Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the month “November, 2010”

Haven’t we covered all of this already?

We came across a ridiculous news item today from Fox Sports stating that Browns owner Randy Lerner “might” reach out to Bill Cowher and give the former Steelers coach a big-money contract to coach the Browns in 2011.

We’re not even going to link to the report because it is too absurd on multiple levels.

Why would Lerner, after going through the trouble of hiring Mike Holmgren to run the team, turn around and try to make a deal for a new coach behind Holmgren’s back?

And more importantly, why would the Browns be looking for a new coach?

We’ve been critical of Browns coach Eric Mangini in the past, but before the season started we said we’d wipe the slate clean because the Browns had a structure in place to allow the coaches to succeed. And it’s impossible to have watched the Browns through the first 12 weeks of the season and not see the progress the team has made.

They’ve gone through all three quarterbacks on the roster because of injuries, have played the toughest schedule in the NFL and consider that:

  • If Chansi Stuckey doesn’t fumble against the Jets, the Browns win in OT
  • If Sheldon Brown or someone tackles Maurice Jones-Drew, the Browns beat the Jaguars
  • If Jake Delhomme wasn’t Jake Delhomme – and let’s face it, Delhomme and interceptions go together like rum & Coke, you can’t have one without the other – the Browns beat Tampa

Add those three games to the win column and suddenly the Browns are battling for the division and a playoff spot. Now they didn’t win those games, but that’s how far this team has come since last season.

Consider the St. Louis Rams. People are falling over themselves because rookie quarterback Sam Bradford has the Rams in first place … with a 5-6 record. You don’t think the Browns would own the NFC West if they played in that division?

Is Mangini a perfect coach? Of course not. But you know what? There’s no such thing. Mike Shanahan likes to tell you how great he is, but he never won anything without John Elway. As good as Bill Belichick is as a coach, the one year he had to play without Tom Brady the Patriots didn’t make the playoffs.

Even Jon Gruden, who so many people are sure is coming to Cleveland, only won a Super Bowl because he had Tony Dungy’s players.

And let’s not forget that Romeo Crennel, bless his heart, got four years as coach of the Browns.

In some ways it’s not surprising that the national media continues to beat the anti-Mangini drum. They don’t watch the games each week, they just catch a few highlights and look at the Browns 4-7 record and conclude he’s out the door.

What’s worse is when the local media, who presumably do watch every game, come to the same conclusion. Today’s example is Marla Ridenour of The Beacon Journal, who has determined that Mangini’s job rides on the final five games of the season.

“Finishing 6-10, a mere one-game improvement over last season, probably won’t be enough to save Mangini unless team president Mike Holmgren forsees a lockout in 2011,” Ridenour writes. “Perhaps even 7-9 won’t cut it.”

“How will close but no cigar fly with Holmgren? Will five losses by seven points or less, three by four points or less, be considered a positive or a negative? Can Mangini play the cupboard-is-still-bare card? Or will coming close reflect poorly on the game-day skills of he and his staff? Could he use it to his advantage that all three quarterbacks suffered high ankle sprains?”

So 7-9, after a 1-5 start, after the yearlong quarterback carousel, after the toughest schedule in the league, won’t cut it?

But wait, there’s more!

“There are signs that Mangini might save the life preserver for himself. On Sunday, he said he should have overruled defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s call on rookie Jimmy Clausen’s 28-yard sideline pass to Brandon LaFell that set up John Kasay’s 42-yard game-winning field goal attempt. Before the play, the Browns took a timeout with 12 seconds remaining. After LaFell made the catch and supposedly rolled out of bounds, which stood up to a replay review, four seconds remained.”

Of course, if the refs had made the right call and ruled LaFell down in bounds time would have run out and this would be even more of a non-issue. Plus Mangini has never come across as the type of coach who points fingers. The team seems to have the proper attitude of “win as a team, lose as a team.”

The media is trying to have it both ways now. Last year they criticized Mangini, with some validity, because he was too tight-lipped and abrasive with the media. This year he’s been more open, within reason, with trying to explain what the Browns are doing and trying to accomplish. And so they misconstrue that as Mangini trying to save himself at the expense of others.

The media also went into the season with a certain win total that the Browns had to achieve or else and they are sticking to that figure. Never mind looking at the whole picture, someone decided in the preseason that 7 wins was the number and nothing will take them off that train of thought.

