CLEVELAND - Somewhere in the ups and downs of the first six games of the NFL season is the real version of the Browns.
There were some impressive moments during the recent three-game winning streak, especially the play of quarterback Brian Hoyer. The defense looked the part of a top-10 unit early in the season and was ranked fourth overall in the NFL entering play.
Then there were the disturbing trends of the first two weeks, when the offense wasn't a thing of beauty. The problems resurfaced in the second half of the 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions Sunday.
Coaches and players need to figure out which direction the team is headed as the halfway point of the season nears.
"We go back to work every week, win or lose," safety T.J. Ward said. "The same attitude. We lost one today, but we've got Green Bay next week, and we're on the road, so we'll have to work even harder. We're not going to hold our heads all this week because we lost this game. We're not a great team yet, but we work hard. That's what happens next week."
Unlike most seasons, the Browns are still in the thick of the AFC North Division race. The Bengals are alone atop the division with a 4-2 record. The Ravens and Browns are both 3-3, and the Steelers won for the first time to go to 1-4.
The collective feeling in the locker room was to put the loss behind them as quickly as possible.
"Every game is going to have this type of importance," linebacker Paul Kruger said. "It's just a week to week thing. We just have to come out each week and play sound football. We didn't do that today in the second half and it got to us."
It remains to be seen how well the players rally around quarterback Brandon Weeden, who had a rocky performance against the Lions. They were clearly enthused about playing for Hoyer, who was inserted as the starter after Weeden suffered a sprained thumb in the second week of the season.
"We're still behind him. He's still the guy," linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "Defensively it just wasn't a good day for us. We have to do a much better job in the third quarter of not coming out flat and protecting leads."
The Browns have led at halftime in all six of the games.