Browns’ Captain Singles Out Player Responsible For Late-Game Collapse

Anthony Walker, Browns

Getty Michael Carter #32 of the New York Jets is tackled by Anthony Walker Jr. #5 of the Cleveland Browns during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 18, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

Cleveland Browns‘ defensive captain Anthony Walker pulled zero punches when calling out the party responsible for the team’s epic fourth-quarter meltdown Sunday against the New York Jets.

The player Walker blamed for surrendering what should have been a nearly insurmountable 13-point lead was himself.

As the starting middle linebacker, a significant part of Walker’s role is to function as something like a defensive quarterback from play to play. The six-year NFL veteran said flatly that he has failed to do so late in both of the Browns’ regular season games thus far.

“I’m the communicator. I’m the guy who is supposed to get everyone lined up and obviously, I didn’t do my job two weeks in a row,” Walker said. “I’ll take that one, and we will be back.”

Quick Turnaround Against Steelers May Help Browns Bounce Back

Kevin Rader Steelers

Jason Miller/Getty ImagesKevin Rader of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackles D’Ernest Johnson of the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on January 3, 2021.

A meltdown like the one Cleveland’s defense endured in Week 2 — allowing two touchdowns with fewer than two minutes to play after missing an extra point try and failing to recover an onside kick — can create a kind of gnawing regret that lingers too long, spilling over into future performances.

One silver lining to the Browns’ situation, however, is that they simply don’t have time to dwell on their mistakes with a Thursday Night Football matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers looming just a few days away.

Walker explained his perspective during the postgame press conference.

One of the best things about taking this one is that we have a divisional opponent on Thursday. You can’t have any layover with this one, so we will be back in the building tomorrow going on the first and second down game plan. That’s the best part about it. I wish I could be telling those guys this after a win, but we will be better and learn from it.

I’m already on Pittsburgh right now. That’s how I get over it. That’s my message to the team. We have a division opponent coming in who doesn’t care what we just went through. They are coming in here to kick our ass, and we have a responsibility … on Thursday. We have to respond.

Browns’ $100 Million CB Denzel Ward Blew Coverage Against Jets

Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns

GettyTevin Jones of the Pittsburgh Steelers attempts to catch a pass while being defended by Denzel Ward of the Cleveland Browns during a game at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 14, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

While Walker issued a public mea culpa Sunday, Jason Loyd of The Athletic reported that internal sources said it was Browns’ two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward who was primarily responsible for the broken coverage that led to the first of the Jets’ late touchdowns.

“[Browns head coach Kevin] Stefanski wouldn’t assess blame, but one source with knowledge of the defensive play call said Denzel Ward blew the coverage,” Loyd wrote. “He was in the wrong coverage. Given Ward’s recent $100 million contract extension, such mental errors aren’t acceptable.”

Browns safety John Johnson III also chose not to mention any names, but he essentially confirmed Loyd’s report that the touchdown was a result of blown coverage.

“It was a bust,” Johnson said. “Not everyone was playing the same call. Communicating is sending and receiving. Guys are sending. Some are not receiving.”

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