The thing is, it’s all so unnecessary. If this team was a mess and was embarrassing itself each week and not competing, that would be one thing. But that’s just not the case.

It makes us wonder if we’re all watching the same game on Sundays.

***

Two One Six Sports is on the same page here.

Final Thoughts on the Browns & Week 12

Some quick thoughts on the Browns and the rest of the NFL as Week 12 comes to close tonight.

While it may still be hard for some to see, the Browns continue to make progress this season. While the losses to the Jets and Jacksonville were disappointing, the Browns bounced back yesterday and, even though it wasn’t always pretty, pulled out the win.

It’s easy to say the Browns are better than their 4-7 record and, with all the close losses, a play here or there and the team could easily be 7-4. Even though they are not, they are still in a better place than they were at this time last year.

After Week 12 in 2009, the Browns were 1-10 after dropping a 16-7 decision to the Bengals where Brady Quinn threw for 100 yards and Jamal Lewis ran for 40 yards.

Compare that to yesterday when Peyton Hillis ran for 131 yards and Jake Delhomme passed for 245 yards.

The Browns still have several holes to fill on the team and injuries are robbing them of what little depth they have at some positions. But they continue to fight in every game and, given the schedule they have faced so far, the record is pretty amazing.

***

Eric Mangini called out the defense for its lack of intensity and tackling.

“I feel like we should’ve played much better than we did defensively,” he said in The Plain Dealer. “And I felt at times during the game, we did that, but that’s not how we play. It’s consistency. That’s what we need to do. It’s consistent, good, smart football. Tackling is a huge component of that, just fundamentals.”

Hard to argue with that.

***

Speaking of Hillis, it’s worth repeating: for the year, Hillis has accounted for 37 percent of the Browns offensive yards and 62 percent of the team’s offensive touchdowns. He is clearly the MVP of the team this season.

And the Browns have him because Denver coach Josh McDaniels didn’t realize what he had.

***

Speaking of McDaniels, people were falling all over themselves last year when the Broncos started 6-0. How has that worked out? Since then, the Broncos are 5-16 and McDaniels is in trouble with the league after a Broncos employee taped a San Francisco walk through.

So glad he’s not our problem in Cleveland.

***

Staying out west, there’s little doubt the Browns would be running away with the division if they played in the NFC West.

The winner of tonight’s game between San Francisco, which started the season 0-5, and Arizona, behind Derek Anderson and riding a four-game losing streak, will “improve” to 4-7 and only be one game behind Seattle and St. Louis, tied for the division league.

***

The NFL got it right in fining – but not suspending – Houston’s Andre Johnson for his fight with Tennessee’s Cortland Finnegan.

While Johnson deserved the fine, since he’s not a troublemaker or repeat offender, a suspension would have been over the top.

We can’t say the same about the Steelers, who continue to cry now that the refs are finally penalizing them for their thuggish play on defense. James Harrison had another roughing the passer penalty on Sunday against Buffalo and faces another fine as a repeat offender, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Steelers have no room to complain. After years of dirty football, you can’t expect to get the benefit of the doubt when you cross the line. Hopefully it will cost them in a big spot down the road.

***

We don’t want to be standing next to Bills receiver Steve Johnson along the sidelines this week.

After dropping a game-winning touchdown pass against Pittsburgh, Johnson took to his Twitter account and blamed God for his drop:

“I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO…”

Whoa. A little over the top, no?

Browns finally dance with Lady Luck

It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t easy and, at times, it wasn’t enjoyable to watch, but Lady Luck finally blew on the right dice as the Browns held on to beat the 1-9 Panthers, 24-23.

After back-to-back last minute losses, the Browns built an early 21-7 lead and slowly tried to give the game away to the Panthers, finally prevailing when John Kasay’s 42-yard field goal attempt nailed the left upright as time expired.

The Browns seemed to seal the game when Joe Haden intercepted Jimmy Clausen’s pass with 1:30 left in the game. After three runs exhausted the Panthers timeouts, Reggie Hodges pinned the Panthers down at their own 5-yard-line with less than a minute left.

Hodges earned every penny of his contract extension on Sunday. In addition to the clutch punt, he pulled down a high snap on Phil Dawson’s game-winning field goal and picked up a first down by drawing roughing penalty on a third-quarter punt.

