Bright Spots in the Cleveland Browns Loss To the Baltimore Ravens
Another Sunday has passed with yet another Browns defeat. And yet, I see hope still sailing to shore on the deep horizon.
It certainly was not the prettiest game the Brownies have played this year. In fact, it was nearly the ugliest, but I still saw several things that made me hopeful for the future.
You see, I, unlike many of my many fellow Browns Backers who shall remain nameless, am curbing any desire I may have to "go negative."
For the first time in many seasons, I see possibility whereas before, all I could see was gloomy skies ahead. So I would like to encourage all of you to resist your urge to rage at another losing season gone by.
Put away the pitch forks and torches and let us instead focus on the positives. Part of changing a losing culture in a team is changing the losing culture of its fan-base, and the sole responsibility of that lies with all of us who claim to love our team.
That said, here are several positives that I took away from this game.
Joe Haden, Need I Say More
I was one of the most skeptical of the choice to draft Joe Haden in the first round of this year's draft. Let me say for the record: I was dead freaking wrong.
After a somewhat humble start to his rookie season, Haden has done nothing but make plays.
Haden recorded his sixth interception of the season, along with five solo tackles, a forced fumble and his first quarterback sack.
At the beginning, all any of us could talk about is how well T J Ward was playing. It's been over a month since I've even heard anyone mention his name.
It isn't because he hasn't been playing well, Haden has just been playing that much better.
With Haden and Ward in the secondary for several years to come, I see a bright future indeed.
Robiskie's Touchdown Last Week May Not Have Been a Fluke
While second-year wide receiver Brian Robiskie hasn't exactly been a revelation this season, he seems to finally be making some progress as a playmaker in the passing game.
Last week, he recorded his first touchdown reception as a pro against the Cincinatti Bengals.
I saw many people saying that it was a fluke because the defender fell down, and I could see their point, but after this past week, I'm not so sure that's the case.
Robiskie made a very nice adjustment on a pass from fellow wide receiver Mohammed Massaquoi to make an excellent reception for his second professional touchdown.
Whether or not it was actually a catch is still debatable, but it doesn't matter. After review, the play stood up.
Robiskie didn't put up any otherwise gaudy numbers, finishing with two receptions for 37 yards, but he's slowly starting to show some promise.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying he's the answer to our prayers at the position, and there's no need to draft A J Green, but it would be nice if our second-round pick from last season could step up and make plays as a No. 2 or No. 3 option.
Mike Bell Finally Reported to the Team
It had been weeks since the Browns had traded Jerome Harrison to the Philadelphia Eagles for Mike Bell, and I was beginning to wonder if he ever actually reported to the team.
His absence from the game plan had largely been due to the coaches' decision to either ride Peyton Hillis into the sunset or into the ground. But finally, when the latter appeared eminent, Mangini finally decided to let Bell have a sniff of the stadium turf.
The results, while not overwhelming, were at least encouraging.
Bell ran for 27 yards on seven carries and added another 48 yards in the passing game on two receptions.
On both receptions, he made nice plays after the catch and made a couple people miss.
It's nice to see that we may at least have a serviceable option behind Hillis, so that he might be able to at least catch his breath every once in a while.
Even in His Shakiest Outing, McCoy Continues To Impress
I'm not gonna sugar-coat it. This was not rookie quarterback Colt McCoy's most shining moment in a Browns uniform.
He made some poor decisions and forced some throws that shouldn't have been made, but his demeanor and willingness to keep pushing forward with leadership continue to impress me.
McCoy threw three picks in the game—two of them that shouldn't have been thrown, and the other should've been thrown better. But he also made some nice plays with his legs and repeatedly found a way to evade the rush and keep the play alive.
Even after getting picked when trying to push the ball downfield, he still had the guts to try it again.
There's no quit in this kid. He's a competitor and a born leader, and I can't wait to see what he can do with a little more experience and some better weapons around him.
A Couple Negatives and Conclusion
There were several negatives that could be pointed out from this game, but I'm only going to point out two because they show a pattern that needs to be broken.
First off, I'm just gonna say it: Sheldon Brown's cover skills have greatly diminished.
Every time Baltimore made a play in the passing game, it came at Sheldon Brown's expense.
It's been that way all year. I may be time to go ahead and move him over to safety because he's been stinkin' up the place all year.
The other negative I'll point out is the turnovers. I already touched on the three interceptions McCoy threw, but that will get fixed in time. The bigger problem I see is that the Browns seem constitutionally incapable of going through a game without putting the ball on the ground.
This week, it was Massaquoi fumbling, but it's been everyone all year. Even Cribbs has had an inexplicable case of fumblitis this season.
Coach Mangini needs to seriously get ahead of this issue before it costs him his job, if it hasn't already.
But I'm not gonna spend a lot of time on the negatives. This team has travelled light years to the point it is. Yeah, the record may not be so indicative at this point, but this team has been more competitive than I've seen it in a long time this season.
So for all you naysayers that just wanna piss and moan and call for coaches heads, why don't we all take time to put things in perspective.
The Browns have played the third toughest schedule in the NFL, and if the ball had bounced differently, they could easily have won eight, nine, maybe even 10 games even though they're devoid of either talent or experience in most of the key positions.
Both defense and offense have vastly improved from last year. So instead of focusing on what the team hasn't accomplished this year, why don't we try to focus on what they did accomplish and what that could mean for the future.