Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Browns Table: Feeling Blue at 0-2

Welcome to 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.

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. If you would like a seat at the table leave me a note on my profile and we will try and get you in the rotation.

Thanks once again to Browns fans Dustin Haley and Scott Miles for chiming in, especially after a particularly brutal weekend for Ohio sports.

The Browns lost, for the 10th consecutive time, to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 10-6, on Sunday Night. The game featured a number of

Let’s talk Browns football…

The Browns fought hard and kept it close but in the end couldn't seal the deal and lost to the Steelers. They now sit at 0-2. Do how the first two weeks of the season played out change your expectations for 2008?

Dustin Haley:
We are only two games into the season. We have played bad, we have made bad decisions, and we just played two of the top four teams we are playing this season. My expectations have not yet changed. I doubt Pittsburgh will go undefeated in the division; ask me this question should we have another poor showing against Baltimore.

Scott Miles:
Well, let's see here. The Browns played poorly against two pretty good teams and lost them both. That's understandable, it really is. Unfortunately, we have still have good teams like Washington, Jacksonville, NY Giants, Denver, Buffalo, Indy, Tennessee, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh again. With that schedule, it means we're going to have to go to 4-0 against Cincinnati and Baltimore to have a glimmer of postseason hope. I'm not saying it can't be done, but I think OSU has about as good of a chance to reach the national title game this year as the Browns do of reaching the playoffs.

Jeff Smirnoff:
No because I hedged my bet on this first Steeler game. I said if they won they'd win the AFC North, if they lost they'd miss the play-offs. If they win the next 2 games they are 2-2, 2-1 in the division so there is hope. But considering they always look unprepared and overmatched in big games and every game from now on IS a big game since they need to go 10-4 to go 10-6 I am very skeptical, at best.

Speaking of losing to the Steelers, that is now a disgusting 10 in a row. What do you think the reason that the Browns can not beat the Inbred? What do they need to do so?

Dustin Haley:
Why can’t we beat them? We can. Why have we not beaten them? Offensive execution, it’s as simple as that.

Scott Miles:
I said last week Romeo was going to have to take a couple of chances in that game for us to win. Yeah, that clearly happened. We need to stop making dumb decisions on the field and on the sidelines too. Oh, and if Big Ben wants to break a limb anytime soon, that would be huge, too.

Jeff Smirnoff:
Inferior talent and a huge mental block. The Steelers have drafted and used free agency better than us and have a better coaching staff than us and it shows. Whenever they need to make a big play or a stop, they do. The Steelers don't have to worry about things like clock management or their nickel back and can survive injuries here and there, the Browns do. Those things give the Steelers a confidence that anytime they step on the field with the Browns that they will win. There is no doubt in there mind they will. The Browns have closed the talent gap significantly but still do not have the impact players, especially on defense, to have that peace of mind. They know they have to play close to perfect to even have a chance to win.

Another day, another field goal. What are your thoughts on Romeo Crennell as a coach? How much do you hold him accountable for the 0-2 start?

Dustin Haley:
About as much as I hold Braylon Edwards and DA accountable. I’m a RAC supporter and I’m not quiet about it. I feel he has done wonders for this team. We can talk about field goals, formations, and clock management all day; it’s the intangibles that make great coaching. Things like cohesiveness, player progression, respect, and ability to attract talent, just to name a few. You can’t build a football team overnight, we seen the team come together in year two, and he had a great season year three. He can have a slow start, even a rough season, but calling for his job now will set us back 4 years

Scott Miles:
Oh boy, where to begin. I'm not usually one to pile on a coach because a lot of what goes on out on the field is out of his hands i.e. dropped passes (Braylon, cough, cough). BUT when you run the world's worst two-minute drill, continue to commit dumb penalties, and NEVER take a chance in a game...I mean, my God, why are you getting a paycheck? I got a text from my old boss after the FG. "Mr. By the Book does it again" it read. I wonder if Romeo realizes the book he should be reading is "Coaching for Dummies", not "Coaching BY Dummies".

Jeff Smirnoff:
He lost me last week:

I like the guy, he is a good man but is NOT a NFL head coach. I don't care what the final record is at the end of the year Randy Lerner needs to get out his checkbook, go down to NC and ask Bill Cowher how much fat cash it will take to come to Lake Erie.

