In the end, the Browns were plagued by lost opportunities, and Elvis Dumervil in the form of the Tasmanian Devil.
Dumervil sacked Brady Quinn four times on the day as John St. Clair did his best imitation of a Spanish matador.
Despite Dumervil’s dominance, this was a game of missed chances for the Browns.
As in the Minnesota game, the Browns played a respectable first half, down just 10-6. The difference in the half was that while Cleveland settled for two field goals when inside the red zone, the Broncos managed to hit paydirt.
The game started with the Browns recovering a fumbled kickoff return. They proceeded to kick away opportunity number one when they had to settle for a Phil Dawson boot.
After forcing a Bronco punt on the next possession, the Browns decided to return the favor when rookie center’s bad snap was recovered by Denver. Denver wasted no time in making the Browns pay on a quick slant to Tony Scheffler.
They took advantage of a mix-up on defense, which forced rush-linebacker Camerion Wimbley into covering Scheffler.
Scheffler initially lined up tight, but split out wide in the formation. The Browns defense appeared confused and it turned into a match-up that Scheffler would easily win.
A promising drive for the Browns stalled after a strike over the middle from Brady Quinn to Braylon Edwards for 20 yards. Another missed opportunity ensued when Quinn checked down to Joshua Cribbs for a short gain on third and long.
This play turned out to be an omen, as both Quinn and Cribbs on several occasions throughout the game failed to find the sticks.
The Browns did manage to get another field goal from Phil Dawson. But those turned out to be the last points the Browns offense would put on the board.
Hank Poteat got beaten on a quick slant that Brandon Stokley turned into a big gain of 37 yards. Denver settled for a field goal to go into the half with a 10-6 lead.
Once again, the second half turned into a disaster. The Browns wasted numerous opportunities to continue drives, while the Broncos converted several second- and third-and-long opportunities.
The offense attempted to open up the playbook in the second half, but Quinn misfired on two separate occasions on plays that have to be made to win games.
After Edwards made a spectacular 24-yard catch over Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, Quinn overthrew a wide open Mike Furrey over the middle.
Later in the game, Quinn and Edwards hooked up for 16- and 12-yard gains. But Quinn under-threw Mohammed Massauoi who was matched up with a linebacker and no safety help over the top. If either of these plays are made, it changes the entire complexion of the game.
After a short run put Denver up 20-6, the Browns had one more opportunity to make something happened.
But instead of answering with a drive of their own, they followed with the following sequence: Screen play for loss; false start to open drive; Dumervil sack; Dumervil sack; and punt.
Denver put the game completely out of reach on the back of Knowshon Moreno and a Correll Buckhalter cutback for a 45-yard touchdown run. Game…set…match.
Denver did what they had to do to win the game. They bottled up Josh Cribbs in the return game, they put pressure on Quinn, and they made plays on offense when they had to.
The Browns defense did not play particularly bad until the fourth quarter. But they appeared out of gas as Denver started to have success running the ball late.
The fact is, the offense just did not sustain drives and forced the defense to be out on the field too long. When the offense is put in a position to score, their red zone offense resembles a Chinese fire drill.
That has been the story of the Browns for most of 2008, this preseason, and the two opening games.
The usual playmakers showed up for the Browns: Braylon Edwards on offense and Shawn Rogers on defense. But their efforts were wasted.
Different team…different day…same result.