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Posted by Sep - 12 - 2011 0 Comment

Give the Bengals credit. They stood up in the final 5 or so minutes of a game that nobody wanted to win and reluctantly took it over, winning 27-17 at Cleveland Browns Stadium yesterday. From the opening kickoff yesterday, the Browns decided to take on the arduous task of having to beat not only the Bengals, but themselves. There wasn’t a play the Bengals ran against the Browns that the home team couldn’t one-up in the first quarter, so long as the task at hand was to beat the Browns. And at the end of the day, that was how the game ended. The Bengals didn’t beat the Browns, the Browns did. Enough false start penalties to make one think it was part of the game plan. Veterans who should know better than to illegally block someone on punt coverage on a day when Richmond McGee would have lost a punt, pass, and kick competition to a 9 year-old. Wasted opportunities with prime field position in the second half after the Browns climbed out of their 12 point hole and took a lead into the locker room at the half. Pepper in a head scratching unsportsmanlike call against the Browns bench and you have a day of football the Three Stooges would be proud to call their own. The duality of the day’s demise is that while the comedy of errors that the Browns executed yesterday are things that are relatively easy to resolve (say like, remembering the snap count or having the right personnel in place on a play), it makes the fact that those types of things were the Browns undoing yesterday that much more frustrating.

While so much attention has been placed on the offensive side of the football this tumultuous offseason, it’s clear there are growing pains on the defensive side as well. While the game winning play for the Bengals came when the Browns were still in their defensive huddle and A.J. Green was uncovered, there’s little in the way you can excuse the numerous time previous to that play where the Browns thought the better of covering TE Jermaine Gresham. I was often worried that Gresham might choke to death on the sandwich he was scarfing down prior to each catch he made. It’s clear that one thing has remain unchanged in the Browns transition to the 4-3 from the 3-4, and that is NFL tight ends will feast on the Browns, and have fantasy owners lining up to make waiver wire moves to pick up any TE facing the Browns in a given week. The late, great John Mackey would have had 3 or 4 catches yesterday against the Browns, and never would have needed to leave his casket to do so.

Still, as with each dark cloud that parks itself over Browns Stadium on opening day, there is some proverbial silver lining. It appears that so long as he stays healthy, Montario Hardesty should be a nice addition to Peyton Hillis in the backfield. While his is similar in size to Hillis, they are two very different running styles, each of which is effective. Its up to the Browns coaching staff to find out how to maximize that talent. I wasn’t unhappy with the play of Colt McCoy, as he often was making plays on the run, escaping sacks, and had his only turnover at the end of a game that had been decided long before his errant pass attempt. Joe Haden is showing signs of maturing into the kind of cover corner that gets mentioned with the likes of Revis someday. His closing speed and hand work in coverage is typically found on corners much more veteran than him, and you can tell this young man put in some work in the off-season. Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard looked solid for a couple rookies in their debut. It wasn’t until very late in the game, after spending most of the second half on the field that Cedric “Ankle Bracelet” Benson got off on the Browns defense, and was at the perimeter of the defense. There simply wasn’t much running room against the middle of the Browns defense. As well, D’Qwell Jackson is back as advertised, with 11 tackles and 2 sacks in his first complete game in over a year. Hopefully, he’ll play 15 more games this year and continue to contribute similarly.

Obviously, the season isn’t over with this loss. Remember that 10-6 2007 team? Started the season with a pasting by the Steelers that saw Charlie Frye jettisoned by the following Tuesday. The sky did not fall, the sun rose this morning, and we all still have taxes to pay. And just as if we had won, by Tuesday, it’s time for the Browns to put this behind them and focus on their trip to Indy. But maybe, they lit a little of the sting of letting this one get away linger enough to make the Colts pay for it. The overwhelming sense of optimism felt throughout the preseason was doused with some reality. A young team with no off-season to prepare under a first-year coaching staff will experience their fair share of growing pains. Unfortunately, those are exasperated when you play undisciplined football. Perhaps next Sunday, the Browns will simply look to beat the Colts, and not themselves.

Categories: Cleveland Browns

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