If the Browns team that opened the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers wasn’t the best barometer by which to judge them, then neither was the game last week against
With a chance to “string” together consecutive victories for the first time in four years, the Browns instead gave their fans just enough hope and just enough pain to remind them of the difference between fantasy and reality.
The last drive was the most instructive. With just over a minute left, no time outs and 91 yards between them and the goal line, the Browns and quarterback Derek Anderson stumbled, stuttered and yet somehow found a way to move the ball within relatively easy field goal range with just three seconds remaining. But, of course, the prospect of the first two-game winning streak in four years was too much weight to bear. The line collapsed up the middle and Phil Dawson’s kick barely got three feet off the ground before it was blocked, giving the Raiders their first win of the season. You’re welcome. Glad to oblige.
And if the last drive wasn’t the most instructive, then surely it was the play of
If the loss to
Head coach Romeo Crennel may scratch his head over this and even may own up to the fact that it’s his responsibility, but it just doesn’t seem like this preparation thing ranks very high on his priority list.
Exhibit A was the Browns’ first possession. On the very first play from scrimmage, tight end Kellen Winslow committed pass interference that immediately put the team in a hole. After temporarily digging themselves out of that jam,
Exhibit B was the drive in the second quarter that led to Sebastian Janikowski’s third field goal in the first half. With 4:45 left in the first half, the Browns started their drive at their own 27 and immediately found themselves first and 10 at their 42 following a Raiders pass interference penalty. On first down,
The fact that the Browns found themselves within striking distance at that point is a tribute mostly to the fact that the Raiders suffer from the same sort of issues that plague the Browns: penalties, fumbles and a general inability to capitalize on the poor play of the other team by scoring touchdowns when they need them most. And the fact that the Browns were able to actually put themselves back into it was due mostly to kick returner Josh Cribbs. His 99-yard kick return following the Janikowski field goal provided just enough of a spark and a wake-up call to remind the Browns that they were playing the Raiders and not the Patriots. A Lamont Jordan fumble a few minutes later allowed the Browns to get a late second-quarter field goal by Dawson and suddenly what should have been a Raiders blow-out was only a 16-10 game.
Despite the contradictions and conundrum that the Browns offense presents, the one constant this season has been the defense. It’s been awful in every way you’d care to define the word. And at every critical juncture Sunday, save perhaps for the last drive when the Raiders didn’t seem all that interested in getting a first down anyway, it allowed a mostly inept Oakland offense to make the play it needed to in order to, ultimately, eek out its first victory of the season, even if they had to survive a makeable Browns field goal to get there.
This is a defense, folks, that has huge problems. The backs couldn’t even hang with the mostly mediocre
Certainly we’ll hear all week how there was still much to build on in the loss and some of that may be true. Cribbs, for example, continues his march toward the Pro Bowl and Braylon Edwards again played particularly well. But ultimately the few positives were once again undercut by too many negatives—dropped passes, missed receivers, fumbles, penalties and blown coverages. The team you saw is, unfortunately, exactly what you thought.
With this loss, it won’t be so much back to the drawing board for the Browns as it will be back to the wishing well, as in wishing that they could find a way to continue enough momentum from week to week to actually convince its fans that progress is being made. It was nice to hear that Savage refused to call last week’s victory against the Bengals a signature win, mostly because of the defense. But this wasn’t necessarily a signature loss, just typical. More’s the pity.