If seeing the Cleveland Browns play in Week 1 wasn't hell, then I don't know what is. After another offseason of build-up, including several key additions adding through free agency and the draft, we were presented a 34-7 embarrassment for four quarters. I'm getting sick and tired of having to dispute the analysts from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and all of the other national media outlets that rank the Browns as one of the cellar teams in the NFL prior to the season starting. While most of them still don't actually have a clue what they're talking about half of the time, a loss like this only adds to their belief that they were right. And, quite frankly, now there's not a damn thing fans can legitimately complain about until the Browns start winning football games again. I'm not talking about the future yet: we've still got 15 games left this season. Romeo Crennel needs to make a decision not only to save his job, but to save this team's chances of contending this season. Whether or not we're bound to make the playoffs isn't the point - if you don't play people that give you the best chance of winning as soon as possible, then you're literally throwing the season away. I think most of you should know what I'm driving at already, but I will touch more on that later.
For now, let's review the game, in somewhat of a different format than last year. The new features include the highlighting of two goats of the game and two players that I'm awarding game balls. Each category will feature one offensive and one defensive player. If a special teams player overshadows someone, they will be substitute one of those sides of the ball. Then, I'll cap things off with the general thoughts from the game.
Goats of the Game (Why We Lost the Game)
- Charlie Frye: Frye will have his better days if he continues to play, but this was just pathetic. Sometimes, defenses do come up with some very nice schemes that force quarterbacks into mistakes. The Steelers did have some nice schemes, but Frye's gameplay was not reflective of simply being against a tough scheme. Frye was a deer in the headlights from the second he stepped onto the field. The offensive line gave him some pretty good protection, yet he would step up right into the offensive line and almost try to throw the ball while a defender was taking him down. His timing to his receivers was off in a major way. On his interception, he appeared clueless when the defensive back was clearly standing there the whole time. This could very well have been Frye's last opportunity to start a game in the NFL, and he blew it big time.
- Brodney Pool: If you read my season preview and gameday preview, I was very concerned about Brodney Pool at the free safety position. Pool had some starting experience last year, but he worked more so in a "floating around/nickel back" type of scheme. Instead, Pool appeared to be the person responsible for letting Santonio Holmes get behind him down the middle of the field, and he also had poor positioning when rookie tight end Matt Spaeth caught his first career touchdown. While Leigh Bodden and Sean Jones held things together on their side, Pool failed to do the same on his side.
Awarding Game Balls (The Few That Stood Out)
- Kellen Winslow: What a surprise: Kellen Winslow was once again our only bright spot on offense. Although I do recall him dropping one pass that he tried to stretch his hands out for, Winslow made some nice snags all over the field, including one that was out of bounds but he still gave maximum effort for. And, although some people are saying that he was telling Lawrence Vickers, "The ball was intended for me" on the touchdown pass, it looked to me like he was telling Vickers to get back on the sideline and not make a fool of himself when they were losing by such a big margin.
- Antwaan Peek: He only recorded two tackles, but Peek was the best newcomer to the Browns in Week 1. He was involved on the only sack of Ben Roethlisberger along with veteran Chaun Thompson. Peek also seemed to pressure Big Ben throughout the game, and even had an instance in which he almost intercepted the a short pass that he got in the way of. Peek also recovered a fumble from Willie Parker that was forced by safety Sean Jones.
- Quinn Should Start: Now that I have all of that jargon out of the way, let's get to the main point: Brady Quinn needs to start this week against the Cincinnati Bengals for the reasons I stated in my introduction. Frye blew it, and Derek Anderson should realistically be our backup quarterback. Last night, Peter King stated that he talked to Phil Savage who basically stated that the team did not want to do to Quinn what Chris Palmer did to Tim Couch back in 1999. To me, the situations aren't even close to comparable. We should technically have an average NFL football team at the very least, whereas the squad in 1999 was a team that was an expansion team. Alex Smith, Vince Young, and Matt Leinart all received significant playing time last year, and all three of those teams have fluent offenses heading into this year. Quinn gives us a better chance to win now than anyone else.
