That was pathetic.
The Cleveland Browns suffered a [insert really negative adjective here] loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at First Energy Stadium on Sunday, 37-3.
Twelve games into a brutal season for the 2-10 Browns, we're running out of negative words to describe this team. Terrible, atrocious, and embarrassing don't begin to capture the essence of this club.
The Browns have now lost seven straight by a combined 117 points, or 16.7 points per game.
Will this season ever end?
As Browns fans count the days until the end of the season, here are your seven takeaways from today's loss:
1. Outplayed, outcoached, outclassed: The Browns looked like a semipro team in comparison to the Bengals on Sunday. The Bengals dominated every aspect of the game in an embarrassing defeat for a beleaguered franchise.
Watching the Browns on Sunday compared to being forced to watch a bad scary movie without any popcorn or beverages to dull the pain. It was boring, predictable, and ugly.
The Browns played without effort or conviction. It’s always difficult to question effort when discussing professional athletes, but the Browns didn’t perform on par with a professional football team today.
The offense looked lost without any playmakers. The defense surrendered six plays of 20 or more yards and four touchdowns. The special teams didn’t make any plays and allowed a blocked field goal at the start of the third quarter when the Browns were theoretically within reach.
The 2015 Browns are nothing short of a trainwreck. Heck, tickets for remaining home games are selling on second-hand websites (such as StubHub, etc.) for the cost of a Happy Meal at McDonald’s.
Will the Browns win another game this season? The way this season is going, maybe not.
2. Defensive doozy: The Browns’ defense played poorly, particularly in the first half. From the playcalls to the execution, the defense looked awful.
All aspects of the Browns’ defense underperformed. The defensive line failed to generate a pass rush, the linebackers didn’t shed blockers on run plays, and the secondary looked lost.
The defense’s failures begin with the defensive line. Pettine and the Browns promised the unit would be much improved with the additions of Danny Shelton and Randy Starks. Nope.
The defensive line failed to generate any push on Cincinnati run plays, particularly runs in the red zone. As a result, Andy Dalton scored the first touchdown of the day from a quarterback sneak and Jeremy Hill scored later in the game on a 1-yard run.
The defensive line and the linebackers also failed to pressure Dalton. The Bengals’ star quarterback took his time in the pocket, often unleashing deep, uncontested throws to his wideouts. The Browns registered just one sack and one quarterback hit on Dalton.
Speaking of the linebackers, the inside backers did not shed blocks or attack the ballcarier in any way. The Bengals finished the day with 144 rushing yards, as Hill led the way with 22 carries for 98 yards. The Browns have held opponents to 100 yards or fewer just twice in 12 games this season.
The Browns’ secondary performed even worse than the front seven.
Dalton sliced and diced the Browns’ defense, completing 14-of-19 attempts for 220 yards and two touchdowns, including a 57-yard strike to AJ Green.
Cornerback Tramon Williams played particularly terribly, as he was beat like a drum by Green. Williams often found himself out of position against the superior wideout. Williams misplayed the ball in the air on several occasions, playing like a rookie rather than a veteran. Charles Gaines and the rest of the secondary didn’t look much better, either.
For a unit supposed to be the strength of the team, the defense is a major disappointment.
3. Davis dandy: quarterback Austin Davis looked solid in his first start as a Brown. The second-year quarterback looked solid individually, though he could not urge the offense to success.
Dealing with heavy Cincinnati blitzes and a banged-up supporting cast, Davis showed off a solid arm with above average accuracy. In the first half, Davis completed 14-of-23 passes for 128 yards.
The offense’s problems today boil down to one simple problem – a lack of weapons.
Without Benjamin, the Browns could not stretch the field to open up space for Barnidge and others underneath. Brian Hartline made a few nice catches, but also ran the wrong route on Davis’ interception, leading to a Cincinnati score.
Davis often had to sit in the pocket waiting for his wideouts to find space against a talented Cincinnati secondary. More often than not, Davis absorbed a big blow from the Bengals’ fierce pass rush after releasing the ball.
The Bengals finished the day with three sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Credit Davis with standing tall in the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield despite the pressure, but one man can only do so much.
Davis finished with solid stats in the losing effort, passing 25-of-38 for 230 yards and one interception. Davis even did well on third downs, completing 9-of-12 passes for 81 yards and six first downs.
Davis might not be the quarterback of the future, but he can certainly be a solid stopgap.
4. A playmaker, a playmaker, my kingdom for a playmaker: To paraphrase Shakespeare, the Browns desperately need playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. The Browns’ offense looked atrocious, particularly through the air, without any influential playmakers.
