No, the Browns’ season isn’t over after one disaster performance. After all, it only counts as one loss.
The catastrophe at FirstEnergy Stadium in Week 6 was disappointing, sure, but maybe it was a wake-up call. Maybe it highlighted some weaknesses the team was downplaying while competing but struggling against mediocre teams over the last three weeks.
Oakland now has five losses and hasn’t resembled decent in any of them, by the way.
One overarching lesson learned this week is that the Browns aren’t good enough to approach a game with anything less than every single ounce of focus and respect for their opponent.
The Chargers are probably a really good team, maybe one of the best in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean the Browns couldn’t have been more competitive. There are several underlying issues that existed throughout preseason, and they seemingly aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
Let’s take a quick look back at some takeaways from this debacle.
Philip Rivers, there goes that man
Is it really a takeaway that Philip Rivers is a top-tier NFL quarterback? The guy has been cutting apart the blitz for 15 season and has been prolific when pressured this season. Heading into Week 6, Rivers was the league’s top passer under pressure. Pressured or not, the guy is a wise old sage in the pocket, and his results speak for themselves.
Tight coverage? No problem. Triple coverage, 45 yards down the field? Dime. Touchdown.
He didn’t have to do much in this game, but he could have hurt the Browns lot more if they showed any semblance of a rush defense. But hey, at least he didn’t damage the Browns’ pass defense ranking too badly, right? No?
Facing an elite quarterback like Rivers was a true test of where the Browns defense’s truly at, and they failed miserably this week in every possible way. The awful result was a rude awakening for everyone from the top down that there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Want to talk about postseason aspirations and winning the AFC North? Maybe pump the breaks a little bit if you’re touting an allegedly elite defense as a precursor to that potential.
Meanwhile, a hobbled Baker Mayfield reminded us frequently that he’s still a rookie and not anywhere near Rivers’ level, yet, and it’ll take awhile to ever get there.
Let’s talk about receivers for a minute, all three of them
No team should be a Rashard Higgins injury away from being handicapped at the receiver position. But that’s exactly the situation the Browns found themselves in, and you have to blame someone.
Blame John Dorsey, but don’t forget the coaching staff’s culpability, because he’s working off their inputs. Blame them all for giving up on Josh Gordon. Blame them for not signing Dez Bryant, Rishard Matthews, or any number of potential free agents who might have provided some kind of consistency at the position.
Blame them for relying on “in-house” and unproven rookie talent like Antonio Callaway, Derrick Willies, and Damion Ratley. Dorsey should have made a move immediately after trading Gordon, but he signed Rod Streater instead. While the sentiment to developing young talent is sound, teams cannot be so reliant on it if they claim they’re honestly competing to win games like these. But suffering losses like this one—despite it feeling worse than any loss during the team’s 1-31 stretch—is acceptable if it’ll be worth it in the long run. At least you hope it will, right?
Ratley ended up recovering from missing what should have been a touchdown from Mayfield, but therein lies the problem. The Chargers made those types of impact plays. The Browns did not. The Chargers already have proven guys who would have easily brought that throw to Ratley down for six.
And we’re not even going to discuss Callaway’s missed opportunity, or really talk about him at all, because it’s too disappointing. You have to hope he’s learning valuable lessons and will improve with more experience.
Meanwhile, while Callaway and Ratley are missing passes with two hands, Mr. Bless’m is blundering should-be catches by only using one hand. Jarvis Landry had his worst game this season, and it wasn’t close. Knowing his nature it’s a good bet he’ll bounce back.
Missed tackles, penalties, and blitzes, oh my!
Blame the entire Browns coaching staff for not having their team ready to play.
How many missed tackles, drops, penalties, and missed assignments does it take for this staff to catch some heat for its team’s performance? Where’s the accountability on their players for these kinds of lapses? Someone needs to face consequences. Start shaking things up. Redistribute some practice reps. Fire an assistant coach.
Do. Something. Do. Anything.
Speaking of coaching, Gregg Williams and Todd Haley have been effective, but both are known entities in the league. With their experience, there comes a certain predictability. Their concepts are not fooling anyone, especially coaches equipped with players like Rivers and his assortment of weapons. Is it too much to ask for these guys to change, even a little bit, in the face of every team keying on their tendencies?
Adapt or die, gentlemen. There are young and innovative coordinators in the league, and rising through the college ranks who will make adjustments you’re not making.
Gus Bradley decided to bring pressure all game while playing tight man coverage. The physical coverage and unpredictable blitzes kept Mayfield confused and unable to get the ball out quickly as he had been in recent weeks. Haley answered by drawing up one long-developing play after another. The edge there was clear.
No Ken Whisenhunt against Williams comparison is necessary. This was an old-fashioned schooling by one veteran coordinator to another. Usually teams say they want to “burn the tape” and move on after beatings like this, but this is one lesson Williams and his players should be forced to watch on repeat for the next 48 hours before shifting focus to Tampa Bay.