Week 1 was disgust. Week 2 was joy. Week 3 was agony. After the Browns were on the verge of staging a comeback for the second consecutive season in the second half against the Oakland Raiders, "karma" came back to help out Lane Kiffin. A week after the Denver Broncos were scrutinized for calling a timeout at the last possible second before the Raiders attempted their game winning field goal, Kiffin used the same strategy against the Browns. Although we never will know what the final outcome of the first kick would have been, the fact is that we saw it go through the uprights, and the kick after the timeout was blocked by the Raiders. The excuse that states "we only have ourselves to blame for even being in that position" does not apply. Dawson had never missed a game-winning field goal attempt, and we only needed a 40-yard field goal to win it. That sounds like we put ourselves in a good enough of a position to win the game, things just didn't go our way.
After another Browns loss, I'm obligated to start off with the goats of the game, followed by the game balls...
Goats of the Game (Put Bags Over Their Heads)
- Eric Wright: It certainly took Romeo Crennel long enough to figure out that Wright may need some extra help. Many of us overestimated Wright's ability to jump right in and neglected to believe that he would have the same growing pains that many rookies have. Those pains are being exploited by all of our opponents, as Wright was victimized by a wide open Ronald Curry for a touchdown pass from Josh McCown. Wright's constantly being picked on, although it doesn't help that Brodney Pool isn't covering well on his side of the field either.
- Nat Dorsey/Seth McKinney: The Raiders' Tommy Kelly is the person who blocked Dawson's game-winning attempt. He was able to split Nat Dorsey and Seth McKinney on our offensive line. When it's the final play of the game and two guys can't muster enough energy to ensure the Raiders don't get a significant push, they deserve to take the heat.
Awarding Game Balls (The Few That Stood Out)
- Kellen Winslow: I don't know how many times the announcers were constantly mentioning that they were surprised that Kellen Winslow wasn't being used to exploit the matchup against safety Michael Huff. When the game was on the line, starting down at the 9-yard line, Winslow answered when his name was called on several tremendous catches. It really is a shame that one of those catches is the reason he bruised his shoulder, and in the end it only resulted in a denied victory.
- Joshua Cribbs: Aren't you starting to get the sense that if Joshua Cribbs doesn't get a big return in a game, you'll start saying "what the hell is wrong with you!?!" This guy is truly amazing in his decision making on kickoff returns, as he returned a kick 99 yards against the Raiders to provide the team's first spark of the game just before halftime. Without that spark, it's very possible that the Browns would not have had a chance at winning the game in the end. Cribbs was also fairly successful on his third gadget play in as many weeks, lining up at quarterback and running it straight up the middle.
- Progress Report: After Derek Anderson's five-touchdown performance in Week 2, how did Anderson compare in Week 3? Of course he wasn't as good, but overall, Anderson wasn't bad. We have to understand that very few quarterbacks are going to light it up on any given Sunday. When you look at the horrible games Drew Brees, Donovan McNabb, and Rex Grossman have had this year, it'd be extremely unfair to expect Anderson to be Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Anderson missed a wide-open Joe Jurevicius a few times, but if we're going to give Anderson confidence as a city until Brady Quinn comes in, we have to look at the big picture. Anderson continued getting rid of the ball quickly, as he was sacked only once. He also worked the hurry-up offense very well in the second half, and did what he needed to do to win the game.
- BALLGAME!: The Browns may have lost, but the Cleveland Indians clinched the American League Central Division for the first time since 2001 about three minutes before the game began. To the people that are fans of all Cleveland sports, that had to be an extreme emotional high heading into the Browns game, and was definitely a great therapeutic treatment after the crushing blocked field goal. Congrats to the Tribe, and be sure to head over to Let's Go Tribe for all of the remaining games and postseason action to come.
- Check Mark for Edwards: I'd have to give Braylon Edwards a check mark for the second week in a row for a solid game. Edwards had two big catches - the post route on the touchdown that gave us the lead, and a leaping catch in the fourth quarter that set up Anderson's rollout touchdown. Edwards' only miscue came on a drop on a quick slant in which a defender appeared to have distorted his vision.
- Lack of Carries: Last year, the offensive line was often the unit to blame for our running backs having no room to run. This year, I'd blame it on the defense as a hole. Lewis ran for a 3.7 average on 15 carries and caught 2 passes for 22 yards, but unlike last week, he wasn't able to get carries later in the game because we were behind. Our defense was methodically taken apart by the Raiders' running game, and when you're down by two possessions, the running game is pretty much neutralized.
- Finally, a Catch: Tim Carter made his first reception of the season, shielding his body to the defender for a first down. I still don't have too much faith in Carter though after drops in the first couple of games, and the fact that he's listed on the injury report again. I know we wanted to get something for Reuben Droughns, but it'd probably be worth it to ditch Carter at some point and either sign a veteran or give that playing time to Travis Wilson.
- Player Who Thrived: Who was the player who thrived? Player. Scott Player. He put fans at ease with his punts a whole heck of a lot more than Paul Ernster did, and his 'stach has created a buzz amongst the city of Cleveland. I'm all for letting Dave Zastudil sit and make a full recovery now, even if it means keeping him out several weeks.
- "Cut Them All": In the past, I've often been against comments after games such as "fire them all, I don't care" or "he @$ing sucks, cut him!". Those statements are often an overreaction, but it's definitely starting to apply to our defensive line. Robaire Smith has had some "average" games, but we must literally have the worst defensive line in football. When called upon, they are never able to come close to collapsing a pocket. And, when the Raiders run the ball 13 times en route to a nine+ minute drive in the third quarter after we took a 17-16 lead, we didn't come close to stopping the run. The defensive line has been put off for years now in order to continuously fix other positions. This offseason, I don't care about our receivers, our secondary, or our running backs. The defensive line needs to be overhauled from top to bottom if we're going to become a legitimate football team.
- Outside Men: Kamerion Wimbley is getting to the quarterback purely based on his nice moves, while Antwaan Peek has his moments where he'll give someone on our defense a chance to come up and intercept a tipped ball. Besides those occasional individual plays though, is Wimbley making a difference elsewhere? Is he defending the run or the pass well enough? Maybe if our inside linebackers were half-way decent, we could tell what his full potential is.
- Mike Williams: I know that this isn't related to the Browns, but take a good look at how bad Mike Williams played against the Browns. THAT is called a first round bust. Williams dropped a pass in the end zone, failed to catch a rather simple over the shoulder pass near the sidelines later in the game, and was stripped of the football after a decent catch and run. Anyone who ever compares Braylon Edwards to a first round bust is now officially insane.
- Clock Management: It ended up working out since we got the ball back, but I really did not understand why Romeo Crennel failed to call a timeout before the two-minute warning when he could have. Instead of possible heading into the two minute warning facing a third-down situation, the Raiders were only in second down. In the end, that probably accounts for at least six seconds of game clock wasted.
- Forgotten Man: Over the first several games, there is one player on the roster that I feel has been under utilized: Steve Heiden. While I'm thrilled at the success Edwards, Jurevicius, and Winslow are having, Heiden should be the open man on certain plays in which Winslow or Edwards are double covered.
- Hurry Up: Next week, it's time for the Browns to do something that the Colts, Patriots, or Bengals would do: run the hurry up offense at least once in the first half. It could throw the defense off, and because Anderson seems to thrive in that role, it could get him into rhythm a little faster.