Tonight I had the extreme displeasure of watching the Cleveland Browns take on the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football. I thought my Browns would come out and play hard in front of the nation, but I was wrong... oh so very wrong.
We won the game, Diary. I should be happy. I should be excited. This win puts us at 4-6, which allows for another week of finger-crossing and misguided hope for delusional diehards like myself. I should be thrilled...but I'm not. The Cleveland Browns played such a poor game on both sides of the ball that I feel nothing but disappointment and frustration after watching the game.
Oh Diary, I just don't know how much more of this relationship I can take! Every week the Browns and I go through this. They're so sweet at times and yet...they always find ways to let me down. Just when I'm ready to break it off and call it quits for good, this team does just enough to keep my by their side. Mother tells me to forget about the playoffs and move on, but I just can't! I know they are a good team deep down inside, and all that's left for them to prove it.
My therapist suggests I explore any feelings of angst and depression in this diary. For the sake sanity, here it goes:
- Jerome Harrison: Harrison showed exactly what Browns fans have been clamoring about for the past few weeks. On his 72-yard touchdown run, Harrison showed the great vision and speed necessary for an NFL running back. Harrison's touchdown run on prime time television may have opened the eyes of those not already familiar with his talent. Running back tandems or committees are becoming quite popular in today's NFL. Jacobs and Ward...White and Williams... the change in dynamic between runners is quite effective, and hopefully Rob Chudzinski will recognize this in upcoming weeks.
- Turnover Differential: The cardinal rule in professional football states if you turn the ball over 4 times or more, you will lose the game. Trent Edwards' three interceptions along with Fred Jackson's fumble proved the old adage correct. Here's an astounding statistic: after this game, the Cleveland Browns rank 3rd overall with a +8 turnover differential. While the team may have its problems, if they maximize takeaways and minimize giveaways, they will eventually have success...or at least I hope so.
- Penalties and Game Management: Breaking news! Romeo Crennel challenged a play...and won! It took 10 weeks, potentially backbreaking field position, and Brady Quinn's statistical line, but Crennel finally let go of that red flag and it couldn't have come at a better time. Even better, the Browns minimized the self-inflicted wounds - only committing two penalties for 15 yards. Timeout management wasn't bad, and Romeo managed the clock well enough to take a charity win courtesy of the Buffalo Bills.
- Andra Davis: To put it simply, Andra did not have a good game. He missed several open field tackles - including one that should have saved the Browns from a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run. He took a poor angle to the ball carrier on several long rushing plays. He showed poor instincts and awareness on gap assignments in the running game. While he did display soft hands on the interception, Davis did far more to hurt this defense than help them today.
- Tackling: Football is a game of blocking and tackling. It always has and always will be. If a team struggles so mightily with one of the most basic elements of the game, they have no chance whatsoever of being successful. Just for fun, I tried counting all the missed tackles by Cleveland Browns defenders. I couldn't keep up. It wouldn't be fair to blame the coaching staff, because players were in position to make plays. I do blame Kamerion Wimbley, Andra Davis, Willie McGinest, and Corey Williams for that. Those players showed a lack of aggression engaging and shedding would-be blockers. Such a passive approach to football is reason for change. This cannot continue.
- Pass Protection Adjustments: Overall, the Browns did not necessarily do a bad job of pass protection, but it wasn't good either. I recall several times during the game where Kawika Mitchell was afforded a free lane to the quarterback. Hank Fraley and the guys up front did as good a job as they could picking up the stunts and overloads, but it could have been better.
- Jamal Lewis: I've been critical of his style of running for quite some time now, and last night's game should show you just exactly why. Lewis demonstrated exactly what not to do as a feature back. Running backs are taught to make one cut and then go. Unfortunately for us, poor Jamal thinks he's Barry Sanders out there and tip-toes around in the backfield. He takes short choppy steps in an attempt to generate forward momentum. That sort of approach may have worked 4 years ago, but Lewis is a completely different tailback now. Oh, and by the way: Jamal Lewis quit in pass protection.
- Points Off Turnovers: Trent Edwards threw three first quarter interceptions setting up the Browns on their 48, Buffalo's 49, and Buffalo's 12 yard line. How is it possible to only walk away with 6 points after all this? I guarantee an average team is up by 13 at the end of the quarter. I understand Brady Quinn is still young, but such offensive ineptitude is unacceptable.
- Special Teams Coordinator Ted Daisher: Congratulations, Ted - you stand alone as this week's goat. Why Ted, why? Why did you continuously kick to the most dangerous part of the Buffalo Bills' team? My goodness! You would think someone who has the most dynamic return man in the game would understand the value of special teams! They say the definition of stupidity is making the same mistake over and over again. If so, then Ted Daisher is truly a stupid man. Leodis McKelvin completely abused the kickoff coverage unit on the opening play for 40 yards. He did it again for another 40. After seeing this - what does Daisher do? Kick it to him again, of course! Aye...
Well Diary, there isn't much left to say. While I feel better about the win as well as Jerome Harrison, I didn't like what I saw from my football team at all. I fear this team is years away from being great. While I do still love the Browns, I honestly don't know how much longer I can wait for my ring. Afterall, I only have so many more years left! Until I see some commitment from this team to fundamentally sound football, we may need some time apart. Let's hope next week will be better!
P.S. - I miss Derek Anderson!