In an encore performance of their disastrous loss to Baltimore just a few days ago, the Cleveland Browns came from ahead to lose once again, this time dropping a 34-30 decision to the Denver Broncos on the shores of Lake Erie.
For the second straight game, the Browns gave up huge yards and big points and saw a second half double-digit lead evaporate, making them just the fifth team in NFL history to have such a dreadful dishonor.
Anyone want to start a petition to the NFL allowing the Browns to use 13 players on defense?
As has been the case in virtually every game this year, the Browns played well enough on one side of the ball to win. But, the Browns also played so poorly on the other side of the ball that they blew the game for entire team en route to another frustrating defeat.
Early in the season, it was the defense that kept the Browns in games while the offense sputtered and struggled. But in the last two games, the offense moved the ball effectively and put up points, only to see their defense let them down. There’s a word that’s used to describe teams that play this way, and it’s not ‘inconsistent.’
How about ‘awful’?
Yes, the Browns are quite simply an awful football team. While last night marked the much-anticipated debut of quarterback Brady Quinn, the final result was the same. As I’ve said before, it makes virtually no difference who plays quarterback for the Browns. The team’s utter lack of focus, intensity, and play-making, along with some questionable coaching and play-calling, completely precludes them from winning.
Even Kellen Winslow, Jr., who ignited the team with two first half touchdowns, managed a pathetic hat trick of poor plays in the fourth quarter, including an offensive pass interference, a fumble, and a dropped pass, all of which came at critical moments in the game.
Still, if Browns fans can be happy about anything from the Denver game, it should be that their anointed savior, Quinn, did not fall flat on his face. To the contrary, BQ played pretty solid and looked like anything but a guy making his first NFL start.
Quinn managed the game very effectively. He continually moved the chains with efficient, accurate passing and relied on his supporting cast to prolong drives. His arm looked lively and he displayed pretty good touch. And, Brady demonstrated the ability to look-off receivers and appeared to have an acute awareness of where his receivers would be so that he could get them the ball.
But what was most remarkable was how calm and poised Quinn was for the entire game. I was particularly impressed with his ability to lead the offense on a nine play, 78-yard fourth quarter touchdown-scoring drive. This drive immediately followed a Denver touchdown which made the score 27-23, giving the Broncos their first lead since early in the first quarter, and Quinn looked like a seasoned veteran.
However, Quinn’s performance was not flawless. On the Browns’ first drive, Quinn completed a seven yard pass on third-and-eight. (Ironically, had Derek Anderson been in the game, this throw would have drawn a chorus of boos heard all the way to the Rocky Mountains. Yet, when Quinn did it, fans seemed oddly quiet.)
It also seems apparent that the vertical passing game will no longer be a part of the Browns’ offensive attack. Quinn did not complete any downfield throws; in fact, I’m having a hard time thinking of any downfield throws that were even attempted.
Case in point: Brady Quinn was 23-35 for 239 yards. Conversely, Broncos QB Jay Cutler was 24-42 for 447 yards. Even if you take away Cutler’s 93-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal, Cutler would have the exact same number of completions, but for 115 more yards.
Do with that stat what you will. Maybe it shows how bad the Browns defense is. Maybe it’s because Quinn prefers the easy check-down as opposed to airing it out. Or maybe the Browns coaching staff thinks (knows?) that Quinn cannot throw the deep ball. Whatever the case, if the Browns are unable to stretch the field, it will not take long for NFL defenses to figure them out and shut them down.
Of course, the play of the offense was completely overshadowed by the Charmin-soft defense that took the field for the Browns.
The entire defensive unit—coaches and players alike—clearly lost their concentration and intensity once again. The Denver game actually marked the third week in a row that their defense went into the toilet late in the game. It started with Jacksonville, but somehow the Browns were able to hang on for the win. And we all know the story of last week.
I simply find it incomprehensible that professional athletes—at least those on the Browns roster—do not have the personal pride to put teams away and finish games. What’s even more stunning is that the Browns defense is sprinkled with several veterans like Andre Davis, Willie McGinnest, and Shaun Rogers, who should simply not allow this to happen.
Calling the Browns tackling “poor” is being too kind. It’s actually embarrassing, as is their inability to make plays. Broncos tight end Daniel Graham's fourth quarter touchdown was humiliating. And Brandon McDonald dropping two INTs? This should draw fans’ ire as much as when Braylon Edwards drops passes, because really, what’s the difference?
With a so-called defense like that of the Browns, it’s quite conceivable that Brady and the offense will have to score triple-digits each week in order to win.
That’s right, I said Brady.
Brady Quinn deserves to finish out the year as quarterback. The experience will only help him as the Browns look to 2009. Quinn looked good against a porous Denver defense, but he will face a much different challenge a week from Monday in Buffalo against the tough and talented Bills.
Let's not forget that in his first game as the starting quarterback of the Browns, Derek Anderson was 20-33 for 328 yards, five (yes, five) TDs and one INT.
So before everyone celebrates the success of Quinn, let’s be sure to let the rest of the season play out—including games against strong defensive teams like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Tennessee—before we start making plans for his bronze bust in Canton.