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CLEVELAND — Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden came into the game wanting to be in the same conversation as Redskins' rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who was the Browns' first choice to be their quarterback of the future.
By the end, Weeden wasn't even in the same paragraph as fellow rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Redskins' fourth-round pick out of Michigan State who made his first NFL start in place of the injured Griffin (sprained right knee) and lit up the Browns for 329 yards and two TDs on Sunday.
Thanks to a third-quarter meltdown by Weeden that included two interceptions — one on the second play out of the locker room — and his fourth batted pass of the game, the Browns lost, 38-21, to the surging Redskins. It snapped a string of three straight victories for the Browns (5-9) and snuffed out their flickering playoff hopes in their home finale. The Redskins (8-6), meanwhile, won their fifth straight to climb into a tie for first place in the NFC East behind a bootleggin', play-fakin' Cousins.
"Obviously I didn't play well enough for us to win," Weeden said. "I didn't play well for the most part throughout. I'm not losing any confidence over it, because I felt like I'm still going in the right direction. I just didn't play well enough to put this team in position to win. I put our defense in a tough spot, once for sure with the one on our side of the field. That one's on me. You just can't turn it over."
Weeden didn't get any sympathy from linebacker and captain D'Qwell Jackson, who took off the kid gloves.
"That's one thing coming out of halftime, defense, offense, that's the most important series of the ballgame and we throw a pick," Jackson said. "You can't do it. You can't turn the ball over like that. I don't care who you are. Then we've got to keep them out of the end zone."
On his second play after the break with the Browns leading, 14-10, Weeden looked for Greg Little over the middle from his own 27 and was picked off by leaping linebacker Rob Jackson, who returned it 17 yards to the Browns' 15. It took Cousins — and his perfectly executed misdirection plays — only three plays to get the Skins in the end zone, on a 3-yard run by Alfred Morris that put Washington up for good at 17-14.
Next drive, Weeden had his fourth pass of the game batted down, which drew a chorus of boos. The batted-down passes are becoming a huge problem as he leads the league with 21 this season, including seven in the past two weeks.
"I've never had so many batted balls," said Weeden, who was 21-of-35 for 244 yards, one TD and two picks for a 66.8 rating. "If the defensive linemen aren't getting to me, they just kind of stand there, watch my eyes and stick their arms up. I'm trying to throw over guys three yards down the field (on shallow crossing routes) and that can be challenging."