Brown breaks down in the final minutes of the Jets’ 31-30 loss

CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns quarterback Anthony Walker Jr. felt the need to apologize.

“I’m sorry,” he said, surrounded by reporters in a corner of Cleveland’s quiet locker room. “Still in shock.”

He was not the only one. Anyone inside FirstEnergy Stadium or watching on TV was just as stunned after Cleveland blew a two-touchdown lead in the final 1:55 of a 31-30 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.

The Browns (1-1) were moments away from their first 2-0 start in 29 years when the floor fell out from under them. An epic bust, even by Cleveland’s low standards.

The main opener, with its usual panache and plenty of positivity in front of an energetic sell-out crowd, will instead be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Leading 30-17 with 1:55 left, the Browns missed an extra point, gave up a 66-yard TD pass with 1:22 left, failed to recover an onside kick and then let Joe Flacco finish them off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to the rookie to Garrett Wilson with 22 seconds left.

Cleveland’s last chance ended when Jacoby Brissett, who played the last few minutes with a sore ankle, made an interception with six seconds left.

When Flacco knelt at midfield — right on Cleveland’s debuting Elf logo — to run out the clock, the Jets celebrated wildly on the sideline while some in the home crowd let the Browns know they feel

“I mean, what was more disappointing was the roar at the end,” star quarterback Myles Garrett said. “It wasn’t the optimal final we wanted. Of course we would like to win. Of course we wanted the game to end 30-16 or 30-17 or whatever it was, we would get a pick or a strip sack and end the game.

“But that’s not always the case.”

The Browns have little time to dwell on their downfall. They host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, teams have won the last 2,229 consecutive games when leading by at least 13 points in the final 2 minutes. The last team to blow that lead was the Browns in 2001 in Chicago.

When Nick Chubb scored his third rushing TD with 1:55 left, the Browns led by 13. That’s when things started to get going.

In fact, the Jets were thankful Chubb scored as they used their third timeout with 2:09 left. If Chubb had stayed in goal, the Browns could have run out on their own goal line.

Instead, they gave the Jets an exit.

“Obviously when he scores, you think, ‘OK, that’s not what he’s supposed to do,'” Flacco said. “But I’m sure they were still thinking, ‘OK, it’s 30-17 now.’

Could have been 31.

But rookie Cade York, who made a 58-yard field goal to beat Carolina in his pro debut last week, pushed his PAT wide.

“I thought I hit it well,” York said. “Looked up but didn’t go in.”

The point didn’t seem important at the time, but it suddenly became vital when Jets wide receiver Corey Davis fell behind Cleveland’s secondary and Flacco hit him with a long TD with 1:22 left.

It was another breakdown by the Browns defense, which had several last week when they allowed the Panthers to rally.

“It’s two weeks in a row and it’s unacceptable,” quarterback Greg Newsome II said. “This is not the brand of football we play. It’s not like we’re talking about the best defense in the NFL. We have to be the best.”

An onside kick was next, and it didn’t go Cleveland’s way either, as receiver Amari Cooper couldn’t get to the ball.

“There’s a tool if you need to, you can hit the ball out of bounds,” said John Johnson III, who was on the arm team. “We probably should have used that tool.”

That left things in the hands of the Browns defense. But Garrett, who got to Flacco earlier, was exhausted and couldn’t come up with a big play. It didn’t help that Jadeveon Clowney was out with an ankle injury.

Flacco then found Wilson, who broke through the lane, and he split Cleveland’s secondary for a TD grab that drew the air out of the stadium.

There were plenty of opinions, but Browns coach Kevin Stefanski didn’t want to dwell on the play that slipped away.

“Everybody’s going to want to point the finger and say, ‘Whose fault was it?’ Put it on everybody,” he said. “It’s all of us, me, the coaches and the players. That’s all. What we can’t do is let it drag on because we have a game against a division opponent on Thursday night.

“It’s unpleasant.”

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