The Browns have had their problems throughout 2010, but they have been improved and competitive.
Until this stinker.
The Browns went to Buffalo and played a wounded Bills team and turned in a terrible game. It was very disappointing to see the other team play a more physical game, something the Browns have made their trademark.
There were few good performances in this game. So rather than some random thoughts on player performances as usual, instead, let's just cut straight to some analysis.
Much is being made of the poor performance by the Browns offense, but I think that the inability of the defense to make key stops, allowing the Bills to hold onto the ball for 36 minutes is also a huge part in this loss. The Browns got shoved off the ball by a decimated Bills offensive line, and Buffalo also exposed the lack of speed at linebacker. All game, they threw short passes to the outside and had success. The Browns got no pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick at all. And it didn't appear that they adjusted to these things, either.
Now, granted, the offense was awful. The offensive line struggled again, especially after the first quarter. Way too many fumbles. And please, stay on the ground, Peyton Hillis! Then there was the poor performance by Jake Delhomme. This game harkened back to the days when Browns fans celebrated if the team got a first down.
While the players made plenty of mistakes, I have to place this loss at the feet of the coaches. The team looked flat again, which is a concern. One of Eric Mangini's strengths is supposedly getting players to play for him. The game plans on both sides of the ball did not seem effective, and the Browns doggedly stuck to those plans when it was obvious they were not working.
On defense, the Bills used predictable play calling and the Browns could not stop it. They ran on first down all but twice and the Browns consistently let them get positive yards. The defense had no answer for Fitzpatrick scrambling. The defense made him look like John Elway. And bad tackling reared its ugly head again.
Meanwhile, on offense, the pee-wee league nature of this game plan was an embarrassment. OK, the Browns want to run it down your throat. But where was even one play action pass at the goal line? Where were they anywhere until the third quarter? And why bother to put Seneca Wallace in the game just twice to hand off the ball? When they got the ball at the Buffalo 45 with 10 seconds until halftime, why throw the ball 5 yards? Why throw two yards on third and eight? Nutty personnel decisions like keeping Vickers on the bench when you are trying to power run make no sense. It is baffling.
On Monday, Mangini said that if Colt McCoy is not healthy for the Cincinnati game, Delhomme would be the starter again. What in the world is he looking at? OK, I called for Wallace when McCoy was injured, so perhaps I am biased, but at least going to Delhomme then was debatable. Why is Mangini sticking with a quarterback who has proven he is struggling? Delhomme even looked defeated at times.
This staff needs to wake up. Yes, they won two games with Delhomme. But one was thanks to a missed field goal after Delhomme handed the opponent points with his mistakes. The other was because a Delhomme interception was dropped and Mike Adams came up with a lucky bounce. Look, if I can see some of the things the Bills were doing, you'd think guys with years of experience could see it. And assuming they see it, that they can figure out ways to adapt on the fly.
It is very clear that the offensive staff may be starting Delhomme, but they run the game like the have no confidence in him. In fact, they don't seem to have confidence in anyone but Peyton Hillis and Benjamin Watson.
Count me in the camp that says Wallace is being put in his place because of comments he made about who is playing and who isn't. Mangini learned at the feet of Belichick who did similar things when he was in Cleveland. The difference is that if it costs the team wins, I think Mike Holmgren will hold this coach accountable.
This coaching staff outthinks itself all too often. I am afraid that it is outthinking itself toward unemployment. Brian Daboll has to be in Holmgren's thoughts these days, and not because he plans to send a Christmas card. But Mangini is the one who hired him and has retained him. And count me among those who are not sold on Rob Ryan, either. I don't want to change coaches and start over again. But if things unravel, that may be where things are headed.
Eric Mangini had better consider his next decisions carefully. Not long ago, it looked like he had a lock on the job in 2011. But it only takes a few bad decisions to see all of that go down the drain.
The fate of his tenure in Cleveland is on the line in these final three games.
The Browns travel to Cincinnati for their final road game of 2010.
The season is short. Bark hard!