Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Browns Table: Dallas Debacle and Steelers Week

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Browns Table, a season-long look at the 2008 season for the Cleveland Browns from the point of view of the Browns fans here on Bleacher Report.

As always, I would like to thank my fellow Browns fans Dustin Haley, Scott Miles, David Nethers, and Michael Taylor for voicing their opinions, especially after a particularly frustrating opening weekend, again. Kudos, gentlemen!

This discussion is not just meant for the contributing Browns fans. Please feel free to comment on any of the questions or any of our answers below. We welcome any comments and an open discussion about the Browns below.

Well, the Browns laid a giant stink pickle on the Shores of Lake Erie in Week 1 versus the Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately, we look back at the “Dallas Debacle” that makes the Browns 1-9 in season openers since 1999.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Brownies in Week 2 as the hated Appalachian Inbred, Pittsburgh Steelers, come to Cleveland for an AFC North showdown on Sunday Night Football. The Stoolers, er, Steelers are fresh off a Week 1 whoopin’ of the Houston Texans.

Without further ado, Let’s talk Cleveland Browns football…

Well, the Browns are 0-1 after the 28-10 thumping by the Cowboys. What was more surprising to you, the actual result or how the Browns played to get to that result?

Dustin Haley: By far it was how the Browns played that were the key to the loss. The defense performed about how I figured they would, actually better. I don't think they played great, but I don't feel they played as badly as some say they did. Sure, there wasn't much of a pass rush and there were a lot of blown coverage’s, but they did hold the Cowboys to under 30 points. Less than what I thought Dallas was going to put up. The offense was non-existent. Even with the injuries we had I feel they should've performed much better. I do not feel Jamal Lewis had enough touches. Braylon Edwards dropped two passes that were easily six from my vantage point in the family zone. We apparently have seen the arrival of Derek Vick, but aside from the one good decision to run he had, he needs to get out of that mindset. On a positive note we only gave up one sack.I stated that the offense was going to have to score over 34 to win, not even close.

Scott Miles: Surprised we lost? No. Surprised we rolled over and died like that? Umm...Cleveland teams have historically underachieved and caved when they have high expectations (see: Indians, 2006 & 2008). Now, I know it's only one week, one game...but come on fellas, really? That's the effort you put forth in a home opener on national TV against a legit Super Bowl contender? Especially after you tanked in the preseason and everyone started doubting you, and that didn't give you any extra incentive to try a little harder?

David Nethers: Two areas that were most surprising to me are:1) The most surprising: How the Browns defensive line was unable to pressure Tony Romo. I expected more than that.2) How the Browns defense was unable to stop the run. I expected trouble in the secondary but once Marion Barber penetrated the Browns ineffective blitzing he had almost no resistance whatsoever. The Browns offense had not played together during pre-season so, as mentioned last week, I anticipated that there would be timing and foul problems and there were. I also mentioned that the defense after the pre-season left me under whelmed and nothing has changed there. Our secondary is porous and can be exploited by any team with good receivers who watches game film

Jeff Smirnoff: The latter. The Cowboys are a much better team than the Browns, that doesn't mean that the Browns couldn't win but it was a difficult task. But I expected the game to be competitive and the Cowboys to wear the Browns down not the Browns to come out looking totally unprepared and overmatched like pre-season. The offense was totally out of sync, which wasn't totally surprising, but failed to take advantage of any opportunities. The muffed snap on the first drive and the DA pass that was launched 20 years over Edwards' head on 3rd and 1 on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter were game killers. And the defense? Good lord. NO game plan. No adjustments. Jason Witten was uncovered about half the time. At least the Browns didn't kick a field goal, down by 21, with only a little more than 10 minutes left in the game... Wait a second!?!

Michael Taylor: We all knew that this was going to be a tough game from the start, so the fact that the Browns lost this game, I was able to accept. The Cowboys are a damn good football team. Though, the way that the Browns played was the bigger surprise to me. The offense didn't look too bad early on and was able to move the ball, but that didn't matter. There was no room for error because of that terrible defensive performance. The Browns could ill-afford to make any mistakes, let alone continuously drop passes, not set formations, tackle, cover, get any pass rush, you name it. It was an all-around bad day. Kind of like the a$$-whooping they received during last season's opener.

I think it's safe to say that everyone felt the Browns' biggest weakness coming into the season was the defense. That definitely was the case on Sunday. After seeing it "live" which aspect of the defense has you most concerned for the rest of 2008?

