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Steelers Dash Divisional Hopes, 31-28

Box Score
Team 1 2 3 4 Final
7 14 0 7 28
3 6 7 15 31

What can you do? I'm sure many of us saw it coming, despite our high expectations. We knew Roethlisberger was capable of throwing our defense into disarray, and we knew that the Browns could give the Steelers a run for their money. Even my pre-game prediction of a 24-20 loss was pretty much dead on had one of our special teams touchdowns not been a factor. Getting such a big lead early only to lose it is what causes the greatest amount of pain and sorrow, though.

Before I get further into that though, it's time to start with this week's gameballs and gamegoats, brought to you by Dawgs By Nature...

Goats of the Game (Folding Under Pressure)
  1. Jamal Lewis: I don't think enough people made a big enough of a deal about the turnaround that occurred after Lewis fumbled the ball in the second half against the Steelers. Because of its importance though, I will discuss its direct impact below in the "general thoughts" section. On the day, Lewis had 16 carries for 35 yards with two fumbles (one lost).
  2. Willie McGinest: It clearly was not a good day for the veteran linebacker, who even admitted it was his worst game as a pro. There were so many opportunities he had to bring down Roethlisberger, but he didn't seem to be able to do it once. Granted, we're not good enough at linebacker to "not" play him, but the bar is set high for veterans and McGinest wasn't even close to reaching it.

Awarding Game Balls (Highlights in Defeat)

