Jacoby Brissett’s season spent as the Browns’ temporary starting quarterback has exceeded expectations, but after five weeks, Cleveland is 2-3.
In each of those losses, Brissett has thrown a backbreaking interception, and they’ve all come within the final three minutes of regulation.
Is that fact ugly enough to wipe out the good football Brissett has played in the other 57 minutes of regulation with each week? No. But Brissett knows he can’t afford to turn the ball over in the final minutes of a close contest, which has been every Browns game to this point.
“It’s something that’s part of the game that obviously I’m trying to work on and get better at,” Brissett said Wednesday, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “And, listen, clearly I haven’t lost trust in myself or confidence in myself.”
Brissett shouldn’t be short on confidence. The veteran backup and occasional starter is on pace to put together the best season of his career, completing 64 percent of his passes for 1,060 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. Brissett has appeared confident, comfortable and decisive for most of the five games he’s played, showing off an ability to complete passes in key moments and sneak for first downs in short-yardage situations.
Those three interceptions speak to Cleveland’s greater issue, though, which is committing too many mistakes in pivotal moments.
“When we self-scout throughout the year, it’s always been us that’s stopped us,” Brissett said. “[We’ve been] an inch away or a play away or an assignment away from not being stopped.”
Instead of converting those opportunities, Cleveland has fallen short on both sides of the ball. Defensive breakdowns contributed to losses to the Jets, Falcons and Chargers, and Brissett’s most recent interception eliminated the Browns’ best chance of regaining the lead in a tightly contested game last weekend.
Brissett said the interception “had nothing to do with the defense,” instead admitting he made a mistake throwing a pass into coverage with the Browns on the doorstep of a go-ahead touchdown.
“There are going to be moments that you absolutely have to bounce back from,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said ahead of their Week 6 game against the Patriots, “and just the makeup that Jacoby has and the things he’s seen, the things he’s been through, I have no doubt in my mind that he will be ready to go Sunday.”
Stefanski’s optimism should be encouraging to Browns fans who were hoping for a better record after five weeks. Cleveland can make a legitimate argument it should be 5-0 right now, considering its combined margin of defeat is just six points.
But based on his history, Brissett’s performance is also scratching the ceiling of his potential. Brissett’s 83.3 career passer rating is the sixth-lowest among 41 quarterbacks with 1,000-plus pass attempts since he was drafted in 2016. He’s played about as well as is realistically possible, yet the Browns are just 2-3.
Cleveland will hope Brissett can find a way to avoid the crushing mistakes late this Sunday, when the quarterback faces the team that once selected him with the 91st overall pick in the 2016 draft. The offensive responsibility will likely fall on the shoulders of NFL rushing leader Nick Chubb, who presents a threat to New England’s 22nd-ranked rush defense.
But if things are close late as they’ve been in every game this season, the Browns will likely need Brissett to make a play. We’ll see if he can come through.
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