Ahh yes, Thanksgiving. It is the season for family, generosity, and celebrating the past. The game between the Houston Texans and the Cleveland Browns provided a perfect microcosm of the holiday - and I can't help but feel all warm and fuzzy inside because of it.
For two out of division teams, the Browns are so close they should be considered relatives. The two teams have exchanged so much personnel over the last few seasons. On the Browns, Shantee Orr, Robaire Smith, and offensive line coach Steve Marshall have all come from the Texans. Houston has former Browns Kevin Bentley, Chaun Thompson, and Andre Davis all starting on their roster.
The Texans are notoriously generous - ranking dead last in turnover differential at -13. Their defense has allowed a charitable 28.7 points per game heading into Cleveland. Sage Rosenfels and the Texans desperately tried to give this game away with two costly turnovers. Despite that show of kindness, it was the hospitable Browns who outdid them in the end - turning the ball over 5 times in one game.
Celebrating the Past
Cleveland honored Browns teams of years past with an anemic offensive performance and a sickeningly soft defense. Their play today was so nostalgic of the expansion Browns team, I almost shed a tear. The Texans also did their best honoring their sub-.500 ancestors, however they fell short and won the game.
- Lawrence Vickers performed well in his return from injury. Both Jerome Harrison and Jamal Lewis benefited from Vickers' vision - which provided an offensive spark the Browns needed to help sustain drives. One of the main problems with this offensive unit is pass protection. With Brady Quinn under center, Rob Chudzinski has placed an emphasis on pre-determined reads and short 3 step drops. It is critical the offensive linemen hold their blocks for that short amount of time necessary to make the completion.
- Josh Cribbs: Captain Cribbs seems to be the only returning Pro Bowler from a year ago who actually wants to go back to Hawaii. Field position is critical for any offense, and the Browns were fortunate enough to have Cribbs back there setting the offense up. While he did not contribute much on the offensive side of the ball, Josh Cribbs played a good game and did his part when called upon.
- D'Qwell Jackson: If there is one bright spot for this football team this season, it has to be the play of D'Qwell Jackson. D'Qwell has developed into a fine young linebacker for this football team. Jackson is constantly around the ball - taking good angles of pursuit and making sound tackles when the ball comes his way. Unlike teammates Willie McGinest and Andra Davis, D'Qwell Jackson actually likes contact. It's certainly encouraging to see such a player play the linebacker position how it's supposed to be played.
- Corey Williams played well today. He was stout in run defense and played a key part in generating what little pressure the Browns created. Williams must have taken what defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said to heart about tackling, because he did not miss a tackle. Corey wrapped up and delivered on what Savage and the Browns had expected out of him since day one.
- Jamal Lewis did not play his best game of the year. Even when the offensive line created space, his choppy style of running took away from the big gains and resulted in a loss of potential yards. The uncharacteristic fumbles make me wonder if Lewis' best years are long behind him.
- Pressure is the key to football. If you can handle the pressure, you have a good chance of being a successful offense. If you can create pressure, you have a good chance of being a successful defense. Unfortunately the Browns could not do either - which resulted in a poor showing on both sides of the ball. Pressure can make a great quarterback look awfully average, and an average quarterback awfully great. In short, that was the story of this game.
- Rob Chudzinski: While I can't fault Chud for calling a horrible game, there were things that left me scratching my head. Brady Quinn has proven himself comfortable with the short passing game and making quick, short decisions over the middle. How then, is it possible Kellen Winslow's only catch of the game came from Derek Anderson in the fourth quarter? The great coordinators play to the strengths of their personnel, and Chudzinski did a poor job of doing that this afternoon.
- Braylon Edwards: Edwards appeared lost on not only the timing, but the execution of his routes. Braylon did not show good burst off the line, nor did he use his body to protect the ball on the short slants underneath. His routes were sloppy and his field awareness inconsistent. Braylon lacked focus and concentration - as apparent by the 4 dropped passes today. While his overall stats may have appeased fantasy owners, the reality of his performance left a lot to be desired.
- Offensive Production: The Cleveland Browns mustered 6 total points in a game they so desperately needed. A win here would have put the team back on track at an outside shot at the postseason. Brady Quinn may be in his second start, but there is no excuse for managing only two field goals against one of the worst defensive teams in the NFL.
The quarterback switch at the end of the third quarter sealed Romeo Crennel's fate as Browns' Head Coach. Knowing what I do about this organization, he will most likely be fired in a couple days. It's unfortunate, but someone has to take responsibility for the disappointing season which started off so promising.
Maybe change like this will be good for the team. As of now, the Cleveland Browns are a mess of a football team, and we desperately need someone to come in and clean this up.