Clausen somehow marched the Panthers down the field to set up Kasay’s field goal attempt. It didn’t look good for the Browns after the refs inexplicably let Carolina receiver Brandon LaFell roll out of bounds despite being down at the Browns 24-yard-line. Rather than the clock running out on the Panthers, the refs botched call gave them a chance to set up for the winning field goal.

The Browns offense was once again led by running back Peyton Hillis, who ran for 131 yards, added a team-high 63 receiving yards and scored three rushing touchdowns. Hillis had a lot of success running left behind Lawrence Vickers, who had another monster day, Eric Steinbach and Joe Thomas.

Hillis now has 13 total touchdowns on the season, 905 rushing yards and 414 receiving yards. For the year, Hillis has accounted for 37 percent of the Browns offensive yards and 62 percent of the team’s offensive touchdowns. General manager Tom Heckert should be named Executive of the Year for turning Brady Quinn into Hillis and additional draft picks.

Now for the bad part, namely the play of Jake Delhomme.

As we said in our game preview, the only way the Browns lose this game is if they have multiple turnovers and Delhomme did his best Derek Anderson impersonation to try and prove us right.

Holding a 21-13 lead to start the second half, Delhomme was intercepted on his first two passes of the half, the second a TAINT by Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn that cut the Browns lead to 21-20 and put what was once a sure win in doubt.

Delhomme was rusty and off target with several passes, which was to be excepted after missing eight weeks, but there were also the silly throws while running out of the pocket or being pulled down by a defender. We saw that in the Tampa game and the Atlanta game and there is no reason to believe that won’t continue if Delhomme is back under center next week.

And on a day when the Browns rushed for 4.8 yards a carry, they still felt the need to have Delhomme throw the ball 35 times. And while his completion percentage was almost identical from the first half (12-of-18) to the second half (12-of-17), Delhomme threw for less than 100 yards in the second half and had those two picks. Plus he almost lost a fumble on a sack.

And remember how we said Hillis was successful running behind Vickers all day? Well when the Browns drove to Carolina’s 25-yard-line early in the fourth quarter and faced a fourth-and-one, the Browns decided to go for it – which was the right call. Not so right was, after a timeout, they came out and ran Hillis out a formation that did not include Vickers. Hillis was stuffed, the Panthers went down and kicked a field goal, and suddenly the Browns were trailing.

But, in the end, the Browns won and that’s the most important thing. They didn’t play particularly well at times, and they were fortunate to be playing a team as bad as Carolina, but after some of the tough breaks that have come their way this season they deserved to come out on the right end of one of these games.

For this week at least, Lady Luck didn’t leave her escort and blow on some other guys dice. Hopefully she’ll want to hang around for next week’s trip to Miami, where the Browns haven’t won since 1970.

Browns vs. Panthers – Week 12

The Browns return home Sunday for the next leg in Reunion Tour 2010 as Jake Delhomme is back in the lineup to face his old team, the Carolina Panthers.

The Opposition

Carolina: 1-9
Offensive rank: 32nd overall/32nd passing/26th rushing
Defensive rank: 13th overall/6th passing/23rd rushing
All-time record: Carolina leads 3-0 (2-0 in Cleveland). The Panthers are the only team the Browns have never beaten.
The line: Browns -10 (!)

What to Watch For

The Browns are back home after their second-consecutive late-game loss last week, this time to Jacksonville. The positive energy around the team from the back-to-back wins against New Orleans and New England has faded some, but having the Panthers come to town should be the perfect remedy for the Browns.

With Colt McCoy taking his turn at having a high-ankle sprain (there’s a little known bylaw in the NFL constitution that requires at least one quarterback on the Browns to have a high-ankle sprain at all times apparently), Jake Delhomme returns as the starter for the first time since opening day.

Hopefully Delhomme won’t have too much rust after barely playing since Week 1. As odd as it sounds, probably the best thing Delhomme can do during the game is play like McCoy – take what the defense gives him, take the safe throw and hand the ball off a lot. The fear is that Delhomme will be out for revenge against his old team and, combined with not playing for so long, will try to do too much and make some mistakes.

Offensively the Browns should be able to move the ball and get back on track. Carolina’s defense is ranked 13th in the league, but they may not be as good as that ranking looks on paper. They are a league-worse -135 in point differential (the Browns are -14 by comparison), so while the Panthers may not give up a lot of yards they do give up a lot of points. That would seem to show that the Panthers don’t give up a lot of yards because opposing offenses are working on a short field.

