DETROIT -- In the wake of yet another defeat, Myles Garrett sat alone at the end of the Cleveland Browns' sideline benches.
After several minutes, Garrett finally stood up. He shook hands with the few Buffalo Bills players still on the field, then interrupted quarterback Josh Allen’s victorious postgame television interview to congratulate him on Buffalo’s 31-23 win.
As Garrett slowly trudged his way to the tunnel, he paused again. He removed his cleats and flung them to the final smattering of Cleveland fans still in the stands before eventually exiting Ford Field.
“Just disappointed,” said Garrett when asked about his emotions sitting on that bench. “We’re too good of a team to have this record we have. It’s frustrating... a lot of emotions going through your head when you let another one slip away.”
Another season of Garrett’s prime -- and Nick Chubb’s and Joel Bitonio’s and Denzel Ward’s -- seems to rapidly be slipping away, as well.
Garrett had publicly called Buffalo a must-win if the Browns were going to keep their fading playoff hopes alive. Following its fifth loss in six games -- Cleveland remarkably has only one victory in two months -- Garrett wouldn’t admit that this Browns season might effectively now be over.
But his rather bleak body language indicated far more than his actual words.
“We’re not out of it. If we do what we are supposed to and get rolling, then we still have a way to make it,” he said. “We just have to keep on fighting, keep on going forward and try to get in that win column.”
To their credit, the Browns did show fight on Sunday, dominating for much of the first half.
Garrett and the Cleveland pass rush came out swarming Allen, who failed to generate a first down until the eight-minute mark in the second quarter.
Offensively, Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett was clicking, as well, in his next-to-final start in Cleveland.
At one point, the Browns had almost as many first downs (10) as the Bills had total yards (12).
Yet by halftime, Buffalo still led 13-10. By the fourth quarter, the game was all but over, as Cleveland’s array of ineptitudes predictably began to resurface.
The Browns blew a coverage just before the half, leading to Stefon Diggs’ five-yard touchdown at the back of the end zone. According to Next Gen Stats, Diggs was 8.6 yards away from the nearest defender, the most wide-open he’s ever been for a touchdown catch in his Bills career.
From there, the Bills ran at will against a poor rush defense that ranks 28th in yards per carry allowed and 21st in total rushing yards allowed.
The Browns' defense also went another game without forcing a turnover, an head-scratching trend with a playmaker like Garrett repeatedly coming in off the edge.
Cleveland’s special teams, meanwhile, continued to be a major issue, highlighted by Cade York’s blocked field goal attempt from 34 yards out in the third quarter.
The Browns also couldn’t establish the run, as Buffalo stacked the box to corral Chubb who finished with only 19 yards on 14 carries, the worst output of his career on double-digit carries, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“We have to stay locked in -- that’s been our biggest weakness, just not having that attention to detail, not focusing and not finishing,” Garrett said. “Those are the things that keep on getting us. Those penalties, the special teams mistakes... just not being who we’re supposed to be.”
The Browns were supposed to be an up-and-coming powerhouse. Only two seasons ago, they were just a play or two away from making the AFC championship game.
Now, despite boasting a young core headlined by Garrett that was once the envy of the league, they appear destined for a second consecutive losing season.
“We have to make sure that we don’t waste the talent that we have in its prime right now,” Garrett said. “We still have a lot of opportunities left to keep on fighting to put ourselves in position to go to the playoffs. It’s not as much in our hands as we want it to be, but it’s definitely not out of the conversation yet.”
Maybe so. But Garrett’s meandering postgame walk to the tunnel told a different tale.
A realization setting in of another prime year on the verge of being squandered. On a team far too talented to be this far gone.