessed Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson multiple times.
Owusu-Koramoah said the team's four-interception night included finding “a loophole,” in terms of Jackson tending to look for tight end Mark Andrews when he is in trouble.
Owusu-Koramoah was drafted partly because he has the quickness to be helpful two times a year against Jackson.
“It's not just a sole quarterback I'm built for,” he said. “I think I can compete against them all.”
It so happens he will compete against Jackson and the Ravens the next time the Browns play. It's a quirk of the schedule.
Owusu-Koramoah said the Browns are doing fine in the locker room while everyone waits for the offense to play well at the same time as the defense.
“We stick together,” he said. “That's what this team is.”
“JOK” made a little prediction about his team's QB.
“Baker is a great competitor, just as good a competitor as any quarterback in the league,” he said. “As time goes on, you guys will see how great a quarterback he is.”
Reach Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP
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