The Browns should be able to run the ball as Carolina is 23rd against the rush, giving up 4 yards per rush on average. With Josh Cribbs most likely not playing again this week, Peyton Hillis is the only running back on the Browns that Carolina has to worry about. Hillis should be able to get the running game going again. It would help if Floyd Womack is back in the lineup this week; hopefully his return coincides with John St. Clair returning to the bench.

The defense finally catches a break, as Carolina is last in the league overall on offense, last in passing and 26th in rushing. This is the first week since the opener against Tampa that the Browns have faced a offense this week and, after a stretch against some of the league’s top quarterbacks, it will be refreshing to see the defense against Jimmy Clausen or Brian St. Pierre.

The Browns have 10 interceptions and 10 sacks in the four games and Clausen has been sacked 12 times in his last four games. Expect the defense to have a big day.

The Best Browns vs. Panthers Game I’ve Ever Seen

For the first time all season, this gets a goose egg. We knew the Browns haven’t played the Panthers much over the past decade, but until we researched it we didn’t realize they have never beaten the Panthers. So we will have to make do with video of this inbred Panthers’ fan.

The Prediction

It was a bit of a shock to see the Browns as a double-digit favorite this week, the biggest of the weekend.

But the Browns are clearly a better team the Carolina and, just as importantly, they are playing better. As disappointing as the losses to the Jets and Jaguars were, the Browns were in both games and fought to the end. The same can’t be said of the Panthers this season as their losses have come by an average of 16 points a game.

It’s hard to see the Browns losing this game unless they have a day like Jacksonville last week and turn the ball over multiple times.

And while we’re not sure about the 10 points in the spread, we’ll go with the Browns to cover in their last home game until Baltimore comes to town the day after Christmas.

Record picking the Browns this year: 2-7-1

Welcome to Thunderdome at the Q

We’re still a week away from LeBron James making his first visit back to Cleveland with the Miami Heat and the national media is already gearing up with the anti-Cleveland propaganda.

In the wake of the news that the Cavs are going to ban controversial signs and apparel for the game, ESPN’s Chris Broussard took that rather predictable news and ran it off in a ridiculous direction:

“… the Cavaliers and the NBA are doing all they can to make sure the emotional and hostile scene does not turn ugly,” Broussard wrote.

Hostile scene? The game hasn’t even taken place yet, what “hostile scene” are we talking about here? Are we no longer allowed to boo?

Broussard continues:

“The Cavaliers have been one of the few NBA teams to have metal detectors at every arena entrance since Dan Gilbert bought the club more than five years ago, but they will go beyond that on Dec. 2.”

Yes, let’s make sure to bring up that the Q has metal detectors. Has no relation, really, to the story, but it feeds Broussard’s preconceived desire to make attending a game in Cleveland akin to walking through a combat zone.

And as we learned during LeBron’s free agency, no Broussard story would be complete without an anonymous quote:

“Honestly, I’m a little bit afraid,” one member of the Cavs organization said. “Some people don’t care. Their mentality is ‘‘I’ve got to get this off my chest.’ There’s so much negative energy around this game. People aren’t excited about the game itself. They’re just like, ‘‘I can’t wait to do something.'”

Oh, c’mon. Since when did attending a game at the Q turn into an Italian soccer game?

Thankfully the Cavs have things under control:

“We don’t want to create a police state,” said Tad Carper, the Cavaliers’ senior vice president of communications. “We’ve always had a real energetic, super-charged home crowd and we want to encourage that for every game, including Dec. 2. We want people to enjoy themselves and express themselves, but we don’t want fans to cross the boundaries of decency. We’re not going to allow profanity and things like that. We’ll have no tolerance for anyone trying to cross those boundaries.”

We probably shouldn’t be surprised by this type of sensationalized garbage from ESPN,; after all they are the same group that brought us Rob Parker’s nonsense following the Browns-Jets game.

And the worst part is the game is still a week away.

Look, we’re Cleveland fans; we know how to handle this. We didn’t burn down Jacobs Field the first time Albert Belle came back with the White Sox. There wasn’t looting and rioting in the streets the first time the Ravens came to town after moving to Baltimore. We’ve been through this before.

Unfortunately the national media won’t recognize that no matter what happens next Thursday.