  1. Joshua Cribbs: Bow down, because Joshua Cribbs is a football God. Because he did so well on his first kickoff, returning it 90 yards before being tackled, the Steelers kicked away from him the rest of the game. The next three kickoffs went to Darnell Dinkins, and the fourth one after his 90-yarder went to Cribbs for an eight-yard return. Then, after Cribbs accidentally let the ball go by him on the next kickoff, he picked it up at the goal line and dodged several tackles while doing a balancing act down the sideline for a 100-yard kick return. That came right after the Steelers had taken their first lead of the game. It's a shame the lead didn't stick, but Cribbs' accomplishments aren't going unnoticed this season.
  2. Eric Wright: The first-year cornerback didn't have an elite enough of a game to be nominated for rookie-of-the-week in my opinion, but his tackling ability continues to impress me. He even recorded his first sack of the season this year, blitzing off the edge to take down Roethlisberger without buying for a fake.
General Thoughts (Random Tidbits on the Game)
  1. Lewis Blew It: I'm calling out one man for Sunday's loss against the Steelers: Jamal Lewis (of course I'd never be man enough to really call him out). It's not so much of a problem that he struggled finding lanes to run the ball, because the Steelers are great at stopping the run and we can always compensate through the air. However, Lewis' fumble definitely changed the momentum of the game. Believe it or not, our defense was doing a great job against holding the Steelers to field goals only prior to the fumble. The Steelers failed to score a touchdown on their first seven possessions of the game, including two punts at the start of the second half...
  2. Field Position: ...The Browns were actually playing a game of field position in a game that was starting to get sloppy at the time due to rainy conditions. The defense had the Steelers' offense out of whack, and our offense was going to try and move the ball again, or punt it again until Lewis fumbled. Then, the Steelers went 38 yards in four plays for a touchdown. Overall, they scored three touchdowns within four possessions after Lewis' fumble. Blame poor third-down defense? Most certainly, but don't neglect the fact that in a way, Lewis was solely responsible for those problems being exposed this past Sunday.
  3. Jason Wright: By the second half, it was clear that Lewis wasn't going to be running the ball much. For some reason though, Rob Chudzinski kept Lewis in the game on several pass plays. Wright has proven to be a viable receiver out of the backfield, and had he been the check-down man in the second half for Anderson instead of Lewis, we may have had a few extra first downs.
  4. Thing of Beauty: Cribbs' kick returns were awesome, but Braylon Edwards' touchdown catch was a thing of beauty. It's amazing how at times, receivers are able to just barely keep both toes in while crashing full-force to the ground. Edwards is showing Marvin-Harrison ability to get his feet down in bounds, but with a much more physical presence than the best receivers in the league have to offer. Best of all, we don't have to hear him talk like Terrell Owens does on the sideline.
  5. Sack City: It felt good to get four sacks on the stat sheet, including two for the defensive line. A lot of the pressure we seemed to establish came from blitzing up the middle -- something I've been calling for all season -- and some surprisingly poor decisions by Big Ben early on in the game. Unfortunately, it seemed like the amount of sacks we were getting built up the team's confidence a little too much late in the game. Instead of staying with the goal to keep him in the pocket, the defensive line tried to collapse the pocket around him, which left nobody in the middle to stop Big Ben.
  6. Horrible Spying: When you spy a quarterback, aren't you supposed to sit back and keep and eye on him? On numerous occasions, I saw the Browns keep a spy in the game, but the spy started to engage the offensive line for some reason. That's a big no-no, unless you're of a Pro Bowl caliber who is good enough to fake that you're engaging while having the ability to disengage and make a play on the quarterback.
  7. Poor Officiating: I haven't complained about poor officiating once this year, even in our three previous losses. The officiating at times this past Sunday was extremely poor though. Credit Roethlisberger for having the wherewithal to make the plays that he did on the run, but on his 30-yard touchdown run, we got mugged by the Steelers. Then, on Cribbs' nice punt return late in the game, Darnell Dinkins didn't do anything wrong to be charged with a holding penalty.
  8. Quarterback Controversy: Don't worry, there isn't one. As the fans of DBN concluded over the past few days, Derek Anderson's below-average second half didn't cause fans to lose faith in his ability to lead the Browns to a wildcard spot this season.
  9. Work Him in More: After running a trick play with Cribbs at least once per game over our first seven games of the season, the Browns haven't utilized him at all over the past two weeks. That, along with the fact that Jerome Harrison hasn't been used in two weeks either, has been a slight step back in terms of our creativity on offense.
  10. All-too-Familiar: What is with the Browns always establishing a lead early on the Steelers, only to lose by a field goal? Although the way it actually played out in terms of our team's strengths/weaknesses was much different in the playoff game several years ago, the feeling of collapsing to a hated rival continues to remain depressing.
  11. Timeout Voodoo: No one can possibly excuse the Browns for wasting two timeouts on Heath Miller's touchdown catch near the end of the game, but does all of the blame necessarily need to fall on Romeo Crennel? I'm still under the assumption that an "unnamed defensive player" made the mistake of calling a timeout before Crennel could challenge the play. Since the ball was moving around slightly, burned timeout or not, I don't question Crennel's decision to still challenge the play.
  12. First Drive: It's definitely worth giving credit to the Browns' opening-play drive, which lasted 8 minutes and 55 seconds. Anderson knew exactly where to go in third-down situations, and overall, it was one of our best drives of the season.
  13. Brownies: I thought Brodney Pool did a tremendous job on his interception, jumping the route and stealing the ball from the receiver. Daven Holly almost had a game-sealing interception in the second half after breaking the ball away from Santonio Holmes. My jaw was wide open as Phil Dawson's 53-yard attempt was on the way, because he seemed to hit it high and accurate, despite the history (or lack there of) of field goals at Heinz Field. Don't you wish Joe Jurevicius would've not held on to his one-yard stab before we had to kick the field goal? Without Jurevicius' catch, we would've had two shots to get a sideline pass about ten yards down the field, which would've been within Dawson's range.
I'm disappointed, but I'm not discouraged by the Browns' loss against the Steelers. We don't want to strive for mediocrity, but the Steelers are one of the best teams in football, and we were the only team to give them a run for their money at Heinz Field this season. Our schedule to close out the season appears easy, but it's all about execution now. Every loss will be a big setback and every win will bring us one step closer to a wildcard-weekend matchup against the Steelers.