Like the plot in a bad made-for-TV movie from the ’70s, the Browns broke out their schizophrenic personalities on Sunday, losing to Cincinnati in the home opener and Pat Shurmur’s debut as head coach.
There was a lot of bad, followed by some good in the 27-17 loss.
The good: rookies Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard teamed up to knock staring quarterback Andy Dalton out of the game with a wrist injury. Hopefully that is the first of many quarterback hits from the duo this season.
The bad: Ten penalties in the first half, including one we’ve never seen before: an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Shurmur for running into an official on the sidelines.
The good: Joe Haden was all over the field, batting down five passes and frustrating Cincy wide receiver A.J. Green all game.
The bad: Green’s 41-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter when the Bengals snapped the ball while the Browns were basically still in their huddle.
“They quick snapped us,” Shurmur said in published reports. “I’ll have to watch the tape, but it’s my understanding they changed personnel, lined up and then quick snapped. There’s rules that go along with that, so we’ll see. My understanding is when the offense changes personnel, the defense is allowed to do so as well and have time to do it.”
The good: Touchdown catches by Ben Watson and Evan Moore, helping the Browns come back from an early 13-0 deficit.
The bad: Cedric Benson had 121 yards rushing – including a game-clinching 39-yard touchdown run – as the Browns still can’t defend the run, giving up 4.2 yards per rush.
The good: Josh Cribbs showed that he is still a threat in the return game. Cribbs returned three kick offs for 91 yards (with a long of 51) and six punts for 58 yards (with a long of 21).
The bad: On Cribbs’ 21-yard return in the fourth quarter, Browns receiver Greg Little blew up Cincy’s punter with a block but his momentum carried him into Cribbs, essentially bringing Cribbs down short of what was shaping up as a big return.
The good: Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron’s new 4-3, play fast, defense produced four sacks, two by D’Qwell Jackson.
The bad: After Green’s TD gave the Bengals a 20-17 lead, the Browns had three more possessions. They ran 12 plays, gained a total of 25 yards with two first downs.
The bad: The offensive line was not good. Two false start penalties on Shaun Lauvao, one on Joe Thomas, Oniel Cousins and Artis Hicks showed why they were available on the waiver wire, the Bengals were able to pressure Colt McCoy all game, just not a good game all around.
The bad: The running game was a non-entity for the Browns. Peyton Hillis had 57 yards on the ground, Montario Hardesty added 18. Not good enough.
The bad: McCoy didn’t look comfortable in the pocket, holding the ball way too long at times. Very surprised by that.
The bad: Wide receiver Brian Robiskie was in mid-season form, putting up his all-too-familiar Blutarsky stat line of 0 receptions for 0 yards. That’s the 11th time he’s pulled off the double zero in 26 career NFL games.
The bad: Punter Richmond McGee had punts of 20, 30 and 28 yards.
OK, that’s enough.
We know some people don’t want to hear it, but it was only one game. As bad as the Browns looked in the first quarter, they looked that good in the second quarter. What happened in the second half was clearly not good, but this is a young team still working to figure things out.
If they are still playing like this in Week 10, we’ll start to get worried. But whether we like it or not as fans, the team is going to continue to have growing pains this year. They are trying to rebuild this team the right way, and there are just no shortcuts along the way.
“The biggest thing is do not let this game trickle over into a whole season,” corner back Sheldon Brown said. “That would be the most frustrating thing.”
Yes it would.
(Photo by The Plain Dealer)