What Year is This?

We tuned in to tonight’s Cavs game only to find a DirecTV logo where the HD broadcast should be. So we checked the Cavs website and found this:

CLEVELAND, OH – November 24, 2010 – SPECIAL FOX SPORTS OHIO TV UPDATE for Cavs fans watching tonight’s game in Cleveland at The Q vs. the Milwaukee Bucks and Friday’s game in Orlando vs. the Magic: While you can never get too much of a great thing like FS Ohio Cavs game broadcasts in High Definition (“HD”), we are very sorry to say that, due to some highly complex and very rare broadcast system limitations, tonight’s game against the Bucks and Friday night’s game vs. the Magic will be available ONLY in Full Screen Standard Definition (“SD” and that’s a full-screen 9×16 aspect ratio for all the techies out there). That’s the (sort of) bad news. The good news is that Cavaliers regular season games this season are broadcast in HD 78 out of 82 games! That is one of the highest totals in the NBA. That also means the only two other games broadcast in full screen standard definition will be the Cavaliers home games vs. Phoenix on January 19th and vs. Charlotte on April 5th.

Are they serious? What is this, 1955?

We blame LeBron.

Quick thoughts on a slow Tuesday

Apparently South Beach isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as LeBron James now says he’s not having any fun.

I guess that’s what happens when you’ve already lost six games this season. By comparison, last year’s Cavs team didn’t lose its sixth game until Dec. 8; two years ago it was Jan. 4.

Maybe you shouldn’t have left home then.

***

Larry Fitzgerald is learning the hard way what Browns fans already knew: that Derek Anderson is a lousy quarterback:

“I’ve tasted the caviar now, so eating out of the garbage is not where I want to be,” Fitzgerald told Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic.

***

While we are on the subject of quarterbacks, as we wrote back in training camp, the Browns are fortunate to actually have depth at the position.

In addition to the situation in Arizona with Derek Anderson and undrafted rookie Max Hall, the Dolphins were forced to start Tyler Thigpen last week, the Titans are planning to start rookie Rusty Smith this week, the 49ers have resorted to Troy Smith and, after going through Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen, Carolina turned to Brian St. Pierre last week.

So while the ankle injuries that are plaguing the Browns quarterbacks are absurd, it’s good to know the position is in capable hands.

***

Speaking of the Browns opponent for Sunday, apparently the Panthers are the greatest 1-9 team in the history of the National Football League.

Final Thoughts on the Browns-Jaguars

A day after the Browns last-minute loss to Jacksonville and it turns out we may have not seen the last of Jake Delhomme after all.

Quarterback Colt McCoy sprained his left ankle during the game against Jacksonville and, as of today, it’s not clear how long he will be out.

“I’d like to wait until Wednesday to see how it does shake out in terms of where [McCoy] is,” Coach Eric Mangini said in The Plain Dealer. “That’s really what I’d like to do. We’ll figure it out at that point.”

If McCoy can’t go, the Browns could return to opening day starter Delhomme, who is “back to 100 percent, or as close to 100 percent as anyone is,” according to Mangini.

Unless McCoy is 100 percent for Sunday’s game, there is no reason to play him. Delhomme or Seneca Wallace, who was warming up on Sunday when McCoy was injured, should take over. Quarterback is one of the few positions on the team where the Browns have actual depth and they shouldn’t be afraid to use it.

***

After wondering why defensive back Sheldon Brown didn’t try to tackle Maurice Jones-Drew on Drew’s 75-yard catch and run, it was interesting to read Brown’s rational.

“I’m trying to tackle with one hand and reach and rip the ball with the other hand, and he just runs out of it, kind of full speed,” Brown said in The Plain Dealer. “If I tackle him and just get him on the ground, uh-uh. The way I play the game is I’m trying to figure out a way to create a turnover.”

So … with the clock running down and your team leading by three points, tackling the opposing player with the ball is not a priority? OK then.

***

Like we said yesterday after the game, this Browns team is still learning how to close out games and hold on for the win.

Linebacker Scott Fujita agrees that, like anything else, learning to win is a process.

“The last couple weeks it’s just a play here and a play there, and when you don’t make those big plays at those critical moments in the game, that’s what prevents you from winning,” said Fujita in published reports. “It’s disappointing. This team has shown a lot of progress. There are a lot of things to be proud of, but it’s just that the margin of error is so small in this league, and I feel like we’ve learned that more than anybody this season.”

