Following their 27-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, many are beginning to wonder if the Cleveland Browns are on a direct path to another abysmal season. Heading into the contest, many predicted the Browns to win as the Bengals were starting a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton, along with other new faces on the team as well.
The Browns seemed to be their own nemesis throughout the game. Following a slow start plagued with a slew of penalties, the Browns found themselves trailing 13-0 rather quickly. The team responded with 17 unanswered points, but ultimately, the Browns were unable to put the Bengals away.
The turning point for the Browns appeared to be the touchdown pass to A.J. Green. The Bengals clearly caught the Browns' defense off guard, and the team was unable to recover.
While the penalties and the major defensive lapse are cause for concern, the team and fans alike should not hit the panic button quite yet.
For one, the team is still quite young. Mistakes and lapses in concentration will happen. Although frustrating, it is an integral part of the learning process. Head coach Pat Shurmur will have his mistakes as well, considering this is his first season at the position.
The team did have some bright moments during the game. Although his completion percentage was below 50 percent, it was encouraging to see quarterback Colt McCoy toss two touchdown passes in the game.
Cornerback Joe Haden did an excellent job of blanketing wide receiver A.J. Green throughout the game. Green's touchdown catch could be attributed to a lack of concentration by the entire defense, not just Haden.
The key for the Browns will be their response next week against the Indianapolis Colts. The upcoming game, much like this past Sunday's, is very winnable for the Browns. With perhaps the most indispensable player in the NFL in Peyton Manning out for an extended period of time with a neck injury, the Browns have an opportunity to collect their first win under head coach Pat Shurmur.
How Shurmur addresses the mistakes made in the opener this week in practice will be critical. Next week is a crucial game for the team.
If the Browns follow their loss to the Bengals with another to the Manning-less Colts, many may begin to worry that 2011 will be another long season in Cleveland.