Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cleveland Browns Suffer a Giant Beatdown on MNF

The new brown pants were horrible, but unfortunately for the Cleveland Browns their performance versus the New York Giants on Monday Night Football was much worse. The Browns first teams on both sides of the ball were abused, beaten and manhandled by the Giants first teamers eventually falling to Big Blue 37-34. It was no where near as close as the score indicates.

The game started off looking good for Cleveland as the Browns defense forced a three and out on the opening series of the game. Derek Anderson guided the Browns offense on a prolonged drive that stalled on the Giants’ 39. Phil Dawson came on and nailed a wind-aided, 56-yard field goal to put the Browns up 3-0, but it was all downhill from there.

The Giants drove down the field effortlessly on the ensuing drive, aided by a 53-yard pass interference penalty on Browns’ defensive back Eric Wright. Wright was then burned for a touchdown in the back corner of the endzone by Eli Manning and Domenik Hixon to put the Giants up, 7-3.

The Browns were unable to mount anything on their next drive and safety Mike Adams incurred a 15-yard kick interference penalty to give the Giants excellent field position at the Browns’ 49. After a 15-yard personal foul by Andra Davis, Manning and Hixon hooked up again, at the expense of Wright once more, for another touchdown and a 14-3 Giants lead.

The Browns’ first team continued to look embarrassingly bad as they failed to move the ball on their next two possessions. Backed up in their own end and forced to punt, they incurred a 5-yard false start penalty. This resulted in punter Dave Zastudil not having a full 15 yards to punt and former Brown Reuben Droughns pushed reserve, rookie running back Travis Thomas into Zastudil’s leg, blocking the punt out of the endzone for a safety and a 16-3 Giants advantage.

One might not have thought it could have gotten worse for the Browns’ but on the ensuing free kick Hixon struck again for Big Blue returning the kick to the house, his third touchdown of the first quarter, to push the score to 23-7 at the end of the first quarter.

How bad was the quarter for the Browns? Aside from the 23-7 deficit, they had accumulated six penalties for 98 yards and only 26 yards of offense on 16 plays. Wright was being burnt left and right by Manning while Anderson showed signs of skittishness against the Giants’ pressure defense.

Syndric Steptoe returned the ensuing kickoff to the Giants’ 9 to show some signs of life for the brown and orange but Jamal Lewis fumbled on the 2 yard line and Eric Butler returned the fumble for a touchdown and before you could blink it was 30-7 Giants with 14:05 left in the first half. The Browns had allowed 30 points in less than 16 minutes of football.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the next time Derek Anderson dropped back to pass, Giants’ DE Osi Umenyiora pancaked him to the ground and knocked him out of the game with a concussion. The Browns’ first team offensive line looked completely overmatched all night against the reigning Super Bowl Champion’s defense. By the middle of the second quarter the Browns had run 23 plays and on had 23 yards of offense to show for them.

The Browns’ defense fared no better getting run over time and time again but the Giants’ physical offensive line. At times the Browns looked more interested in pushing and shoving after the whistle that actually tackling the Giants ball carriers. Only 14 of the 30 points were scored on the Browns first string defense but at no point during the game did they generate any sort of pass rush or stop the run on a consistent basis.

The Browns back-ups actually provided most of the highlights for the team as they managed to play hard despite the score and turn a 30-7 joke into a 37-34 final. Brady Quinn looked sharp, against the Giants’ second team defense, as he lead the team down for a pair of touchdowns on the evening.

He was agile in the pocket and made a few big plays with his arm. He seemed to make a concerted effort to throw the ball down field more including forcing a deep ball that should have been intercepted but was somehow wrangled away from the Giants’ defender by Steptoe for a 44-yard touchdown.

Steptoe his second consecutive brilliant game as he added a 40-yard kickoff return to the 90-yard return he had earlier to go along with two touchdowns on offense. He scored on a 9-yard backwards pass for the Browns’ first touchdown of the night and followed it up with the amazing grab from Quinn.

Jerome Harrison also had another great pre-season game running with purpose including a breathtaking 23-yard scamper at, around and trough the Giants’ defense. I will give Eric Wright credit as well, despite being burnt badly and often he did have a short memory, as cornerbacks should, and returned a tipped pass for a touchdown late in the second quarter. He had a bad game but didn’t pout let it show, he just kept playing.

You know it’s a long night when third string QB Ken Dorsey lights it up going 9-11 for 143 yards and a touchdown to rookie Lance Leggett. The cerebral Dorsey led the Browns on two scoring drives culminating in 10 points. Yes, it was against the Giants’ scrubs but Dorsey looked absolutely horrid versus the Jets last week so it was a positive in an otherwise dismal night.

What can we draw from this performance by the Browns? First and foremost, their defense still has miles to come before it can be effective. They need to get Shawn Rogers healthy so they can accurately evaluate the defense as a whole. The young secondary is going to struggle, especially on the outside, and they need a strong force upfront to offset that. They also need to find some sort of pass rush as it has been non-existent in both exhibition games.

On offense, it would not surprise me to see Anderson miss the next pre-season game as it is Saturday at Detroit after a Monday night game. A super short week, and even with a mild concussion I doubt they would clear him to play in the pre-season.

If anything, that will give them a chance to evaluate Quinn against a starting defense, even if it is the Lions, something he has yet to face in his young career. Anderson still is, and should be, the starter but they might as well make the best of an injury situation. But that won’t stop the fans and media from drumming up another quarterback controversy.

More disheartening is the performance of the first team offensive line. Yes, they were playing against one of the best defensive lines in football but he Browns’ offensive line is supposed to be one of the best as well. They got completely dominated for a quarter and a half and were unable to move down the field except for the opening drive of the game. Their only touchdown drive came against the Giants’ second team defense.

It’s a very short week to get things sorted out to play Detroit but that’s the hand they’ve been dealt. They did sustain injuries, Anderson and Brodney Pool suffered minor concussions, Josh Cribbs rolled an ankle and was in a walking boot and Leon Williams hurt is neck. Hopefully they all will all be ready to go sooner than later, but I doubt we see any of them versus the Lions.

The game was a cruel wake-up call for the Browns as they do not look like anything close to the “prime-time players” that their schedule suggests. It was a complete and total embarrassment in all facets of the game. They better use this experience as a wake up call or they may be doomed to sink faster that the Titanic.

In fact, their performance was so awful that it overshadowed the ghastly brown pants they wore for the first time. Memo to Browns Management, don’t even bring those wretched brown pants out again. Memo to Romeo Crennel and the Browns’ coaching staff, don’t ever put that embarrassing of a performance together on National TV if you want to stick around.

Training camp finally got exciting for the Cleveland Browns in 2008. Unfortunately, it took a complete flop on Monday Night Football to do so.

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