Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Browns a hot mess in Oakland

The Autumn wind is a Raider
Pillaging just for fun

He’ll knock you ’round and upside down

And laugh when he’s conquered and won.

The Browns learned on Sunday that the Autumn wind truly is a Raider, falling to Oakland 24-17 in a game that featured one ugly performance from the offense.

Let’s start with the good stuff.

Phil Dawson kicked a 47-yard field goal and executed a perfect onside kick. Punter Brad Maynard had a nice day.

See where this is going?

Actually, the defense had another solid effort. After giving up a touchdown on the Raiders’ opening drive (and forcing Oakland to use two timeouts in the process), the defense held the Raiders to just three points the rest of the way.

The Browns held Darren McFadden – the NFL’s leading rusher – under 100 combined yards and did their best to keep the team in the game.

After ranking 22nd and 31st the past two years, the Browns currently sit 7th in the league in defense, so they have that going for them.

Unfortunately, the offense continues to be a considerable work in progress.

After another slow start, the Browns looked like they were ready to play, finishing a seven-play, 56-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown pass from Colt McCoy to Alex Smith, making the score 7-7.

But the special teams squad gave the momentum right back to the Raiders as Jacoby Ford took the ensuing kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown. Another special teams breakdown – this time in the third quarter when Oakland scored on a 35-yard fake field goal – put the Browns into a 24-7 hole that the offense was not able to dig out of.

The Browns were supposed to use the bye week to figure out what works and clean the playbook of what doesn’t. Instead the offense staggered through the game, never getting anything going until it was too late.

This team has no identity on offense, no consistency in the play calling – it seems at times as if the coaches are using a roulette wheel to call plays in the hopes that something works – and is struggling considerably to pick up the West Coast offense.

For the second game in a row McCoy threw to many passes – 45. On one level that is understandable as the Browns were trailing 24-7. But we can’t shake the feeling that the current offensive strategy is to abandon the run at the first sign of trouble.

McCoy also struggled when the Raiders blitzed, which they did on 22 of his pass attempts. On those plays, McCoy only completed 35 percent of his passes for 56 yards (according to ESPN Stats & Information). McCoy entered Sunday averaging 3.1 yards per attempt when the defense blitzes a defensive back, the fourth-lowest average in the NFL this season.

“There were a couple times where we had pressures that should have been picked up that weren’t,” coach Pat Shurmur said on Monday. “It may have appeared Colt didn’t see it coming. He saw it coming and thought it was picked up.”

All that does is ensure that McCoy will continue to see a steady diet of blitzers in the coming weeks.

The Browns couldn’t run the ball as Peyton Hillis gained only 14 yards before hurting his hamstring (what Madden Curse?) and Montario Hardesty only added 35 yards and two more dropped passes.

Things have gotten so bad that Josh Cribbs is volunteering to play more on special teams.

“I’m very insignificant on offense, so I need to be out there heavily on all special teams,” Cribbs said after the game. “I got the ball only twice, so that’s insignificant right there. Snaps, it’s insignificant. I want to help my team win. You get the ball to your athletes. I feel like where I’m an asset on this team is special teams and I want to re-focus on what got me into this league.”

So now what?

This year was never about the final won-loss record for the Browns. Rather, it’s about developing the young talent and finding out which players fit into the offensive and defensive system.

And it’s not as if the Browns were a well-oiled offensive machine under the previous regime, finishing last year 29th in overall offense and 31st in points scored.

But we expected the offense to show us something five games into the season – be competitive, be able to sustain more than one drive a game, be consistent at something.

Instead we have an offense that does nothing well, with an injured No. 1 running back, and the hoople heads calling for the coach to be sacked already.

“We fought till the end,” McCoy said in published reports. “Eventually, we thought, we’re going to catch a break. In the huddle, after we got the onside kick, we thought we had a chance. We had a minute, that’s a long time. We got it on the 50. We just didn’t capitalize.”

Yep, that about sums it up.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

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