Dustin Haley: That’s a pretty tough question for me. I don’t feel like there is concern on one aspect of the defense over another. They all made plays, they all blew plays. It’s more of the defense as a whole for me. What adjustments in play calling need to be made to stop the run, or at least get around the three yards per carry mark? Do we blitz more on passing downs? Basically, what do we need to do to maximize our defensive efforts? These sorts of things are what concern me.

Scott Miles: Can I answer, "the whole unit"?Shaun Rogers is as advertised. The rest of the D-Line stunk. The linebackers didn't do anything to stand out. The secondary played about as well as expected, which is sub par. But I think it all comes down to the play of the line. Name a Super Bowl winning team that wasn't strong on the offensive or defensive lines. Our D-line has to improve, and quickly - as in by Sunday against the Steelers - if we want to turn this around.

David Nethers: Wow... there’s so much here, referring to my answer to the first question, I think the worst of the problems is the porous secondary. Kudos to Dallas, they have a great offensive line there and the Browns pass rush WILL get to quarterbacks this year. Mark my word that was NOT an indication of how the whole season will go on the line.

Jeff Smirnoff: The linebacking core. We all knew the defensive backfield was young, inexperienced and would struggle. It will but it will get better. The retooled D line, especially Shaun Rogers, showed some signs of some impact that was supposed to free up the linebackers to make plays. That did not happen. They key to the 3-4 defense is linebackers who can make plays. Look no further than the Pats, Ravens or Steelers. All have impact linebackers. The Browns do not and they are all slow to boot. Willie McGinest and Andra Davis are exceptionally slow except when Davis blitzes. D'Qwell Jackson looks like he can't get it done at the line of scrimmage. Leon Williams appears to get confused all the time. Kamerion Wimbley still only has one pass-rushing move. Until the linebackers start making plays the Browns D is in big, big trouble.

Michael Taylor: I was furiously upset over the pass rush again. The Browns paid big to bring in Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams, and all they had from them was no rush and a couple of tackles. Maybe more upsetting is the continued lack of development by the group of linebackers, especially on the outside. They did get to Romo and bust his chin on one play, but again there was little to no penetration or pressure.That matched up with mismatches on the outside was a recipe for disaster. The young corners need some help from the line if they are to stay with the leagues best.

Nine straight. 15 of the last 16. 22 of 25 since 1994. Those numbers make every Browns fan sick. What do the Browns have to do to actually have a chance to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2, 2008?

Dustin Haley: This is the most important game of the year for us, if there is such a thing. It may determine the AFC North. Stopping the Parker and Mendenhall is a top priority. The Steelers rely on their running game for their offensive flow and we cannot allow them to average over 5 yards a carry as we did Dallas. This is all up to the linebackers with Jones out for arthroscopic knee surgery.Offensively Lewis will need more than 13 touches he had, and we also need to convert more third downs. I know Chud likes to pass, but what's the point in having a back like Lewis if we do not utilize him on his strong points?

Scott Miles: 1. Braylon must play like he's capable of playing - that is, record more catches than drops in a game, especially on those game-changing deep balls.2. The defensive line MUST MUST MUST MUST MUST get some pressure on the quarterback and at least slow the running game.3. Romeo needs to take a chance or two for once in his career.

David Nethers: Don’t Panic! Week 1 the Browns looked pitiful and the Steelers looked great. Look at their opponents. Week 2 is going to be a good game and I actually like the match up. I predicted last week that the Browns could go 3-1 at the Bye and, maybe its too much FAN here and too little objectivity, but I still think that’s possible.I really think that once this offense gets more work in together and Braylon Edwards stops dropping balls this will look like a completely different team.

Jeff Smirnoff: Show up, care and believe they can win. It all starts with that. Until the Browns actually believe they can beat the Steelers they won't do it. It has to start there. Despite their shortcomings in some spots, the Browns do have some talent. And despite their dominance, the Steelers do have some weaknesses. Against Dallas the Browns looked like they didn't believe they could beat the Cowboys. If they let the Steelers get even a whiff of that, they are dead meat.

Michael Taylor: Stay within themselves and execute their game plan. As bad as last week was, the Browns still have the weapons to contend in the AFC North, but they have to prove it starting Sunday night. Again, being able to control the line of scrimmage will be key in any game against the Steelers. They run the ball and apply pressure defensively. The Browns must control the game in the trenches and let their skill players do the rest.

