Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Seeing things we wish we could unsee

We can understand the thought process of Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur near the end of Sunday’s game with St. Louis.

The Browns were holding a first-and-goal at the 8, trailing 13-12. For the most part the team had battled all day. The Browns hadn’t found the end zone, of course, but they had mixed in some plays that brought the offense alive at times. The defense had forced two turnovers and kept the Rams out of the end zone since the 14:53 mark of the second quarter.

Rewarding the players and fans with a win would be a good start to the second half of the season. And Shurmur knew he had Phil Dawson – four-of-four on the day – in his back pocket.

Still, it seemed like a perfect time to take a shot in the end zone.

1st-and-goal from the 8: Chris Ogbonnaya over right guard for minus 1 yard.

OK, the Browns are setting the Rams up; St. Louis obviously knows about the awesomeness of Dawson.

2nd-and-goal from the 9: Alex Smith fumbles the hand off; Josh Cribbs recovers at the St. Louis 7.

Wait, what? Isn’t Smith a tight end? Why is he taking a hand off out of the backfield? Now the Browns are surely going to take a shot. Let’s see what they have coming out of a St. Louis timeout.

3rd-and-goal from the 7: Chris Ogbonnaya over right guard for 3.

Seriously? Another run to the right side? Oh well, at least the Browns have Dawson and long-snapper Ryan Pontbriand, one of the best in the business.

4th-and-goal from the 4: Pontbriand’s snap hits Alex Mack in the leg, rolls to holder Brad Maynard and Dawson shanks the 22-yard attempt.

Welcome to another Sunday of Browns football. (Pounding head on the keyboard).

“I told the team they played hard from the first snap until the last and you have to play hard, you have to be productive and you’ve got to take care of the basics'” Shurmur said after the game. “We didn’t take care of the basics at the end. You fumble, give them points and then you’re set up to get points, you don’t get points and this is the result. That’s the reality of it.

“We were in a position to score points. Our defense was playing extremely well and I wanted to make sure that we were going to get an opportunity to kick a field and go ahead, so that’s what I chose to do.”


“It’s on me,” Pontbriand said after the game in published reports. “My fault. It’s my job to get the ball back there and it didn’t get there. On those plays, I’m always upside down and never see a thing. From my point of view, everything was normal. But as soon as it came out, I knew something was wrong. It looked like a snap I had never snapped before.”

The pretty much sums up what it is like to watch the Browns year in and year out: seeing things you’ve never seen before.

“You leave with a helpless feeling. It’s tough,” quarterback Colt McCoy said in published reports. “We should have won — more than once. You kind of scratch your head and wonder, `Where is all this bad luck coming from? Why?'”

The two biggest mistakes of the day came from the most unlikely of players. The Rams go-ahead field goal was set up by Cribbs fumble on a punt return in the fourth quarter. Then there was the field goal miscue involving Dawson, Mack and Pontbriand. All four are among the team’s best players.

The Browns have now gone 123 minutes at home without scoring a touchdown and have yet to score a touchdown in the first or third quarters the entire season.

Talk about seeing things you’ve never seen before.

As usual, there were some bright spots for the Browns, but they weren’t enough to carry the team to a win:

  • Ogbonnaya ran for 90 yards and a 4.7 yard per carry average, with a long run of 32 yards, making us wonder what a healthy Peyton Hillis would have done against the Rams 32nd-ranked run defense.
  • Cribbs had a 15-yard run
  • Greg Little had a 10-yard run and caught six passes with a long of 52 yards
  • Seneca Wallace had a 21-yard reception, officially making him more productive for the Browns this year than former wide receiver Brian Robiskie.
  • Phil Taylor notched his team-high fourth sack of the year

“I thought we did a good job but we just didn’t win the game,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “My boy (Josh) Cribbs is a beast and that (fumble) doesn’t happen but once in a lifetime. Then you have Phil (Dawson), who is automatic from 55 yards, but the kick didn’t work out for us. They still won the game but stuff happened that usually doesn’t.”

If nothing else, the Browns at least now have a title for the 2011 highlight film: Stuff Happened That Usually Doesn’t: The 2011 Cleveland Browns.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

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