The Browns finished 45-19, six games back of Chicago, and never really made a race of it. After getting swept by Hartford in early June, they found themselves six games back and the race for the championship was over. But I think it's interesting how they found themselves out of the race so early.
If you break down their record, the Browns were 18-12 against clubs with winning records and 27-7 against clubs under .500. Chicago was 19-11 against clubs with winning records but a fantastic 33-3 against losing clubs. Chicago won the championship by beating up on the League's weak sisters.
I don't mean to imply that Chicago's championship is illegitimate. Good teams take care of business against bad teams. That's the way it is. However, almost all of Chicago's margin of victory in the championship race comes from the difference between their and St. Louis' record against losing clubs.
If you look at the schedule and at the games on a day-by-day basis, you can point out exactly how the Browns lost the championship:
-April 25 @ Cincinnati: 2-1, L
-April 27 @ Cincinnati: 5-2, L
-May 3 @ Louisville: 11-0, L
The opening road trip of the season was a disaster for the Brown Stockings. They lost three of four and quickly found themselves three games out of first. I think you can make the argument that the Browns lost the championship in the first week of the season by getting off to a poor start.
-May 8 vs. Chicago: 3-2, L
-May 20 @ Chicago: 6-3, L
The Browns split their first home and home against Chicago and again found themselves three games out of first. They really needed a sweep of the four games to make up for their horrible start.
-May 27 @ New York: 6-2, L
The McGeary Game.
With each of those six loses, the Browns lost ground in the standings. If they had won those games, they would have finished tied for first and claimed the championship based on having a winning record against Chicago. Four of those games were against losing clubs and one could say that they should have won them (throwing out the whole glorious uncertainty of baseball thing).
My point that I wanted to make is that regardless of how well the Browns played after the sweep in Hartford (and they went 33-10 from that point on), they lost the championship in the first month of the season. The main reason they never challenged for the championship in 1876 is because of their poor play against the weak sisters of the League in the first month of the season.