Derek Anderson had another sub par game. The offense has scored 16 points in 2 games. What do you attribute it to? How concerned are you about his play and the effect of the offense?

Dustin Haley:
I’ve also been a vocal D.A. supporter, but I realize that Brady is the future. Honestly, I have not liked anything about DA this season. I blame him for the poor clock management as much as I do Romeo. If anyone looked confused during the two minute offense, it was he. You can blame coaching, but IMO, in the NFL you should already know what to do, and Quinn would have. Bruce Drennan predicted that if Derek had a bad game against Pittsburgh, he would start against Baltimore, obviously that’s not going to happen. I began the season backing DA. If he has a bad game in Baltimore, I’ll be chanting “Brady! Brady!”

Scott Miles:
I can't completely fault DA because when you're star wide out is clearly not at 100 percent and can't catch a cold; any quarterback is going to suffer. Then you factor in Stallworth and Jurevicius being out, not to mention when your second best target in Kellen Winslow is ON THE BENCH for a lot of that final drive (Romeo...). And let's be honest, Brady Quinn's not going to perform any better against that defense and in those conditions, so just quell that talk right now. My biggest qualm with DA is that INT right before halftime, which me and everyone I was watching the game with predicted would happen. In that situation, you have to be 900 percent sure the receiver is open because the defense is all packed into the end zone - you can NOT turn it over. And he did. So yes, there are concerns and the offense will likely struggle again this week against a still-tough Baltimore D. But if guys start getting healthy, and if DA can cut back the mistakes, the offense will be all right.

Jeff Smirnoff:
I attribute the 16 points in 2 games to Braylon Edwards' stupidity, Donte' Stallworth's fragility and Derek Anderson's regression. Edwards' shoeless stunt has cost the Browns offense, and himself, any and all cohesiveness. Throw in Stallworth's always iffy health and that has thrust Syndric Steptoe and Steve Sanders into duty. Add that to the fact that DA continues to come up small in games versus good opponents and it's a lethal combination. The Ravens are a good but aging defense and the Bungals D is atrocious. If we don't see two weeks of "Good DA", check that "Great DA", I am officially declaring myself a part of "The Golden Boy" Bandwagon.

The Browns were 3-5 on the road last year and head to Baltimore to try and right the ship versus the Ravens. What are the keys to the game to prevent a dreaded 0-3 start?

Dustin Haley:
Stop the run. They had 229 rushing yards against Cincy. Get after Flacco. Why in the world Baltimore will not give Troy Smith a chance is beyond me, but I regress. Flacco is a young QB, obviously, who had a decent game against Cincinnati, but I think initially he won’t be able to handle in his face pressure. We definitely do not want to keep him from scramble on us while we’re stuck in deep coverage. Spy him on passing downs. If we attack this offense, and actually manage to score points, say 17, we will win the game.

Scott Miles:
1. Pressure Joe Flacco. The defense was much improved last week, but will have to play better this week.

2. Put together more than two good scoring drives. We've seen some glimpses of what the offense can do. Against Baltimore, you probably can't - or need - to score 27 points, but you need to pick up some first downs, win the field position battle, and put some pressure on their defense.

3. Get Jerome Harrison more touches. I'm a little too young to have clear memories of Eric Metcalf, but isn't Harrison pretty much a Metcalf clone? Or at least another Jamel White, who had some pretty good years for us surrounded by an inferior cast? I'd love to see more of what Harrison can do.

4. Romeo needs to take a few chances in this game. Hey, didn't I write that last week???

Jeff Smirnoff:
Stop the run on defense. Generate SOMETHING on offense. I don't see the Ravens trying to "Flacco us to death" despite our thin secondary. They ran the ball and out-physicaled the Bungals in their Week 1 victory. Robaire Smith is out, our LBs stink and they don't have depth at receiver. I expect a lot of Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain all game long. That being said I expect an aerial assault from the Browns offense followed by a heavy does of Jamal Lewis if they get a lead. Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, and Ed Reed are all hurt and if the Browns don't attempt to exploit that they are stupid. They need a big day from the O Line and some of the young WRs to step up.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Another Brown Out Courtesy of the Steelers

Well, at least it wasn’t the Christmas Eve Massacre of 2005 or the opening day beat down of 2007, but regardless, the Cleveland Browns suffered their 10th consecutive defeat at the hands of their division rival Pittsburgh Steelers, 10-6, to drop to 0-2 on the 2008 campaign as the Steelers’ improved to 2-0.

