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Analyzing the Game: Blown Out

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There are a few one-word terminologies that can be used to describe the Browns' effort against the Bengals. "Pitiful", "embarrassing", "ugly", and "demoralizing" are just a few that come to mind on what was supposed to be a day to enjoy our throwback uniforms and the history of the Browns. There was plenty of enjoyment in this game for about the first five seconds, but after that, we were beaten almost as bad as we were last year at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers. There won't be a lot of strong points to go over when analyzing this game, and rightfully so. I was more depressed after the loss to the Steelers last week because it was a true football game. What we saw against the Bengals...it's almost as if I didn't see the Browns play a snap today, because what I saw on the field from us certainly isn't the team I envisioned us being. Let's get to the long, sad breakdown of the game...

Weak Points(Why We Lost The Game)

  1. Goat of the Game: Charlie Frye. I still believe that Frye would have a lot more success with a half-way decent offensive line. Some of the strengths we saw from him last year came when he could roll out and make a play, and then actually use the playaction to set up deep plays down the field from defenses biting on the possible run. This year, the offensive line is so bad that we can't block give Frye time to do anything - no rollouts are possible, and the playaction doesn't even fool third-string players. The problem is - Frye hasn't made the adjustment. Even if the plays aren't designed well, Frye need to step back and deliver the football to somebody as soon as possible. Instead, he is holding onto the ball forever, and then decides to spin out, expecting his offensive line to get the job done. That led to the early struggles for Frye in this game, and once we were already down and out, he piled on the interceptions after missing receivers that were pretty open down the field. We wouldn't have won this game with a better quarterback, but we probably would've at least scored.
  2. Picked Apart: Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer had his way with us, but what else did Todd Grantham expect him to attempt? Every time the Bengals face us, they pick us apart by using the hurry up offense, because our defensive players are not talented enough to think on their feet and make a positive stop on a consistent basis. One of the strengths of the Browns defense is our ability to substitute players in certain situations. With Leigh Bodden out, we weren't able to rely on a "well-coached" secondary with average to below-average players to cover the Bengals. Daven Holly showed us why he won't be a starting cornerback, as was seen by the 15-yard cushion he was giving Chad Johnson throughout the game. Meanwhile, Brodney Pool was fooled all game by T.J. Houshmandzadeh most of the day, and Ralph Brown was back to his good old self. Holly and Pool are players who are effective in specific situations: Holly can play press coverage as a nickel back, while Pool can cover a tight end or give safety help with a big hit. This is a game in which our decimated secondary finally came back to bite us in the rear.
  3. Thanks, Unck: I'd like to believe that is Mason Unck hadn't been called for holding on Cribbs opening touchdown, that the game would've turned out differently. Unfortunately, we were "owned" so much by the Bengals, that we still probably would've been beaten pretty bad. On another special teams note, Phil Dawson's missed field goal could've broken the shut out as well, and given us some momentum heading into the second half. There are two special teams plays that could've bailed us out a little, but we failed on both occasions.
  4. Blocking Backs: Jerome Harrison is a small guy who should be effective on draw plays and coming out of the back field to catch, right? Well, apparently to Crennel and Davidson, Harrison's best attribute must be to stay in and pass block on half of our plays. It seemed like every time Harrison was given that role, the Bengals rushed and Harrison didn't have any chance whatsoever. How about putting Reuben Droughns in to block? Well, he's slow and not a very good pass blocker either. I guess it only makes sense: we have a soft offensive line, and we have soft running backs.
  5. Are You a Moron?: I'm sorry, but every time Romeo Crennel throws out the red flag, Crennel looks like an idiot. Maybe it's because any time he throws the flag, I'm thinking to myself, "What are you doing, there is no way that call will be overturned!". Or, maybe it's just because he doesn't look excited at all. If someone upstairs is telling Crennel which plays to challenge, then they need to be fired or released of their duties. Crennel never throws the flag when it needs to be thrown, and always throws it on plays that will not be overturned. At least Butch Davis knew when to throw the flag.
  6. Almost Had It: For a second there, Dennis Northcutt was going to be my only "strong point" of the game. Then, he made two bad plays within a matter of a minute. First, he fumbled the ball on a draw play when we were trying to erase a shut out. Then, it looked like he forced Crennel to challenge the play, when replays clearly showed that he had fumbled.
  7. Officials: I felt the officiating crew wasn't very sharp. The penalty called on Brian Russell on Chad Johnson was absolutely ridiculous.
Strong Points(Why We Could Have Been in the Game)
  1. Player of the Game: Kellen Winslow. After the game, I realized that Winslow was a bright spot early before our offensive demise later on. He had a couple of catches on third downs that actually gave us false hope of what was to come throughout the game. Our other tight end, Steve Heiden, gave a nice effort on the sideline as well.
  2. Defensive Standouts: D'Qwell Jackson was partially responsible for actually holding running back Rudi Johnson to a quiet day. And, believe it or not, we held the Bengals offense to less points than they had in their previous two meetings. Brian Russell had our lone turnover, while Kamerion Wimbley had a nice sack on Anthony Wright later in the game. Hopefully when we get better defensive linemen, Wimbley will have the freedom to do that when the game counts.
  3. Only Excitement: One man provided life in this game: Joshua Cribbs. Despite losing, on every one of his kickoffs, I had some fire in me. Also, seeing Chad Johnson trip over the chain was entertaining.
General Thoughts(Random Tidbits on the Game)
  1. Edwards Fiasco: Apparently, the outburst on the sidelines by Braylon Edwards wasn't as we thought it was. According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, Edwards was really trashing the Browns offensive linemen for their poor blocking. Personally, I just feel it was frustration and not selfishness.
  2. Bad Times in Pittsburgh: At least the Steelers are feeling just as bad, if not worse than the Browns did after their loss. The Steelers actually had hope of making the playoffs still, and were crushed by Baltimore 27-0, and gave up a franchise record nine sacks. It looks like we'll both just be playing for pride in a little over a week.
  3. Still Time to Tell: The season is already a waste (in terms of playoffs), so it's time to start looking at some things for next season, and that include Charlie Frye. We will obviously be making some offseason additions to our offensive line, so I'd rather see Nat Dorsey and some of the younger guys get some playing time to see if they can be a backup next season. Also, Travis Wilson needs to be used as a receiver, and if we're not going to keep Northcutt next year anyway, they may as well not activate him. I'm not saying I want that, but Wilson should be on the field to close the season. Don't forget, we still have some very winnable games ahead of us though, and we could still finish with the same record as we did last season. Our final two games are very winnable by our standards, and I'm still rooting for the upset against the Steelers.
  4. Watched It All: I watched every second of the Browns game on television, as sad as it may have seemed. We've lived through the tough times way too long, but I'm still sticking with the philosophy of catching every second. When we start winning again, every ounce of greatness displayed by the Browns will only seem so much greater then.
It's time for the Browns to move on. No, the season is not over just because we lost horribly: as Joe Jurevicius stated, it is gut check time. It's long overdue, but it's still that time. Romeo Crennel needs to get his act together, because a solid performance to finish out the season may be the only thing that keeps him here in Cleveland next season. There's a reason that the 49ers were in playoff contention heading into this week, and it wasn't just because they have Alex Smith and Frank Gore on their team: it was because of Mike Nolan just as much. Crennel was brought in and was supposed to do the same thing while having greater talent to work with. We've fielded a competitive team this season except for when we've faced Cincinnati, but that's the problem: a competitive team isn't always a winning team.