DA DejectedBrowns Turnover Control Of Their Own Destiny To Tennessee

What’s the operative word of the day to describe this game? Debacle? Choke-job? Disgraceful? Unfocused? Unprepared? Lackadaisical? Pretty much any of these words, and any similar ones you might think of pretty much sums up the pathetic performance the Browns put forth against the Bengals in Cincinnati yesterday, falling 19-14. More importantly, the Browns surrendered control of their own destiny. It rendered this week’s game against San Francisco completely meaningless, as now the Browns simply need Tennessee to lose to the Colts. Titans win, they’re in…Colts win, Browns are in. Peyton Manning just picked up a lot of new fans for a week.

Going back to this Bengals game, you often hear teams say their opponents didn’t beat them, that they beat themselves. Normally, I think that’s a bunch of junk. But in this case, you can kind of understand it. The Bengals showed why they’re having such a down year, being unable to score any 2nd half points to cushion their 19-0 halftime lead. In the last 2 minutes of the 1st half, Derek Anderson threw 2 interceptions (1 because his intended receiver, Jason Wright, decided to duck out of the way of the ball rather than catch it…the other because of an absolutely terrible throw in which DA tried to do too much to make up for his earlier turnover), both of which the Bengals were able to capitalize on and score TDs to push the midway lead from 6-0 to 19-0. That was the difference in the game.

The Browns would make a run at it in the 2nd half, despite 2 more redzone interceptions by Derek Anderson. On 2 other occasions, DA would find Braylon Edwards for a TD, bringing the score to 19-14. Then, on the final Browns possession, DA found Braylon right away for a quick 40 yard gain into Cincinnati territory…….only to have it called on a phantom offensive pass interference call. I’m not sure what, exactly, the refs saw on that play, but I suppose they just assumed since Braylon was so open at such a critical moment in the game, that he MUST have pushed off or something. That’s the only thing I can figure at this point. After having that play called back, the Browns tried to move the ball down the field by making a series of 10 yard passes into the middle of the field, killing the clock and taking their jolly time along the way. It was one of the worst 2 minute offense executions I have ever seen. In the end, it left the Browns with one chance to lob the ball into the end zone, and even then DA could only muster a half hearted throw in the general vicinity of K2. All in all, it was a miserable game in which the Browns looked overwhelmingly tight with the pressure of what was riding on this game.

The positives of this game were few and far between. Jamal Lewis had a decent game, going for 92 yards on 21 carries for a 4.4 yards/carry average. Had the Browns not found themselves in a 19 point hole, Lewis obviously would have had another big game against the Bengals. K2 and Braylon each had nice games. Not great games, but nice games. The Browns 2nd half defense played excellent, coming up with big turnovers in huge moments when the team needed them the most. They made Carson Palmer look pretty pedestrian for 99% of the game (Palmer still made an amazing throw on TJ Whosyomomma’s TD).

The negatives….You have to start with Derek Anderson.  You can’t help but feel like had DA thrown JUST three interceptions instead of four, the Browns would have won this game. It’s just too hard to overcome the damage of 4 interceptions, especially when the defense quickly allows 2 of them to turn into 13 points in the span of 30 seconds. Which brings us to negative #2, the Browns’ first half defense, in particular the rush defense. This unit was totally ineffective at stopping the run, allowing Kenny Watson to put up 99 yards rushing in the first half alone. Furthermore, even in the 4th quarter when the Browns needed the ball back and they knew full well the Bengals would be running the ball to run out the clock, the Browns showed no ability to stop them at all, no matter how many guys were loaded into the box. Only a fortunate fumble allowed the Browns to get the ball back without the Bengals putting any more points on the board. Finally, negative #3 from this game, the coaching. It was bad enough that the team came out looking this flat and this uninspired and this overwhelmed. But the worst coaching decision of the day, in my opinion, was the decision to go for it on 4th and a long 1 from the Bengals’ 19 yard line in the first half after a Leigh Bodden interception. The Browns got stopped for no gain on the play and had to turnover the ball. I understand that it was windy and that they had already botched their first field goal hold, but if you can go for a 49 yard field goal in the midst of a blinding blizzard last week, I fail to see why you can’t attempt a 36 yard field goal yesterday. Phil Dawson has come up huge for this team time and again all season, and had he made that field goal, who knows how differently the game might have turned out with the Browns only needing a FG on the last possession to tie the game (I’m going to go ahead and assume the Bengals would have kicked the PAT rather than go for 2 if the score was 19-3 rather than 19-0). Although, in retrospect, I suppose it doesn’t really matter if Romeo Crennel is scared to kick a 36 yard FG, who knows how close the Browns would have had to have gotten before Romeo would have allowed them to try to tie the game.

At the end of the day, this was just a poor effort on the Browns’ part. Kudos to the Bengals, they won, but that was not a football team that scares anyone. Had the Browns played the way they have the last few weeks (not stellar, but average), you can’t help but feel like they would have walked out of Paul Brown Stadium (ugh) a winner. So now, we sit through this Christmas season waiting and hoping for a belated Christmas present in the form of a Browns playoff spot.