Sunday, August 16, 2009

Deja Vu Debut

Well that was definitely worth the wait. Ineffective quarterback play. Porous run defense. Inopportune penalties. Bad tackling. Failure to capitalize on opportunities. All were consistent traits of the Romeo Crennel led Cleveland Browns for the past four seasons. Unfortunately for Eric Mangini they were all traits of the Cleveland Browns in his head coaching debut, a 17-0 whitewash at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.

Mangini was brought into Cleveland to instill hard work, discipline and work ethic to a floundering franchise. An actual touchdown would be nice for starters as the Browns failed to find the endzone on offense again after six straight games with the same problem in 2008.

The only difference was that in this game the Browns actually were thought to have two “capable” quarterbacks at their disposal and not placeholders named Ken Dorsey or Bruce Gradkowski. But neither Brady Quinn nor Derek Anderson was able to put points on the board against a Green Bay defense that was using the 3-4 against live competition for the first time.

Quinn started and looked very effective out of the gate hitting crafty veteran Mike Furrey on a couple of third downs during the opening Browns drive to move the chains. Jamal Lewis ran tough as the Browns mixed the run and pass effectively and a well timed end around to Josh Cribbs netted 29 yards, which ws the Browns’ high rushing total for the game.

In the end, Quinn was unable to put any points of the board as he misfired on a third down pass to Cribbs and the Browns has to settle for a 31 yard field goal attempt by Phil Dawson. That kick split the uprights but a holding penalty by Hank Fraley pushed the kick back 10 yards and Dawson pushed the ensuing kick wide right to give the Browns nothing for their troubles.

Anderson fared no better as he led two drives that totaled five official plays. A three and out on the second series of the game and a two play drive that started on the 50 yard line after a Mason Crosby miss of a 60 yard field goal. The three and out was much better than the second series as Anderson was picked after being hit while throwing on the second play of the drive. Even worse, both series took place against the Packers’ second string defense.

Quinn returned on the last series of the half as the Browns ran the two minute drill down 14-0. He used Furrey, Cribbs and new tight end Robert Royal to put the Browns into the Red Zone for a second time. But the results were the same as the Browns were held scoreless once again. Braylon Edwards dropped a touchdown in the back of the endzone on a difficult but catchable ball on Second and Goal. On Third and Goal Quinn scrambled and went back to Edwards but was intercepted by Anthony Smith.

In the end, no light was shed on the quarterback conundrum that the Browns face as Quinn failed to make plays when he needed to and Anderson was not given enough of an opportunity (5 plays) to establish a rhythm. Those hoping for The Brett Ratliff Experience to provide hope were treated to two quarters of skittish play that resulted in three sacks and two interceptions.

Those hanging their hat on the defense being improved under Mangini and Rob Ryan were also left disappointed despite allowing only 17 points. The Green Bay first team offense carved up the Browns’ defense for 14 points in two series with very little effort. In fact, the Green Bay offense held the ball so much in the first half in only allowed Quinn and Anderson two series apiece.

Aaron Rodgers took advantage of Abe Elam on the first drive of the evening. On Third and 10, with the Browns only rushing three, Rodgers surveyed the field with no one open. He scrambled and stepped up in the pocket and that was enough to entice Elam to break towards the line of scrimmage and allow Donald Driver to blow past him. Rodgers hit him in perfect stride for 53 yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

The Packers’ second possession yielded the same result as they methodically marched down the field on a 12 play, 68 yard drive that culminated in a Ryan Grant touchdown and a 14-0 lead. Rodgers picked apart the Browns defense through the air while Grant, Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn ran all over the field on the ground.

In the end the Browns defense conceded 392 yards to the Packers with 230 of them being on the ground. The lack of consistent pressure that was common during the Crennel years was still in place under Ryan and Mangini. Defensive holding penalties and too many men on the field infractions extended both Packers’ touchdown drive in the first quarter.

Ahtyba Rubin and Kendrick Moseley were the only two Browns to stand out on defense providing constant pressure and activity thought the first half. Rookies Coye Fancies and David Veikune were recipients of interceptions from Brian Brohm but those picks only prevented the score from being more lopsided.

In the end the Browns were left with the same questions that seem to have plagued them for the ten years since their reincarnation in 1999. Do they have an NFL quarterback on the roster? Can they effectively stop the run on defense? Do they have impact playmakers on either side of the ball that can change the course of a game? Do they have enough talent on their roster to be competitive in the brutal AFC North?

In fact, the night was symbolized perfectly by the solid, brown pants that they wore for the first time since the pre-season debacle in New York last season. Instead of being ready for prime time, the 2009 Cleveland Browns looked exactly the same as the 2008 model… the same color of their pants. Complete and udder crap.

The Detroit Lions come to the Erie Shore next weekend for pre-season week number two. The Lions went 0-16 last season but anyone who watched the Browns for the last six weeks of 2008 knows that the Lions were not the worst team in the NFL during that time. For Cleveland’s sake they better hope they can change that in the next seven days or its going to be a long 17 weeks in the regular season.

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