The game, and the Browns-Steelers series since the mid-1990s, can be defined quite simply. The Steelers always do all the things that winners do while the Browns continually do things that habitual losers do. I cannot say it better than The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Tony Grossi did in his afternoon pod cast. Sunday night was no exception to these trends.

Pittsburgh preserved through an injury, a slightly separated shoulder of Ben Roethlisberger, and did not let that hinder their performance. The converted third downs and miscues when they needed to despite the poor weather conditions. They were physical up front as Willie Parker has yet another 100 yard rushing effort versus the Browns while the Steelers defense held Jamal Lewis under 50 yards on the night.

When they did make mistakes, the Steelers atoned for them. Hines Ward dropped a touchdown pass in the second quarter and made up for by making a great read on the defense and hauled in a scoring pass on the very next play. Good teams do things like this. Right now, when they step on the field the Steelers firmly believe that they will beat the Browns and have no reason to believe otherwise.

The Browns on the other hand may have fought hard and gave a valiant effort, but in the end, they had as bunch to do with their undoing as Pittsburgh did. Braylon Edwards continues to look out of shape, out of shape and have the drop-sees as he put the ball on the ground as much as he caught it, include a potential TD grab.

Derek Anderson continued to come up in small in big games as he did in the second half of 2007. He under threw Edwards in the second quarter and was intercepted by Bryant McFadden which led to the only touchdown of the game. He inexplicably threw another interception as the half expired, this time to Troy Polamalu.

With eight seconds left, and no timeouts, the Browns were inside the ten-yard line. You need to either throw the ball to someone in the end zone or out of the back of the end zone to preserve time to kick a field goal. Polamalu was on the Browns 2, so even if Anderson had completed to pass to Syndric Steptoe, time would have expired and they would have squandered the field goal attempt anyways.

Anderson wasn’t the only Brown who’s lack of discipline and composure contributed to their demise. Shaun Rogers jumped off sides on a crucial 3rd and 6 on the Steelers touchdown drive, but at least he held himself accountable. Brandon McDonald came up empty on an interception attempt that led to a 48-yard gain. On the Browns first field goal drive, their bid was undone by a 3-yard loss on bad run blocking, a false start penalty and a receiver cutting his route short.

The Browns coaching staff seemed overwhelmed at times, too, as the use of timeouts at the end of the first and second halves seemed like a Chinese Fire Drill. The play calling was once again somewhat vanilla with the exception of an end around by Josh Cribbs. To field goal or not to field goal once again reared its ugly head again. On 4th and 8 on the Pittsburgh 20, down 10-3 with just over 3 minutes to play, Romeo crenel kicked the field goal to make it 10-6. The Browns got the ball back with 26 seconds left on their own 26-yard line. Ballgame.

The field goal call can be debated. With a stout defense, it would be the right call. With the Browns’ sub par defense, only the insane would thing the unit would be capable of coming up with a three and out. The call effectively let the Steelers off the hook and gave the Browns no chance to score again. At this point, the Browns offense can be trusted a little more than its defense.

The defense did hold the Steelers to only 10 points and they should be commended. Rogers looked like a beast but if the Browns keep losing, how long will he stay motivated? Brodney Pool did provide a nice spark in the secondary but it was not enough. Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker actually called a few effective blitzes until last week.

But they were not without their fair share of problems. The run defense let Parker gain over 100 yards again and Roelisberger was only sacked twice. McDonald and Eric Wright struggled covering Ward and Santonio Holmes at times and Heath Miller came up with the backbreaking third down conversion on the final drive. Kamerion Wimbley was invisible again as he was unable to put much pressure on Roethlisberger.

So the Browns have sunk to 0-2, last in the AFC North. It’s only two weeks into the season and anything can happen but one has to wonder if the team has the mental and physical toughness to compete with the upper echelon teams in the NFL. A no show versus the Cowboys followed by the inability to jump on a division rival make the odds of them having those qualities long.
Even if they were to pull it together and enter Week 17 tied with the Steelers they would have to beat them in Pittsburgh, a tall order for any good, wining team to do, let alone a Browns team that continues to do the things that losing teams do.