Interim coach Gregg Williams has used the team's playoff ambitions as a motivating factor that his players have embraced.
After the loss in Houston, Williams is still thinking about the playoffs being a possibility although the Browns are a long shot at 4-7-1 and in last place in the AFC North. His team has also not backed off that ambition.
Baker Mayfield struggled in the first half against the Texans as the Browns were outscored 23-0. Williams said Mayfield held steadfast despite the poor start.
"He never once, on the sideline, did he back off. And that's what good leaders do," Williams said. "(Joe) Schobert was the same way. Myles (Garrett) was the same way. Orson (Charles) was the same way. The spirit on the sideline never diminished. We've just got to execute better. And it's about execution in a few untimely plays, we've got to do a better job of that."
The Browns view the last four games of the regular season as an opportunity, not as a conclusion. Cleveland has not been mathematically eliminated and the Browns still have the chance to finish with a winning season for the first time in 11 years.
"We want them all. We wanted this one (against Houston). There's no secret about it. Now it's time to get back home," wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. "We have a home game this week after the two-game road stretch. Change the tide and win a game."
Cleveland hosts a Panthers team Sunday that has lost four straight games. The Broncos, although on a three-game winning streak, are not above .500 at 6-6. The Bengals are reeling with the season-ending injuries to Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. The Ravens have won three straight but are still fighting for their shot at the playoffs.
"Anything can happen," Mayfield said. "We have to take care of our business and put us in a good position to be there in the end. All we can take care of is what we're doing and let the rest fall into pieces. Got to get better, got to use this, learn from it, and that's one of the better teams we're going to play all year.
"If we can use this as a positive thing moving forward and get better from that, that will be great."
--DB Denzel Ward was placed in the NFL's concussion protocol after suffering an injury in the first half of Sunday's game at Houston. The Browns initially thought Ward suffered a stinger during the second quarter but were quick to learn was concussed. The first-round rookie is tied for the team lead with three interceptions.
--DT Larry Ogunjobi injured his bicep early Sunday against Houston. After trying to play through it, he was sidelined the entire second half.
--CB Terrance Mitchell is eligible to return to the field Sunday after missing the previous eight games with a broken wrist. He was designated to return from injured reserve late last month and has gone through two weeks of practices. Before the injury, Mitchell worked his way from backup to starter midway through training camp and carried that momentum into a strong start to the 2018 season.
--OL Kyle Kalis was moved to the active roster on Dec. 1 from the practice squad. To make room on the roster, the team waived WR Da'Mari Scott. Kalis is 6-4, 306 pounds and officially in his first NFL season out of Michigan. Originally signed by Washington as an undrafted free agent in 2017, he started two of four career games with the Colts last season. He has spent all of 2018 on the Browns' practice squad.
--OL Jake Eldrenkamp was signed to the practice squad Nov. 30. The Browns had an open spot on their practice squad after DB Montrel Meander was signed to the Oakland Raiders' active roster. Eldrenkamp (6-5, 305) is officially in his first NFL season out of Washington. Originally an undrafted free agent by the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, he spent this offseason and training camp as a Ram, but was waived during finals roster cuts. This marks Eldrenkamp's return to Cleveland, spending three weeks as a member of the Browns' practice squad earlier this season. He was released on Nov. 7.