Sunday, December 28, 2008

Steelers Put Browns Out of Their Misery, 31-0

The outcome was never in doubt. Whether or not the Browns would set records of futility were. The Browns were shutout in consecutive games for the first time in franchise history courtesy of a 31-0 beat down at the hands of the AFC North Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Browns also managed to set an NFL record by going 24 full quarters without an offensive touchdown. The last time they scored was in the fourth quarter of the Monday night game versus the Buffalo Bills. That game was on November 17th.

The Browns managed to keep the game close in the first quarter and a half but their only chance to put points on the board went wide left with Phil Dawson’s 53-yeard field goal attempt on their opening possession. The vaunted Heinz Field winds took the ball from the right goal post past the left one.

The Steelers drove into the red zone on their ensuing possession but Sean Jones intercepted Ben Roethlisberger inside the Cleveland 10 yard line to keep the game scoreless.

Both teams traded punts back and forth until Willie Parker broke a 43-yard sweep to the right and handed Pittsburgh a 7-0 lead that was never threatened. It was Parker’s longest run in what has been a disappointing season for the Steelers’ rushing attack.

Pittsburgh received a scare on their next possession when Roethlisberger was hit while rolling out by Willie McGinest and D’Qwell Jackson. Roethlisberger was on the ground for over 15 minutes as medical personnel treated him. He was carted off the field, into an ambulance and to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion.

It was the only scare the Browns put into the Steelers all afternoon.

Byron Leftwich took over on the drive and led the Steelers into a 3rd and Goal from the Browns’ 8. In a microcosm of their defense for 2008, four Browns whiffed on the less than mobile Leftwich and he waddled into the end zone for a 14-0 Steeler advantage right before halftime.

The second half was just as putrid for the pitiful Browns as a Tyrone Carter interception set up a Jeff Reed field goal. Gary Russell then powered in from three yards to finish off a drive that was met with little resistance from the Browns defense. Browns’ quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was intercepted for a second time, again by Carter, who returned it to the house for the 31-0 final.

The Browns only managed 126 yards of total offense while Willie Parker had 116 on the ground by himself. Gradkowski was only 5 of 16 for 18 yards and the two interceptions. If this was a test to see if he could be the Browns’ back up in 2009, he failed spectacularly.

Head coach Romeo Crennel’s was the only one who outdid his performance. Crennel fell to 0-8 versus Pittsburgh making his the only full time Browns coach in franchise history to have never beaten the Steelers. Crennel is expected to be relieved of his duties tomorrow.

The only bright spot for the Browns was running back Jamal Lewis who ran for 94 yards on 23 carries. That gave Lewis 1,003 yards on the season, the first Browns running back to have consecutive 1,000-yard season since Greg Pruitt.

For the rest of the Browns and their fans it was a fitting end to a miserable season. A season the 1999 expansion Browns would even be embarrassed by.

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