Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “more of the same”

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)

What is there left to say?

We’ve pretty much run out of things to write about the Browns following Sunday’s 20-10 loss to the Ravens.

The team just doesn’t have enough talent yet to overcome four turnovers against a team headed to the playoffs.

“What killed us were the turnovers and the mistakes,” coach Eric Mangini said. “The Ravens are very difficult to beat when you play flawless football. When you turn the ball over as many times as we did, it makes it really, really difficult.”

Colt McCoy threw three interceptions, all on passes intended for Mohamed Massaquoi. It was nice to see McCoy throwing deep but he picked a bad day to have his worst game of the year.

“Turnovers killed us today and most of it is on me,” McCoy told The Plain Dealer. “I’ve got to fix that. I’ve got to take care of the ball and I’ve got to know where Ed Reed is. He read my eyes the whole game and made plays. As a quarterback, you have to go back and watch it. I’m going to play these guys for a long time.”

Even with the turnovers the Browns had chances in the game, but questionable play calling at the end of the first half and some bad luck at the start of the second half derailed them.

Trailing 13-7 the Browns had a first down at the Baltimore 13-yard line and holding two timeouts. But the coaches decided to play it safe, at one point letting 45 seconds run off the clock between plays, and eventually settled for a field goal. The Browns were hoping to score but not leave any time on the clock for the Ravens.

“Get the points that are available from our perspective and not give their offense, which is a really good offense, a chance to go down and score,” Mangini said in explaining the decision.

That seems pretty questionable. The Browns have trouble scoring points, any time they are in the red zone they should only be worrying about getting into the end zone; they can focus on the other team’s offense after they pull that off.

The Browns opened the second half by trying an onside kick, but the ball rolled out of bounds after about eight yards and the Ravens took over at the Cleveland 38-yard line. The coaches are being criticized for calling the play, but it was a good call as Joe Haden was in position to recover the kick, but unluckily the ball rolled out of bounds.

“It was a great call,” Dawson said. “When you’re playing to win, that’s the kind of call you make. The ball just didn’t bounce the way I wanted it to, that’s bad execution on my part.”

Sometimes even when you make the right call the ball just doesn’t bounce your way. It happens. Just because it didn’t work out doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good call at the right time.

After failing behind 20-10 the Browns kept fighting. McCoy had the team moving with about nine minutes left in the third quarter but the drive stalled when the Browns were called for the two penalties the Ravens accepted on the game.

First, McCoy hit Brian Robiskie with a 42-yard pass down to the Ravens’ 19-yard line, but Robiskie was called for a pass interference penalty that was dubious at best. John St. Clair followed with a holding call on the next play and suddenly the Browns faced 3rd-and-17 on their own 29.

And that was pretty much it for the game.

There were a few bright spots. Joe Haden grabbed his sixth interception, made five tackles, and recorded his first career sack and forced fumble. He also limited Anquan Boldin to two catches for 15 yards.

“My mission is every time I go out to try to lock down receivers no matter who it is or what they did to us before,” Haden said. “I just want to go out and don’t let people catch passes on me. When I’m in man-to-man coverage, don’t let them catch it. I knew he had a good game on us last game, so I came out with the whole mindset to lock him down or lock down whoever was in front of me.”

The Browns also were 7-of-11 on third down, after going 6-of-32 in their last three games.

And has happened all season, the winning team had praise for the Browns effort.

“This team over the last two years just keeps getting better and better,” said Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh. “This is a legitimate football team. How many close games have they played in? You just go down and look at the scores and you’re like, ‘oh my goodness.’ Then they dominate two of the best teams in the league — the Patriots and the Saints. We haven’t been able to do that this year against that kind of competition. This football team is really, really good. They may have their quarterback. I think they’re really well-coached on both sides of the ball and special teams. We knew what we were in for coming in.”

That has to count for something, yes?

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, 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.

Same as it ever was? Same as it ever was

The Browns finally read the rule book and realized they are allowed to play offense for a full 60 minutes – even scoring a touchdown in the second half – but despite putting up a good fight against the Ravens, the Browns lost, 24-17, to drop to 0-3 on the season, the fourth time in the past five years they have started 0-3.

It was more of the same for the Browns as too many mistakes made at the worst possible time cut short any chance they had to pull out a win. For your consideration:

  • On the Browns first drive, Seneca Wallace was called for a delay-of-game penalty on Baltimore’s 19-yard-line. A tough 3rd-and-8 became a 3rd-and-13 and the Browns settled for a field goal.
  • In the second quarter, after falling behind 7-3, the Browns had a drive going but right tackle Tony Pashos was called for holding on a Peyton Hillis run. So instead of 2nd and 6 at the Ravens’ 43 yard line, the Browns faced 1st and 20 at their own 43. Three plays later they punted.
  • In the third quarter, Ben Watson was called for unnecessary roughness on a drive into Baltimore territory. Two plays later the Browns punted.
  • After cutting Baltimore’s lead to 17-14, the Browns pinned the Ravens on their own 15 on the kickoff. But Blake Constanzo, who is only on the team for special teams play, was offside. On the re-kick, the Ravens returned to the 31 yard line, starting a drive that resulted in a touchdown.
  • Matt Roth – who we are completely tired of – was offside on the Ravens final drive, killing any chance the Browns had of making a final comeback. That was his second offside of the day.

Well, you get the picture. We thought that having a disciplinarian for a coach, rather than a “softie” like Romeo Crennel was supposed to fix the problem of excessive penalties?

Offensively, the Browns moved the ball pretty well, and you really couldn’t ask any more out of Wallace, who finished 18-of-24 with a touchdown, no turnovers and a QB rating of 103; not bad against the second-ranked pass defense.

The Browns also rushed for 173 yards, with Hillis ripping the Ravens for 144 yards on the ground and another 36 through the air. How the Browns got this guy for Brady Quinn remains one of the biggest mysteries of the year.

The defense, overall, didn’t play all that bad, although they were not able to put any pressure on Joe Flacco, who passed for 262 yards and three touchdowns – all to Anquan Boldin. Which brings us to the biggest pile of ugly from the game.

We have absolutely no idea how to describe Eric Wright’s game against the Ravens. He was burned by Boldin on all three touchdowns and seemed completely lost/overmatched/out of his league on Sunday.

Boldin had 8 catches for 142 yards. Consider that in one game Boldin had:

  • More yards than Chansi Stuckey has had in his last eight games for the Browns.
  • More yards than Brian Robiskie has had in his entire career.
  • More yards than Mohamed Massaquoi has had in his last five games for the Browns.

Somehow Massaquoi and Stuckey played an entire game without catching a single pass. For the season, Massaquoi has five total receptions for 55 yards; Stuckey has five for 41 yards.

Let’s review: in one game, Boldin had more yards than Massaquoi, Stuckey and Robiskie have combined for the season (114) and almost as many catches (10).

We’ve tried very, very hard to give these receivers the benefit of the doubt and accept that they will have growing pains. But with each passing week the evidence is slowly mounting that these guys probably just are not that good.

Excuses were made for them last year with the abysmal quarterback play, but that hasn’t been the case this year. If Josh Cribbs, Ben Watson, Peyton Hillis and everyone else can catch passes from Jake Delhomme and Wallace, why can’t these guys?

Think about it: if the Browns released Massaquoi, Robiskie and Stuckey on Monday, would any of them get picked up by another NFL team? It seems highly doubtful. Thank (insert your deity here) that Eric Mangini is no longer in charge of the draft or trades.

The Browns are back home next week against Cincinnati. We wonder what fun awaits as we near the quarter mark of the season.

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