***

Finally, we have to comment on the hoo-haa that was clogging the Internet today about Eric Mangini and the temperature of the office furniture in Berea.

First, there was this in Bleacher Report:

  • After the fifth Browns loss this season in the fourth quarter, the question now has to be asked again: Will Eric Mangini survive to coach another season in the NFL?

Really? Why does that question need to be asked? So one bad game, where the team played without Josh Cribbs and two starters (Fujita and Eric Wright, lost on the first series of the day) and with an injured rookie quarterback, wipes out the previous three games? Seriously?

Later in the day news came out that hoople head Colin Cowherd had “inside information” that Mangini would be fired today. Well, the day came and went and Mangini is still in town.

What possible reason would the Browns have for making a move like that? Even if the team was playing poorly (they’re not), or worse, like the Bengals, in-season coaching changes don’t solve anything.

And they certainly don’t occur with teams that are making discernible progress everywhere but the win column.

And there was this Tweet from the PD’s Tony Grossi: “Browns Mangini back on hotseat after uncanny loss to jags. He looked it too after the game.”

Unbelievable.

***

We guess that, on some level, its good that the passion still surrounds Browns football and people are talking about a 3-7 team. But that passion needs to be grounded in reality and people need to not go off half-assed just because the Browns lost another close game.

After all, it’s nothing a trip from Carolina can’t fix.

Lost opportunities in Jacksonville

It was a day of misses for the Browns on Sunday, missed opportunities, missing playmakers and missed tackles as, for the second week in a row, the Browns learned the hard way that you have to play the game for the full 60 minutes to win in the NFL, dropping another close game, this time to Jacksonville, 24-20.

The Browns forced six turnovers but somehow only managed to convert those into 10 points – and only three of them on offense as the team went three-and-out on four consecutive drives following turnovers.

The Jaguars turned the ball over on five consecutive drives in the second half but, because the Browns were unable to deliver the knockout blow in the second half, the Jaguars hung around and, with a little over a minute left, disaster hit.

With the Browns holding onto a three-point lead Maurice Jones-Drew took a screen pass 75 yards to the one-yard line. Rather than, I don’t know, actually tackling Jones-Drew, defensive back Sheldon Brown tried to strip the ball which allowed Jones-Drew to break through for the big gain.

Jones-Drew eventually scored and the Browns, out of timeouts, saw a last-minute rally die when Colt McCoy fired a pass to Ben Watson, only for the ball to bounce off Watson and into the hands of a Jacksonville defender.

So just like last week, the defense played well but one mistake was enough to keep the Browns out of the win column.

This was a tough one, in some ways even tougher than the Jets loss. The Browns had every opportunity to put the Jaguars away in the second half but couldn’t get it done.

For the first time since the Pittsburgh game, McCoy looked like a rookie quarterback as he was sacked a ridiculous six times and never seemed to be able to get into a rhythm.

The offensive line had probably its worst day of the year (John St. Clair was back in the lineup – coincidence? Discuss) as they couldn’t protect McCoy and were never able to get the running game going, even though they were facing a defense that entered the game ranked 28th overall.

The Browns clearly missed Josh Cribbs as, without him on offense, Peyton Hillis is the only running back the defense has to worry about. The Jaguars were able to focus on Hillis when he was in the game and they held him to 48 yards rushing (2.3 yards per carry). McCoy was the team’s second-leading rusher as Mike Bell was only able to add his customary one carry for one yard.

If Hillis can’t get going the Browns rushing attack is non-existent and that’s becoming a major problem that’s not going to be fixed until next year. It’s not really anyone’s fault; it’s just the reality.

The defense, except for the one broken play, had a huge day: T.J Ward (2), Joe Haden and Abe Elam all had interceptions; Elam recovered a fumble and turned it into a touchdown; Chris Gocong recovered two fumbles; and the Browns recorded four sacks.

But it wasn’t enough … again … some more …

Oh, and did we mention McCoy left the stadium in a walking boot? No word if it was a hand-me-down from Jake Delhomme or Seneca Wallace, but now McCoy is hurt. And Eric Wright hurt his knee on the first series and didn’t return … and Ben Watson injured his right knee and didn’t catch a pass … and Brian Blutarski posted another zero.point.zero day.

