CLEVELAND T-minus 23 days and counting until James Haslam III is officially approved as owner of the Browns.
The problem is that all systems aren't go. After a disappointing performance in a 24-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Browns are 0-3 and staring at road games against the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants.
There was a sense in the locker room that if the bus doesn't get turn around real soon that Haslam might have some surprises in store when he's at the wheel.
The Associated Press
Cleveland wide receiver Travis Benjamin (80) can't hold onto the ball as Buffalo cornerback Aaron Williams (23) defends during their game on Sunday.
"You can't guess or speculate exactly what's going to be changed," safety T.J. Ward said. "Obviously there are going to be some changes with a new owner. Who knows what he's going to do. He could clean everyone out if he wants to. As players and coaches we have one responsibility and that's to win the games in front of us."
As the final seconds ticked off the clock and most Browns' fans had headed to the exits, the remaining Bills fans stood and cheered. It was as if Ralph Wilson Stadium had been moved west to the southern shores of Lake Erie.
"It sucks to be 0-3, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "We put a lot of effort into it, and to hear their fans screaming at the end of the game; I don't like it whatsoever.
"We haven't been able to play a complete game yet. For us not being able to play a complete game to date and to hear the Buffalo fans chanting in our home "
Browns coach Pat Shurmur now must try to pick up the pieces and put them together for a game Thursday in Baltimore. Shurmur bristled when asked about facing another must win.
"The next one is the game we have to win," Shurmur said. "That's it. There all must wins. Who goes into a game thinking they're going to lose. You add them up at the end and decide where you're at."
This game got away from the Browns early when their offense had three straight three-and-out possessions while the Bills scored touchdowns on a 9-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to T.J. Graham and a 32-yard pass from Fitzpatrick to C.J. Spiller on a screen play.
The Browns were never able to tie the score or get the lead. They reduced the deficit to 14-7 at halftime on a 6-yard touchdown run by Trent Richardson, and later in the game after a 37-yard field goal by Rian Lindell, a 22-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Weeden to Travis Benjamin cut the Bills' lead to 17-14.
The Bills (2-1) secured the win when Fitzpatrick hooked up with Stevie Johnson on a 9-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Weeden was generally on target until he threw a pair of interceptions late in the game at desperation time. He finished 27-of-43 for 237 yards.
Richardson was less successful. One week after rushing for 109 yards, Richardson couldn't find many holes in gaining just 27 yards on 13 carries.
"Offensively, we started too slow," Weeden said. "After the week we had last week, that's disappointing. You can't be where we were at in the first half 0-5 or 0-6 on third down and expect to win games. We have to start faster, and that's on us."
The defense missed the contributions of cornerback Joe Haden as he served the second week of a four-week suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Dimitri Patterson, who replaced Haden in the starting lineup, gave up the touchdown pass to Johnson.
"I saw that it was man-to-man coverage with nobody in the back," Johnson said.
Patterson made no excuses.
"A guy like that you have to give him his space," Patterson said. "Too much space. That was a play I wish I could have made. It's frustrating. One play like that. It's tough."
The Bills played most of the game without Spiller, who suffered a left shoulder injury in the second quarter. Spiller entered the game as the NFL's leading rusher.
Spiller's absence didn't slow down the offense. Tashard Choice came off the bench and rushed for 91 yards on 20 carries as the Bills rushed for 138 yards. Fitzpatrick was 22-of-35 for 208 yards and three touchdowns.
The Browns were in man coverage on Fitzpatrick's touchdown pass to Graham. Buster Skrine, who had the coverage, ran into Jackson on what he called a pick play.
"I was a good play for the defense that we were in," Skrine said.
Weeden did some positive things in building off a good showing a week earlier against the Bengals, but he received no help from the ground game and was sacked four times.
"If you take away the last throw (an interception), I think it was a solid day," Weeden said. "I threw the ball where it needed to go all day. I felt extremely comfortable in the pocket. My reads were really good."
Weeden definitely isn't pleased with a 0-3 start. That never happened at Oklahoma State.
"The simple matter of fact is we have a short week this week," Weeden said. "This locker room has a lot of level-headed, quality guys and we're sticking together."
The Browns are hoping that the short week will make their latest loss easier to forget.