After Sunday's loss to the Washington Redskins, clearly there is only one man to blame: Phil Dawson. Only kidding, of course, as it was clearly the underachieving offense that cost us yet another football game.
Just think about that -- the Browns, potential-wise, are supposed to have one of the best offenses in football.
We held one of the AFC's best teams, Pittsburgh, to just 10 points. Result? Loss.
We held one of the NFC's best teams, Washington, to just 14 points. Result? Loss.
This week, it wasn't the playcalling that was the problem. The adjustments that Rob Chudzinski has made over the past several weeks were still on display. However, if you can't even execute a screen pass to a receiver at the line of scrimmage, you can't move the chains to set up the remainder of your gameplan as a coordinator. The goats of the game this week are back again, and although a major case can be made for two of our players on offense getting the award, I'm going to substitute one of them for a defensive player.
Goats of the Game (The Reason We're Not .500)
Derek Anderson: For as many steps forward as he appeared to take against the New York Giants, he took a lot of those steps back against the Redskins. I wasn't too surprised due to all of his road woes last season, but I was certainly discouraged. I don't think he's lost the right to his job yet. Right now we're 2-4 and still far from the season being over.
- Terry Cousin: I was flabbergasted when I read that Mike Adams would be inactive for the game. Although the defense played well, Cousin was Ralph Brown-esque. I believe I remember most of Jason Campbell's success coming on crossing routes over the middle. Each time, including Santana Moss' touchdown, Cousin was in on the coverage.
Awarding Game Balls (Fewer Than Last Week)
Eric Wright: He has really made amends for fumbling an interception against the Bengals several weeks ago. After intercepting an Eli Manning pass for a touchdown last week, he came up with a huge strip on Clinton Portis when it looked as if we were dead and buried. Credit Wright for hustling on the play when Portis was already a step ahead of him.
- Jamal Lewis: He may still be averaging under 100 yards in most of these games, but he is fulfilling his duties by running for over four yards a pop. His effortless hurdle in full stride for a 22 yard gain was a sight to see. Not being able to punch it in down at the goal line with several cracks was discouraging, but that's where you also need the threat of a capable quarterback.
General Thoughts (Random Tidbits on the Game)
IN for the TOUCHDOWN?: Forgive me if I have missed confirmation that shows otherwise, but a major factor in this game came with about a little over 8 minutes to play. Derek Anderson dumped a screen pass off to Jamal Lewis, and Lewis followed lead blocker Rex Hadnot down the field. Lewis was ruled down at the one-yard line...but why? On replay, it looks like Lewis merely stumbled while trying to use Hadnot as a shield, and tripped himself down at the one-yard line. Still untouched though, his momentum carried his body and the ball into the end zone, where a defender then touched him.
- No Red Flag: Remember when we used to complain so much about Romeo Crennel wasting challenges? Well, apparently he's gone into a shell now, because through six games, I don't even recall him throwing it once. Had he thrown it in this instance and if the play had been ruled a touchdown, we would've had a lot of time left to come back and win. Granted, failing to get the ball in with four attempts is no excuse, but neither is missing this call.
Running Wild: The Redskins might just have the best running back in the league. Clinton Portis dazzled once again, rushing for 175 yards on 27 carries against the Browns. The high yardage count is still attributable to some of our defensive shortcomings, but overall he just deserves props on being one of the best, and perhaps most underrated, players in the game.
- Still Missed It: I joked in the opening line that Dawson was to blame for this loss. In all fairness, he does deserve a share of the blame. He showed tremendous leg strength in the preseason, connecting on a couple of 50+ yarders. Last week's miss from beyond 50 yards didn't have as much relevance because we ended up winning big. But, in Dawson's first pressure kick opportunity of the season, he failed to come through. Remember, we won at least two more games last season because of late kicks by Dawson (Seattle and Baltimore).
Eight Punts: From no punts to eight punts. At least Dave Zastudil didn't show much rust, as he booted the ball well throughout the game.
Late Defensive Stop: One of the most surprising things this season came on the Redskins' final "true" drive of the game, when they had a chance to run out the clock. After running all over the Browns all game and only needing a first down, I thought our depleted defensive line would be toast by the second carry. To my surprise, the unit reached down deep and played their hearts out until the final whistle, fighting through fatigue and the misery of watching a crappy [Browns] offensive effort.
- Kellen Winslow: The friction between Winslow and the team is not good for overall team morale. Staph infections remain a huge problem, and it's getting laughable to try to accept that all of the infections with Cleveland players specifically are merely a coincidence. Whether his suspension is lifted or not for next game though, right now, we are a better football team when Steve Heiden starts for several reasons -- blocking, chemistry with Anderson, and having more respect from the coaching staff.
- By the Way: Did we draft Martin Rucker and Beau Bell just to sit them all season? Just wondering, because right now our starting tight end is at odds with the team and Andra Davis remains invisible.
Sean Jones & Ryan Tucker: With the positive news of Sean Jones returning, there was the negative news of Ryan Tucker being listed as inactive for the game, and possibly for the near future as well. Jones played "ok" and led the team with ten tackles, but he seemed to be a beat off. After having a game's worth of live action under his belt again, I expect the rust to have worn off by the Jacksonville contest.
- Offensive Line: Anderson was hit a lot more against Washington than he was against the Giants, but that isn't an excuse. On many of his throws, including the failed one to Braylon Edwards right before our field goal attempt, he had plenty of time to make the appropriate throw.
- Harrison's Involvement: Several users complained about the team not using Jerome Harrison earlier in the game, but would that have really made a difference? Lewis was running the ball fine, and the real problem were things like Anderson overthrowing Donte Stallworth on a screen pass, or Edwards completing missing the hot slant route on a Redskins blitz. I think fans were automatically thinking "Harrison = Spark". In truth, the plays were called all had "Spark" written all over them, with a little asterisk * mentioning the failed execution. Bottom line: I felt Harrison was intended to be used correctly for the third game in a row -- it just didn't come off that way.
- Cribbs' Hit: Cribbs showed a lot of toughness by returning to the game after taking a huge blow earlier in the contest. Credit goes to Gerard Lawson though, who had arguably our best kick return of the season in place of Cribbs -- a tough, bounce-off-defender return for 43 yards.
Slight Steps Forward for Wimbley: I saw a few things I liked from Kamerion Wimbley, particularly once when he almost had an interception dropping back in coverage. Wimbley needs to drop back more often to mix up the play calls and leave the opposing team's left tackle wondering whether or not he's actually going to come.
Brownies: While only having two catches for the second week in a row, I thought Donte Stallworth opened up the offense again...Steve Heiden was heavily underutilized in this game...although Edwards had several drops again, most of them would've netted minimal yardage...can the team clone Shaun Rogers?
"1/8 from the one-yard line is a high percentage in my book. So much, that I won't throw the red challenge flag."
Believe it or not, the Redskins game was losable. It kills me that we didn't seize the advantage and get back to .500, but we still showed that we can compete with a very good football team, even on the road, until the final seconds.
The bigger game comes this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Why were we left out of the postseason last year? Because we had a horrible conference record in comparison to Tennessee.
Right now, we're only one game back of a tie for the wildcard. One game! That is no reason to give up hope. The Jaguars will be competing for one of those wildcard spots though, so if we can take them out this weekend, that will be a huge step forward in getting our season back on track.