Injuries afflicted the Browns’ offense on Sunday, as the team only had two healthy receivers by the end of the game. However, both Dwayne Bowe and Terrelle Pryor sat out the game as healthy scratches.
Both Brian Hartline and Gary Barnidge enjoyed solid days amidst the loss. Hartline led the team with eight catches for 83 yards and Barnidge finished with seven receptions for 59 yards. However, both Hartline and Barnidge are complimentary pieces.
The Browns do not have a game-breaking wide receiver or a tall target for big plays. Besides Benjamin, the Browns’ wide receiving corps is, in a word, pathetic.
Playing against one of the league’s best defenses, the Browns saw the importance of the playmaker.
General manager Ray Farmer’s aversion to drafting wide receivers haunted the Browns today, and will continue to haunt the team for years to come.
5. Signs of life: The Browns’ ground game actually looked effective at times on Sunday. For the first time in weeks, the Browns enjoyed some success running the ball.
Due to the big hole the Browns quickly dug for themselves, the Browns didn’t have much of a chance to run the ball much. However, Isaiah Crowell did run well when given the opportunity.
The second-year back dashed through the hole with speed on several occasions, especially on a 23-yard run in the third quarter. Crowell has hesitated frequently this season and has rarely shown much speed or burst, but he did on Sunday.
Crowell can run the ball well when given a hole to run through. The offensive line paved the way, particularly inside, as Alex Mack and John Greco performed well on run blocks.
Crowell finished the day with 62 yards on 11 carries, the most by a Browns back in two months. The last time a Browns back picked up over 50 yards? October 4 against the Chargers.
The club’s success running the ball marked one of the few lone bright spots in an ugly day for the Browns.
6. Call off the fight: A host of Browns exited due to injuries, as five players suffered injuries in the first half alone. The Bengals beat up the Browns on Sunday.
The injury trend began on the Browns’ first drive, as tight end Gary Barnidge was rolled up while blocking on a run play. Barnidge did check back into the game, but the injury bug kept biting the rest of the team.
Later on the first offensive drive, left guard Joel Bitonio fell to the ground with an ankle injury. The second-year offensive lineman did not return, opening the door for Cameron Erving. The 2015 first round pick did not show much improvement from last week, as Erving struggled mightily with big defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
Soon after Bitonio’s injury, fullback Malcolm Johnson checked out of the game with a groin injury. Johnson does not play a critical role in the offense, but the Browns utilize him significantly in the running game. However, the Browns haven’t run the ball well with Johnson anyways.
Later in the first quarter, Travis Benjamin fell to the turf with a shoulder injury. The breakout wide receiver lept up to grab a high pass from Davis, almost securing an acrobatic catch. Unfortunately for the Browns, Benjamin landed hard on his shoulder, taking away a key weapon on offense.
Fellow wideout Marlon Moore then fell victim to the injury bug in the second quarter, suffering an apparent rib injury. Thankfully for the Browns, Moore did come back into the game. Without Moore, the Browns only had two healthy wide receivers – Brian Hartline and Darius Jennings. Both Bowe and Pryor were healthy scratches today.
Injuries are hurting the Browns badly this season, and exposing a lack of depth at nearly every position.
7. Coaching woes strike again: Head coach Mike Pettine and the coaching staff showcased another bad gameplan against the Bengals. Another bad day for the coaching staff.
Poor playcalls characterized a long game on Sunday. Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo did an acceptable job with the talent he had to work with, but he once again failed to include Duke Johnson – one of the team’s few playmakers – into the passing game. DeFilippo does not deserve much blame, but he should receive some for questionable calls on fourth down.
For example, Pettine and the Browns opted to go for it on 4th and 1 from the Bengals’ 40-yard line with 10:13 left in the second quarter. DeFilippo dialed up a playaction bootleg with only one wide receiver – Barnidge. While Barnidge is certainly a reliable target, why not have a back such as Johnson or Crowell underneath on a flat route? These types of calls hindered the offense.
The defensive calls of defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil were more egregious. The Browns utilized man coverage an awful amount for a team without two of its regular cornerbacks. O’Neil repeatedly matched Williams up in one-on-one with Green, without any safety help. That was a mistake.
Bad clock management became a factor for the second straight week for Pettine and the Browns. At the end of the first half, the Browns wasted a play or two by failing to rush up to the line following a first down completion over the middle with 15 seconds left. Travis Coons did kick a field goal to end the half, but you can’t waste potential opportunities at the end of the half.
Is it time to fire Pettine? This game did not help his case.