The Browns hung in a game in which many gave them no chance to even compete, despite a lot of injuries. But once again, they let a fourth-quarter lead evaporate, and the result is an 0-3 start.
Here are some random thoughts about what I saw:
- Seneca Wallace played a solid game. He made some nice throws and used his feet. But once again, he made just enough mistakes to lose. The errant pitch play tanked an important possession and put the team in a field position hole. I have no explanation whatsoever for throwing the ball deep and out of bounds on a critical third and two. Unfortunately, this team just can't overcome mistakes like these.
- The defense played a fairly decent game. There were lapses against the run, especially at the end of the game, but overall, the defense did OK. Coverage lapses and the inability to get to the quarterback hurt. I'm not sure the strategy calls made by Rob Ryan helped a lot.
- There has been a lot of banter about whether Peyton Hillis can be an every down back. This game sure makes it look like the answer is yes! He got yards on plays that should have been negative or no gain. He ripped off two big runs of 46 and 35 yards. He struggled once the Ravens stacked the middle in the second half, but 180 all-purpose yards is a good showing against a tough defense on the road.
- Josh Cribbs had a very solid game. He caught some big passes and ran twice for 20 yards. He didn't get many chances in the return game again. Perhaps the biggest play was the one that didn't happen. Facing fourth and two, Cribbs lined up as the up man. The Ravens called time out and foiled the play.
- I've defended Eric Wright many times because I think he is a better player than many fans think. This game is probably his worst as a pro. The Ravens clearly decided to pick on him and they picked on him no matter who he was covering. Anquan Boldin is a good player, but wow, did he toast Eric Wright all game. Even when Wright stayed with him, Boldin just went over him. The Browns hung Wright out to dry with some blitzes, but still.
- The linebackers were active. Scott Fujita had his best game as a Brown. Matt Roth was active, but he made some crucial mistakes. The Browns missed Marcus Benard.
- Nice game by Ben Watson. Even though he got shoved, you've got to keep your composure. The unsportsmanlike penalty was a classic "catch the second guy" situation.
- T. J. Ward missed an interception, but he had another solid game. Joe Haden had a big pass breakup.
- The offensive line had its best game of the year. Interesting that it came with John St. Clair out and Tony Pashos in. The Browns once again lined up Eric Steinbach at tight end on the goal line and Billy Yates took his spot at guard. The rushing effort certainly speaks for itself.
- It was good to see more of Lawrence Vickers. It was also good to see a little of James Davis.
- Did the wide receivers get off the bus? I suppose I'd take away Mohammed Massaquoi if I were an opposing team, but the Browns have to figure out ways to get these guys in the game. Granted, I wasn't there and I know there were more open receivers than it appeared on TV last week. It didn't look to me like the receivers were getting open this time.
- Once again, one wildcat play? It went for 19 yards. I think the Ravens were vulnerable to the outside run, especially in the second half, and they didn't go there.
- The officiating in this game was at least balanced, but this particular crew always seems to have issues.
I'll grant that the Browns played a superior talent well on the road. However, I'm as sick of moral victories as anyone. This is now three consecutive games the Browns led in the fourth quarter and lost. Once again, there were some very questionable strategy decisions and crucial mistakes by players. I just don't get the deep throws on short third downs. This has been a consistent theme, even in the preseason.
Probably the worst play of the game was five guys jumping offside on a third down play when the Browns needed to ball back to have a chance. How does that happen? And why given the game situation?
At least the running game was given an appropriate priority in this game. It paid off. More of that would be helpful. Too bad Jerome Harrison was not available, because I think he'd have done a nice job changing things up here and there.
This game left me with some hope that the Browns can steal a game in the next several weeks. But it won't be easy. If the team is 2-7 come mid-November, I'm not sure that's enough to stave off changes. The Browns have two in a row at home. They have to play just as hard as in this game, but a bit smarter.
The Browns return home to face a Bengal team that is having its own offensive woes.
The season is short. Bark hard!