It’s all so frustrating because it never should have come to this. No team should lose when it forces turnovers on five consecutive drives in the second half. In fact, teams that have a +5 turnover ratio in a game win 95 percent of the time. But here the Browns are with a 3-7 record after pulling that one off.

This team has now played six games decided by seven points or less and are 1-5 in those games, putting up a total of 17 fourth-quarter points. It’s frustrating, but they are still learning to close out games for the win. It will come, but we sure wish they could accelerate the process.

Maybe the team just doesn’t like playing in Florida, as they have now lost to both Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. That’s not a good sign with a game with the Dolphins in Miami looming on the schedule.

If we’re looking for a bright side in all this, the Browns once again went down fighting. They marched down the field after Jones-Drew’s late score and McCoy was firing for Watson who was on the five-yard line at the end of the game. That has to count for something, yes?

And Carolina, everyone’s favorite whipping boy is coming to town next week.

But this one is definitely going to linger for a while.

Browns vs. Jaguars – Week 11

Now that they have weathered a rough four-game stretch, the Browns head for Jacksonville, where they have a three-game winning streak against the Jaguars.

The Opposition

Jacksonville: 5-4
Offensive rank: 20th overall/27th passing/6th rushing
Defensive rank: 28th overall/29th passing/20th rushing
All-time record: Jacksonville leads 8-4, with a 5-1 mark in Cleveland. The Browns won the at home last year, 23-17.
The line: Browns +2

What to Watch For

After more than holding their own the last four games against some of the league’s top teams, the Browns finally enter the “easy” part of the schedule.

The Jaguars may be only a game out of first place in the AFC South, but two of their wins were on improbable last-second plays: last week’s Hail Mary win vs. Houston and the Week 4 win vs. Indy when Josh Scobee hit a 59-yard field goal on the final play.

The Browns should be able to move the ball on offense, as Jacksonville’s defense is weak, especially against the run. Jacksonville is giving up 115 yards a game on the ground so Peyton Hillis should be able to have a big game today.

We’re concerned about the injuries that are starting to add up for the Browns. Josh Cribbs is out this week and he takes a nice part of the playbook with him. That also means the Jaguars don’t have to worry about anyone other than Hillis running the ball.

Also right tackle Floyd Womack was limited in practice this week; if he can’t go or is reinjured we will see the return of John St. Clair, which isn’t a good thing.

On defense, linebacker Scott Fujita and defensive back Mike Adams are out. Corner back Sheldon Brown should play but he was limited in practice as well this week so the secondary could be very thin. The Browns do catch a break with Jacksonville receiver Mike Sims-Walker (32 receptions, four TDs) is reportedly out for the game.

We’re definitely looking forward to seeing what Colt McCoy can do against the 29th ranked passing defense. Today will be a good test of how much he learned after facing the Steelers, Saints, Patriots and Jets.

Finally, let’s hope the bad David Garrard – the one who threw four interceptions against San Diego and took seven sacks against Philadelphia – shows up rather than the good Garrard – four touchdowns against Dallas, three touchdowns against Denver and three against Buffalo.

The Best Browns vs. Jaguars Game I’ve Ever Seen

Wow, there’s not a lot to pick from here, but we’ll go with the 2002 game the Browns won on a 50-yard Hail Mary from Tim Couch to Quincy Morgan, of all people, to win 21-20 on the final play of the game. The Plain Dealer‘s game story is available here.

And just for fun, and since it involved Jacksonville and Quincy Morgan, here’s video of the bottlegate game.

The Prediction

The Browns came out of their recent four-game stretch 2-2 and playing really solid football. They were a few plays away from going 3-1 against a quartet of teams that, in the preseason, many believed would steamroll the Browns.

There is certainly the potential for an emotional letdown today as they travel to Jacksonville, where they will play in front of a dull crowd (the game only sold out after the team got a 24-hour extension).

The Browns injuries are also a concern as they are hitting at areas where the team doesn’t have a lot of depth.

Having said that, the Browns have been playing well and there’s little reason to believe that trend will stop this week. McCoy has settled in at quarterback and gets more comfortable each week. He’s finding Ben Watson in the passing game and, with Cribbs out, we should see more of Evan Moore, giving McCoy another big target.

So we’re going with the Browns for the win this week on a late Phil Dawson field goal.

Record picking the Browns this year: 2-6-1

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