Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bipolar Browns Wake Up Too Late, Fall to Redskins 14-11

Just when you thought they were over the hump, they rolled back down the hill. In the arduous fashion that they only can, the Cleveland Browns fell to the Washington Redskins 14-11 as Phil Dawson’s 54 yard field goal attempt sailed wide right at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. The Browns wasted the effort of their over performing defense by a putrid showing, minus the final two drives, by their much maligned offense.

The less said about the first half, the better. Both teams struggled to get anything going as they ended the half deadlocked, emphasis on dead, at zero. The Browns had six possessions in the first half and Dave Zastudil punted six times. This following a game on Monday night when his services were not needed.

Derek Anderson looked horrible, to put it kindly, and you have to wonder if he hadn’t had a stellar performance on Monday if we wouldn’t have seen Brady Quinn. How does one define horrible? How does 3 of 14 for 17 yards, including 1 of 8 for 6 yards in the first quarter, work? Or leading the offense to just 59 total yards, four first downs and an awful 2 for 8 on third down? Factor in that three of the six drives were three and out and horrible may be an understatement.

The Redskins didn’t fair much better as they also punted on their first five possession of the first half. But they at least generated some semblance of an offense. They were able to move the ball for 154 yards and eight first downs, more than doubling the Browns’ efforts. Clinton Portis ran wild for five yards a carry with 75 yards on 15 carries.

The Redskins drove to the Browns 19 with five seconds left in the half, but Shaun Suisham pushed a 36 yard field goal attempt short and right as it bounced off the right upright, no good. It was a fitting end to an embarrassing, offensive first half for both teams.

The second half did not start much better as both teams traded punts to start the half but the Redskins capitalized on their next drive by riding the legs of Portis, the NFL’s leading rusher. Portis had runs of 7 and 4 yards sandwiched around a 35 yard pass from Campbell to Santana Moss and 13 yard pass to Antwaan Randle El. Portis then hammered it in from 3 yards out for a 7-0 Washington lead.

The Browns were able to answer, albeit mildly, by pounding their own stud running back Jamal Lewis. After Lewis moved the chains, Anderson finally hit a tangible gain on a pass when he connected with Braylon Edwards for 19. Lewis followed that up with a 22 yard scamper but the drive stalled and the Browns had to settle for a Phil Dawson field goal and a 7-3 deficit.

The Redskins and Browns traded punts once again with Washington ending up on the good side of the field position by starting a drive at the Cleveland 49. The Redskins wasted no time as Portis ran for 4 and 27 yards, respectively, on the first two plays to put the ball on the Browns 18. After a timeout, Campbell hit Moss on a simple out at the expense of Terry Cousin, who was picked on constantly again, and Moss spun away from two tacklers for a touchdown and a 14-3 Redskin lead.

The Browns drove valiantly to the Redskins 1 behind the running of Jerome Harrison and catches by Edwards and Steve Heiden. Anderson hit Lewis on a nifty swing pass that got the Browns to the 1. That when the Browns vanilla play calling came up to bite them. Lewis was stuffed for no gain on first down. On second down, Anderson then hit back-up fullback Charles Ali in the flat, for minus 2 yards. Anderson threw a pass on third down that should have been a Pick 6 for a Washington touchdown, but thankfully it just ricocheted away.

So down, 14-3, with just under six minutes left in the game, Romeo Crennel was faced with his most feared decision: to field goal or not to field goal? A field goal would make it 14-6 and a one score game, but the Browns struggled against the run all day and the Redskins may run out the clock. By going for it, the Browns could cut the lead to 5 or 3 but a failure would still leave the score 14-3.

Crennel chose to roll the dice and on Fourth and Goal at the 3 Anderson pass was batted down and the Browns still by 11. But fate would intervene as on the Redskins first play from scrimmage Eric Wright forced Portis to fumble and Brodney Pool recovered on the Washington 29.

A 20 yard strike to Edwards and an 8 yard pass to Kellen Winslow once again put the Browns on the Washington once again. The Browns went vanilla, again, as Lewis was stuffed, twice, running precious time off of the clock. Anderson then hit Josh Cribbs for a 1 yard touchdown and Edwards for the two-point conversion to make the score 14-11 with 2:44 left.

Crennel then faced another kicking decision on the ensuing kick-off, kick deep or attempt an onside kick. The Browns lined up for an onside kick, but kicked it deep. The Redskins got the ball on their own 36 with 2:47. The Browns made that decision pay off as they stuffed Portis three times for 3, 2 and 2 yards and used their two timeouts and the two minute warning to get the ball back with 1:51 remaining.

Anderson hit Donte Stallworth for 18 yards on a deep out to the Cleveland 47 and stop the clock. Anderson then connected with Winslow for 9 yards and subsequently sneaked the ball for a first down at the Washington 36 with just over a minute remaining. But Anderson’s inaccuracy reared its ugly head once more as he threw 3 consecutive incomplete passes, including missing a wide open Edwards on third down at the Redskins 20, and the Browns were forced to settle for Dawson’s 54 yards field goal attempt.

The Browns’, and Anderson’s, road woes continue as they once again came out flat and lifeless and could never make up for it in the end. Anderson finished 14 of 37 (37.8%) on the afternoon for 136 yards and a touchdown. That is 3.7 yards per attempt and 9.7 yard a completion as the Browns were completely unaggressive with play calling all day due to Anderson’s struggles. Lewis put in another workmanlike day with 80 yards on 19 carries.

The defense played well all afternoon, holding the Redskins to just 14 points and forced a crucial turnover for the second game in a row. But they continue to get gouged by the run, yielding 193 yards on the ground, 175 to Portis, for a 5.4 average. Campbell was a mediocre 14 of 23 for 164 yards but him ability to get into somewhat of a rhythm before Anderson definitely benefited Washington.

So the Browns fall to 2-4 on a day that both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens won to improve to 5-1 and 3-3, respectively. They find themselves playing catch up with not one, but two teams in the AFC North. The gap is actually larger when you consider that the Browns have already lost to both teams once in 2008.

After what looked to be a reawakening versus the New York Giants the Browns came crashing back to Earth, unable to put together some semblance of consistent play in consecutive games. Until they can do so, the Browns will not be serious contenders to anything but the doormat of the AFC North. Thankfully, the 0-7 Cincinnati Bengals have a stranglehold on that distinction, but there are still ten games left to give them a run for their money. If the Browns do not find some sort of cohesion or identity as a football team that’s what they will be playing for in December.

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