Browns Stumble Versus Vikings

Brian DiTullioSenior Writer ISeptember 14, 2009

MEVO HAMA, GOLAN HEIGHTS - AUGUST 28:  An Israeli paraglider prepares to take off during the Holy Wind festival on August 28, 2008 on the Mevo Hama cliffs on the Golan Heights. Jerusalem and Damascus may be inching towards peace as they continue to hold indirect talks brokered by Turkey, with Syria demanding a full Israeli withdrawal from the strategic Golan Heights in return for a comprehensive peace.  (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)

Everyone who is standing on the ledge right now needs to take a collective step back.

While the game started out pleasant enough, the afternoon quickly went downhill at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday with the Browns losing 34-20.

Where to begin? Let’s start with coaching, because let’s face it, bad play aside, the coaching was atrocious, especially on offense.

My sights are set firmly on rookie offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. His play calling was nothing short of inept. He looked like a rookie.

After watching him abandon the running game for no good reason, we were forced to endure third down plays that went nowhere from the moment they were called, and the Flash package from the two yard line twice.

I’m not excusing Brady Quinn, who played poorly, or Braylon Edwards, who still dropped a crucial pass, but they weren’t getting a lot of help from the sidelines.

I’m officially excusing the defense in the fourth quarter because it was quite apparent they ran out of gas halfway through the third quarter. How could they not? They’d only been on the field for about 12 hours at that point.

The Vikings actually had the ball more than seven minutes longer than the Browns did. It’s no surprise to me the Browns’ defense was gassed halfway through the third quarter with those kind of numbers.

Given the lack of talent on this roster, I didn’t expect much and invoked the “Any Given Sunday” mantra going into the game. The defense looked much better than I thought in the first half, including sacks from safeties Abram Elam and Brodney Poole.

Head coach Eric Mangini sagely observed that the team played “just a half of football.”

Thank you Romeo Crennel Mangini. It might have helped if you would’ve smacked Daboll on the back of the head and went back to the running game since neither Quinn nor any of his receivers seemed to be on the same page.

While Daboll needs a “come to God” moment with his play calling, Quinn needs to relax.

Quinn looked like he was wound up as tight as a drum the whole game, like he was just waiting for Mangini to pull him. The lack of chemistry between Quinn and Edwards was nothing short of disgusting.

But once again, that’s coaching. I’ll admit it may be splitting hairs, but maybe Mangini should have settled on his quarterback a week earlier and let the receivers get equal reps with Quinn and smooth out the timing issues.

The bottom line is Quinn needs to play better. The fumble was inexcusable, and he proved all his critics right in the second half with his uneven play and poor throws.

Before all the members of the Derek Anderson fan club start marching, remember Anderson had quite a few bad games of his own, so I’m not ready to give up on Quinn yet. He’s earned a few more weeks.

Thankfully, Jamal Lewis did indeed find his 25-year-old legs inside his 30-year-old body, but was sparingly used in favor of trick plays that didn’t go anywhere. Averaging 5.2 yards per carry is pretty good last time I checked, so why he only ended up with 57 yards on 11 carries is a mystery to me.

I do want to note again the contributions of Elam and Poole on defense. In addition to the sacks, they presumably did a reasonable job of covering their receivers as most of the Vikings big plays came from Adrian Peterson.

While fantasy owners were thrilled by Peterson’s numbers, 180 yards on 25 carries with three touchdowns, it exposed just how slow the Browns defense is. On his long run for a touchdown, Peterson came to a complete stop at one point just to push a defender off of him and still had enough room and speed to reach the end zone.

That’s bad.

What’s also bad was the Brown’s third down efficiency, 3-for-12. That meant a lot of three-and-outs and kept the defense on the field just that much longer.  

Joshua Cribbs brought the concept of holding out for a better contract to new levels by scoring a touchdown on a punt return.  Other than that the special teams didn’t do much except give the Vikings good field position.

The Browns have a lot of work to do this week. While about half the team are holdovers from last year’s roster, they looked too much like Romeo Crennel’s team and not enough like an Eric Mangini team.

Hopefully running back James Davis isn’t injured too bad, but between the shoulder injury on Sunday and the car accident on Saturday, I would be surprised if he doesn’t miss the next few weeks.

Up next is Denver, who should be a lot easier to beat than the Vikings. Should the Browns falter against Denver, then you can start thinking about that ledge again.


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