By: Will Burge
This was a game that I had pegged as the defining point of the season. Let’s hope I am wrong. The Browns let another one get away, losing 25-15 to the Ravens. Here are the ten things that jumped out at me from the loss.
1. It doesn’t seem to matter how the game unfolds, Pat Shumur is always in the middle of drama. This week it was an over aggressive play call which will be debated and argued for the next two weeks. With 3:53 seconds left in the game on 4th & 2, down 7 on their own 28 yard line, two timeouts left, the two minute warning still to come, and their defense playing well, Shurmur decided to call a pass play. The pass was thrown too high and that was essentially the ball game. To be very clear: This play did not lose the game for the Browns. What it did do, however, was take away the only opportunity the Browns had of getting back into the game. Simple and plain they should have punted to extend the game.
2. After an entire week of players saying this was their opportunity to “turn the corner” and make a statement in the AFC North, no player would call this an opportunity lost. I will do it for them. The Ravens had 9 penalties costing them 82 yards, their offense was essentially non-existent for two and a half quarters, and seemingly every call went the Browns way. If this wasn’t the moment to seize then I don’t know what was.
3. At one point early in the fourth quarter, the intensity in Cleveland Browns Stadium was at a fever pitch. The game was getting chippy, the lead was changing back and forth, and it felt as though the Browns might be renewing their rivalry with Baltimore. In the end, however, it was a same old story. The Browns could not make enough plays to seal victory while their opponent (specifically one in the division) made those plays. After the game, many of the Browns players were complaining about cheap shots, but after a loss like that it just sounds like sour grapes.
4. For the first time this season I felt like Brandon Weeden regressed. He ended up 20-37 for 176 yards and 2 interceptions. He was hesitant, unconfident, and looked as though he was fearful of repeating the interception-for-a-touchdown he threw at Baltimore earlier this season. To be fair, Weeden was on the injury report all week with a groin injury and he could be seen frequently grimacing in pain after plays. He would not use that as an excuse in his post-game press conference though. He said he was fine. Injured or not, the Browns need a better performance from their QB to win inside the division.
5. To illustrate how small the margin for error is with this team you need to look no further than 9:33 to play in the fourth quarter. The Browns scored on a beautiful throw (his best of the day) from Brandon Weeden to Josh Gordon. Unfortunately, a flag for illegal formation negated the score and the team had to settle for a field goal. Chris Ogbonnaya lined up 6 inches too close to the line of scrimmage. Six inches. That can be the difference between winning and losing.
6. The Browns took some verbal shots at the Ravens during the week. Joe Haden said they were “beatable” and Phil Taylor said that Ray Rice was “just a name.” The Ravens got the last laugh. While lined up for their final kickoff, up ten points, and the game in hand, Rice stood on the sideline screaming at any Browns’ player within earshot. Terrell Suggs told the Dawg Pound before the game that he has “made his living off the Browns.” There were also nearly a dozen fights in the final 3 minutes of the game. I said it earlier in the week; you only throw stones at Goliath if you’re ready to play David. The Browns still are not ready.
7. God bless Phil Dawson. This guy has seen so many tough losses that I can’t imagine it even hurts anymore. Phil, who was automatic as usual cashing in all five of his field goal attempts, said he doesn’t even think about his career like that. He just continues to look forward. At some point, however, he will reflect on his long and productive career in Cleveland and that will be on hell of a book.
8. Somehow, nine weeks into the season, communication has become an issue on the sidelines. There were three timeouts taken during the game because something went wrong in the chain of command. Pat Shurmur said post-game that the communication needs to be better. Trent Richardson agreed that the play calls and formations need to get in quicker. Brandon Weeden wouldn’t even comment on what the issue was.
9. Joe Haden was an All-Pro caliber, shut-down corner for all but two plays in the loss. Unfortunately, those two plays cost the Browns 8 points. Haden got shook by Torrey Smith for a touchdown with 5:13 to go in the fourth quarter. He then got lost in traffic on the two-point conversion. After the game he was visibly angry and ended his session with reporters with, “God Damn! I’m done guys.” He walked away in anger after being asked about the Smith touchdown multiple times.
10. My final point is for you, Browns fans. You should be proud of how well you support this team. Even though they have let down the fan base countless times over the last 13 years, you still show up and support with reckless abandon. If the Browns had defeated the Ravens, it would have been Mardi Gras on W. 6th street downtown. Instead, the stadium was 1/20th full when the final whistle blew. There is young talent on the roster and there is a bright future ahead with new ownership. Hopefully that future replaces these dark days sooner rather than later.
|Will Burge covers the Browns for ESPNCleveland.com and hosts 3 Deep, Monday - Friday from 7pm-9pm.|
Follow Will on Twitter @WillBurge
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