- Holding Onto the Ball: Another thing that frustrates me is that the offensive line received way too much criticism from several sources. Everyone in the league knows that the Steelers blitz, except for maybe Frye and Crennel it seems. Like last year, as soon as Derek Anderson got into the game, he was only sacked once, which came on a play where he failed to hit a quick hitter on third down. I'm confident that if Quinn had been in the game, he would've gotten the ball off faster than Frye, and about the same as Anderson throughout the game. That would've heavily reduced the number of sacks the Steelers would've recorded, and he would have been knocked down as often as any other quarterback in the league would've been knocked down. This is football, after all.
- Goodbye Mr. Ernster: We can only hope. Although the coaching staff should be held 100% responsible for not signing a punter sooner, it should be automatic for any NFL punter to catch a clean snap. Ernster's nerves may have been acceptable with other teams, but not one like the Browns in which field position is all that we can depend on anymore. Besides the first punt, Ernster didn't do anything special throughout the game, and I'm hoping that Dave Zastudil will be ready to go against the Bengals.
- No Shot for Returns: Punting and returns were two of our biggest assets coming into the game, and we couldn't utilize either of them. For god knows what reason, Steelers kicker Jeff Reed started kicking the ball into the end zone for the first time in his career, preventing Joshua Cribbs from being able to provide a spark. Cribbs didn't have any luck returning the ball on punt returns either.
- Stop the Drops: When I'm looking at team's like the Dallas Cowboys, they have guys like "Sam Hurd", a fourth receiver, catching 55-yard touchdown passes in the closing moments of a game. Meanwhile, we have guys like Tim Carter, and surprisingly Joe Jurevicius, dropping passes. The Steelers had just as many drops yesterday though and still killed us.
- Gloomy Day for Rookies: In terms of our rookies that started the game, there wasn't anything special in Week 1. Joe Thomas was getting his mechanics down ok; he didn't dominate but he didn't create havoc for the blind side of the quarterback. Meanwhile, cornerback Eric Wright was picked on twice in the opening moments of the game, although that touchdown pass to Hines Ward would've been difficult for anyone to defend. I'm not too sure why Wright is covering Ward in his first game though - shouldn't that be Bodden's job?
- Never Got Started: Before the season started, I knew that the Browns offense this year would have to be based on key runs by Jamal Lewis. Well, by the time the first quarter was over, we were already losing 17-0, virtually eliminating Lewis and the running game from our gameplan. That is the last thing the Browns can afford, because we can't just sit back in the pocket and trust our receivers to hang onto the ball for the next three quarters. Lewis' average was fairly low, but it was exactly where I expected it to be against a team like the Steelers.
- Needing Gary Baxter: I know this may be a bit premature, but could Gary Baxter be groomed quickly for a starting free safety position if Pool continues to struggle? It's certainly a possibility I'd suppose, although this is purely me speculating here.
- Defending Screens: My favorite part about the Browns defense is that we are completely shutting down any and every screen play that opposing teams try to run.
- Pick Those Tips: How is it that we seemed to intercept every tipped ball in the preseason, but we couldn't even come close to intercepting the five or six dropped balls that the Steelers' receivers had? We turned what should've been an average day for Ben Roethlisberger into a career day, as he threw for four touchdowns. Now, all of the national analysts are saying that our secondary is horrible. Give me a break.
- Fire Them Up: At least defensive coordinator Todd Grantham knows how to get fired up. When you look at Crennel, he's either staring at his coloring book, reaching for the red flag on the wrong plays, or not showing any emotion whatsoever. The only time he shows any emotion is during press conferences, but that's more so buffoon-like emotions.
- Browns Offense: I have an idea for the Browns offense that can't go wrong. Crennel reaches into a bag that gives him three choices on any given down: run the ball left side with Jamal Lewis, throw the ball down the field to Kellen Winslow, or run a gadget play with Joshua Cribbs. The pass to Cribbs out of the backfield was effective.
- Brownies: Congrats to fullback Lawrence Vickers for coming through on third-and-short and the touchdown pass. Kamerion Wimbley's pass rush was nice, and the linebackers all around did a swell job. Four penalties on one play is a joke, but hey, in the end only one of them is applied. To all of the announcers/analysts saying "Man, Brady Quinn's probably thinking, 'Don't put me in there, I don't want any part of that!'," give me a break. That's the biggest load of crap I've ever heard. I wish I could hear Bernie Kosar call the regular season games too.
(Credit Image to "Dan V", DBN Reader!)