Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

The Kid is Alright

The Browns dropped their seventh straight game in Pittsburgh on Sunday, but began the process of gathering intel on rookie quarterback Colt McCoy.

McCoy was a respectable 23-of-33 for 281 yards and a quarterback rating of 80.5. He had a nice touchdown pass to Ben Watson and two interceptions, one that looked like it grazed the receiver’s hands and the other on a tipped ball.

More importantly, McCoy never looked overwhelmed on the field. There were no timeouts because he was confused, no delay of game penalties, no problems getting the team in the right formations. He was sacked five times and broke out of the pocket a little early on a few occasions, but there is plenty for Browns fans to by pleased with from his performance.

The only other high point the work of punter Reggie Hodges, who did his best to pin the Steelers down on the day by dropping four punts inside the 20.

On the not-so-good side was the defense, primarily the pass defense. Once again the Browns blitzed to no avail and the secondary was exploited. Eric Wright had another bad day, giving up a touchdown to Hines Ward where Wright made no attempt to tackle Ward after the catch. The secondary overall didn’t have a very good day, although Joe Haden had a nice interception and return in the first quarter.

Someone else said this a few weeks ago and I’d credit them if I remembered who, but it may be time for Rob Ryan to start playing with the defense he has, rather than the one he wants. The blitzing is not working because the secondary can’t match up when the sack doesn’t come through. It seems time for Ryan to realize this and come up with another game plan; being aggressive is great, being stubborn isn’t helping anyone.

The biggest storyline of the day, and one that should get plenty of coverage during the week, is the two illegal helmet-to-helmet hits that James Harrison delivered on Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi in the second quarter, knocking both players out of the game. Both were clearly illegal but the incompetency of the refs meant that Harrison was not penalized for either hit, although he probably should have been thrown out after the second one.

According to an article on NFL.com, in an effort to limit head injuries “the reworded rules prohibit a player from launching himself off the ground and using his helmet to strike a player in a defenseless posture in the head or neck. The old rule only applied to receivers getting hit, but now it will apply to everyone.”

How the refs decided what Harrison did was OK is beyond me. Of course, after the hit on Massaquoi the refs did throw a flag – on Browns center Alex Mack who was penalized for kicking the ball. That’s the kind of day it was for the Browns.

The loss of Cribbs put the Browns at a big disadvantage as it took the Wildcat out of the playbook and took Cribbs out of the return game, which proved costly in one of those “only in Pittsburgh” moments that happen to the Browns.

Trailing 14-3 the Browns forced a Steeler punt. On the kick the Steelers were penalized and had to rekick. Same thing on the second punt attempt. The Steelers were finally able to execute a basic punt play on their third try but Chansi Stuckey – returning punts because Cribbs was out – fumbled the kick, the Steelers recovered and a few plays later scored to make it 21-3 and seal the game.

Of course they did.

So the Browns come home after another hard-fought loss. They are now 1-5 on the season, 6-16 under Eric Mangini and the four-game winning streak to end last season is a distant, distant memory.

And now it’s on to New Orleans, who got healthy quickly against Tampa Bay on Sunday, for what should be the second and final start of McCoy’s rookie season.

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