After watching the Steelers' dismantling of the Texans which aspect of Pittsburgh is your biggest concern: the physical, efficient offense or the hard-hitting relentless defense?

Dustin Haley: I’m more concerned with stopping this offense that put up 38 points last week. Ben was 13-14 for 137 yards and Parker rushed for 138 yards on 25 attempts. That is beyond efficient, that’s downright nasty. Never mind Hines Ward had 6 receptions for 76 yards and two TDs, Keeping this offense off the field and maintaining control of the clock is key to winning this game. With what happened against Dallas, this is bad news.

Scott Miles: I didn't get a chance to watch the game - the Columbus market was treated to the JV teams (Cincinnati and Baltimore) snooze-fest - but the first thing I always think about when I think Pittsburgh (besides vomiting) is its defense. They held Houston to 234 total yards - over 130 of which came in the fourth quarter when the game was over - and forced three turnovers. That defensive performance, coupled with the way the Browns offense looked Sunday, is a bit of a concern.

David Nethers: There is no question the Steelers have a talented defense. Contain Worthlessburger, stop that annoying run ability of his, and I think you have less to worry about from their offense. Their defense is talented, but so is the Browns offense and I’m not willing to say one is better than the other at this point, unless of course, the Browns offense is misfiring as badly as it did in week 1.

Jeff Smirnoff: think if we actually practice well and prepare for the game, which after watching the Dallas game is 50/50, I feel that our offense can have some success against the Steeler D. It won't be easy, but I like how our O line showed up versus the Cowboys and the Steeler secondary is still a bit shaky, even with Polamalu looking like he is 100%.But the Pittsburgh offense scares me. The Texans actually pressured the Steelers, got some sacks, are experienced and the Steelers totally carved them up. Willie Parker ran wild, Roethlisberger was 13-14 and the receivers were open all game. Unless we figure out a way to exploit the Steelers revamped O line I don't see us stopping them.

Michael Taylor: Well, after watching the Browns against the Cowboys, the physical, efficient offense is worrisome. I mean, how many times have we seen the Steelers control the game with over 200 yards rushing as a team. If Sunday was any indication of this D-line, Sunday may again be a long night.

It's Steelers Week. Now that Joey Porter is wallowing in Miami which player do you dislike the most: Big Dumb Roethlisbozo, The Cheap Shot Artist - Evil Chipmunk Whines Hard, or someone else?

Dustin Haley: LaMarr Woodley. A Wolverine to Steeler, I can’t possibly hate someone more than that.

Scott Miles: I rooted for Big Ben when he was at Miami (come on, who from Ohio didn't) and though I absolutely despise him, I cannot say I dislike him the most. Far and away it's Hines Ward, with that stupid (expletive deleted) smile he always has on and all his cheap hits. I wish we still had Brian Russell so he could lay him out like he did Chad Johnson a few years back. "How'd Bodden do, guys?"

David Nethers: Worthlessburger grew up in Findlay Ohio. I talked with him last year in the Steelers practice facility locker room about what the Browns/Steelers rivalry meant to him when he was a kid and he told me essentially that he knew there was one but he never got caught up in that. Claims to have been a 49ers fan as a kid. he told me this..."being from ohio obviously you understand the love when you are in ohio for the browns and the bengals but being in pittsburgh you understand the hatred, you understand where its coming from." "Hatred"? Ben? Maybe from someone who grew up in Pittsburgh, but from an Ohio boy? His play on the field aside, how can you like anyone who grew up in Ohio and "understands the hatred". That’s just plain annoying. Let’s hope the defense closes those gaps this weekend and gives him something to really hate.

Jeff Smirnoff: Roethlisbozo. Whines Hard may play dirty now and then and it just as bad of a taunter, if not more so than TO or Ocho Cinco who are more playful, but it's Roethlisberger for a simple reason. He is from Ohio and said he grew up "hating" the Browns, and the Bengals, and the respective cities. Now if you don't want to root for the teams or like the cities, or you didn't like them, that's fine. But to me the word hate is a very serious word. Maybe you were a front-runner, which is why you liked John Elway and the Broncos, fine, but don't hate on my hometown for no reason. He doesn't respect us, so I don't respect him.

Michael Taylor: How about 'D', all of the above including Troy Polamalu. It is really hard to pick just one. I may go with Polamalu just because he always seems to be making big plays against the Browns in the backfield or intercepting a pass at opportune times for the Steelers. Plus, you just want to reach into the TV screen and pull his hair out.

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