Sure, the Browns need to go back and figure out what went wrong in their 41-20 blowout loss to the first place Bengals, but then they should just throw that game film away and never watch it again.
It would be amazing to me if the Browns were not able to pull themselves together on special teams. A performance like they had on Sunday has to be a fluke.
Offensively, it boils down to Jason Campbell being more aggressive, the offensive line blocking better and the receivers getting open. No game planning is needed for those improvements.
And they better improve quickly. The Steelers are now tied with the Browns and Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North at 4-6 and can smell the blood in the water.
Earlier in the year they looked like the worst team in the league, now they look like they’re just dangerous enough to kick you in the shin when you least expect it.
The Browns better protect their shins or it’s back to the cellar of the division they go.
AFC North Standings
The win over the Browns for the Bengals gave them a firm control over the division. After them, however, it is a three-way tie.
The Browns, Steelers and Ravens are all 4-6 and within shouting distance of the AFC wild-card spot. The Ravens lost to the Chicago Bears and their backup quarterback in overtime on Sunday. While Josh McCown has been playing extremely well, he is still Josh McCown. That is a very uncharacteristic loss for the Ravens.
The Steelers have now won two straight games after defeating the Detroit Lions on Sunday, and they seem to have found their mojo.
Their defense is allowing just 15 points per game in their victories. In their losses, they are allowing 31 points per game. It’s pretty easy to tell which side of the ball needs to show up for them.
ILB Craig Robertson (Knee): Left the game Sunday
WR Armanti Edwards (Ankle): Left the game Sunday
TE MarQueis Gray (Hamstring): Did not play Sunday
Head coach Rob Chudzinski told the media Monday, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, that both inside linebacker Craig Robertson and wide receiver Armanti Edwards would have MRIs on their injuries.
#Browns HC Chud said LB Craig Robertson (sprained knee) & WR Armanti Edwards (sprained ankle) undergoing MRIs.— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) November 18, 2013
Tank Carder replaced Robertson on Sunday and did a very solid job. He finished with seven tackles and played some tight coverage on Giovani Bernard when called upon.
Edwards, who just signed with the Browns two weeks ago, acted as their punt returner and took a direct snap at one point for no gain. He was going to be an integral part of special teams and a change of pace for the running game but that could all be lost now.
We should have an injury update on Wednesday.
What Must Improve
The special teams unit let down the rest of the roster on Sunday, plain and simple. Even though Barkevious Mingo took responsibility for the blocked punt, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal (video to the right), that doesn’t excuse the poor performance.
And even though long snapper Christian Yount took responsibility for the deflected punt, via Scott Petrak from the Elyria Chronicle Telegram, it doesn’t change the terrible result.
#Browns long snapper Christian Yount said wind not a factor on wide snap on deflected punt. But took responsibility for not picking up stunt— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) November 18, 2013
Guys need to show they take the responsibility on the field and that will start with practice on Wednesday. There better be a renewed energy during the special teams portion.
Campbell needs to be more aggressive
Quarterback Jason Campbell does not put the ball in harm's way very often, and that is one of his best attributes. Sometimes, however, that can end up a determent to the offense.
On Sunday he did not test the Bengals secondary often enough, and he will have to do that against the Steelers. The way to beat them is to get into a high-scoring affair.
If Campbell is healthy and has the time to throw, he needs to push the ball down the field.
Pittsburgh has a middle-of-the-road pass defense that can be exploited. They do force quite a few turnovers, but when they give up yards they give them up in bunches.
Campbell just has to be more efficient and find a way to get the ball to his wide receivers instead of the running backs and tight ends.
Put the Bengals loss behind them
The one main thing that cannot happen this week is for the Browns to allow their poor play from last week to carry over into the Pittsburgh game.
While that loss was a rough one, they are still very much in the playoff race. Good teams can move past poor performances and approach the next week like a clean slate. Bad teams let poor performances linger and fester.
This will be a real test for the leadership of the Browns. Can guys like inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, cornerback Joe Haden and offensive lineman Joe Thomas rally their team around the opportunity in front of them, or will they still be glancing in the rearview mirror?
There is no better test than a hot Steelers team. It’s their sworn enemy and it’s a big game. It doesn’t get much more fun than this.
(All quotes and observations were gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted)