Breaking news, the 2008 Cleveland Browns are not a good football them. If anyone had any doubt of that or were holding on to faint playoff hopes, they were rudely awakened Sunday afternoon versus the Houston Texans.
Houston had not won a road game in over a calendar year, but thanks to five Cleveland turnovers they were able to end that skid with a 16-6 victory in a contest that wasn’t that close.
The Texans took the opening kick-off and effortlessly drove 79 yards for a 7-0 lead. Journeyman back-up quarterback Sage Rosenfels picked apart the sieve-like Browns defense hitting receivers Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter at will.
Walter caught a 17 yard corner route for a touchdown, burning much maligned cornerback Brandon McDonald for a 7-0 Texans lead. Rosenfels went 6-7 on the opening drive as the Texans ate up over eight minutes on their opening drive.
The Browns responded on their first drive of the afternoon in the only way they know how: a Kellen Winslow drop, a penalty, and a Jamal Lewis fumble to give the ball back to the Texans. Rosenfels and Walter continued to hook-up over the middle of the field, but the Browns defense managed to hold the Texans to a Kris Brown field goal.
The Browns dusted off running back Jerome Harrison on the next drive and managed to put a Phil Dawson on the board. Shaun Rogers blocked a Texans field goal to keep the game at 10-3 and the Dawson delivered another field goal to cut the lead to 10-6.
Former Brown Andre Davis returned the subsequent kick-off for a touchdown, but it was called back for a holding penalty. No matter as Rosenfels once again found Johnson and Walter time and time again, including two fourth down conversions, and Brown poked through his second field goal for a 13-6 Houston advantage.
Then, in what could only be a sign of things to come later in the game, the Browns somehow muffed the ensuing kickoff allowing Brown to attempt a 56 yard field goal with one second left. Brown missed, but the fact that the Texans even had the opportunity was embarrassing.
The halftime score was 13-6, but the Texans had dominated the first half, holding the ball for almost 21 minutes. The Houston running game was held in check, but Rosenfels was having a career day throwing the ball.
Cleveland went three and out to start the half, but were given a lifeline when Rosenfels returned to his sometimes turnover prone form as Brodney Pool picked him off on the Texans' opening drive. But Browns’ quarterback Brady Quinn returned the favor and the Texans turned the Browns' second turnover into another Brown field goal and a 16-6 lead.
Quinn drove the Browns into the red zone, but was picked off for the second time on an attempted slant to Braylon Edwards. The Texans were forced to punt for the first time in the game and Romeo Crennel sent in Derek Anderson at quarterback.
Some reports said Quinn was pulled due to re-injuring his index finger that he chipped a bone in last week. Others said Quinn was pulled due to performance and had some choice words at the decision.
If the later is true, it is a curious move as there were more than a handful of games where Anderson was not performing well and Romeo Crennel stuck with him rather than go to Quinn. Quinn was having a poor game, but the double standard that may have been in effect does raise a few eyebrows.
Anderson fared no better than Quinn as the Browns imploded from that point forward. Edwards continued to drop the football, Winslow got his obligatory offensive pass interference penalty, and the normally reliable Dawson shanked a makeable field goal that could have cut the lead to 7.
Rosenfels teased the Cleveland faithful by throwing another pick to Browns’ safety Sean Jones that was returned into Houston territory. But Jamal Lewis missed a handoff from Anderson and the Browns committed their fifth turnover of the game and sealed their seventh loss of the season.
Any playoff hopes for the Browns are effectively done as they now sit at 4-7, 3-5 in the AFC and 1-3 in the AFC North. After going 7-1 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in 2007, the Browns are a lowly 1-5 at home in 2008.
The Browns continually fall flat on their faces after a win, this time falling to a 3-7 football team starting their back-up quarterback. They are now staring down another potential ten loss season which would be their sixth in the ten years since their reincarnation. Unfortunately, that may be the only realistic goal the team may have for the rest of 2008.