Browns Offense Unmasked

The Browns offense has played well in spurts in the 2011 season. Today against the highly rated Tennessee Titans defense, the Browns offense took a Titanic plunge.

CLEVELAND — The feet? Happy. The decisions? Questionable. The throws? Off target. The interceptions? Returned for six points. The play calls? Poor.

The result? Another poor offensive performance by Colt McCoy and the Cleveland Browns, and this time, the likes of Kerry Collins or the Miami Dolphins defense could not bail out the Browns' offense.

A week ago, the stadium was rocking after McCoy led the Browns on a fourth-quarter game-winning drive to beat the Dolphins 17-16. That drive overshadowed and masked what were three-and-two-thirds quarters of poor offensive play.

A week later, everything was in plain view. McCoy and the Browns offense stumbled, struggled and flat-out stunk for four quarters.

The problems began at the quarterback position. McCoy once again failed to show much progress although a quick glace of his stats may say otherwise.

McCoy finished 40-for-61 passing for 350 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Browns are not going to win games with McCoy attempting more than 60 passes.

His worst attempt came with 2 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

The Browns trailed 24-6, but the offense was on the move, which was not an uncommon sight. The Browns owned time of possession (36:46-23:03). After two first-half field goals, the Browns needed a touchdown.

On first and 10 from the Titans 29-yard line, McCoy rolled right. Running back Peyton Hillis was open in the end zone, but McCoy didn't see him in time. When he did attempt the throw, it was short of his intended target (Hillis) by 10 yards.

Tennessee's Jordan Babineaxu was there to catch it and run 97 yards for the touchdown, essentially ending the game.

"The best thing to do there is throw the ball away and not throw it late down the middle," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "He knows not to do that." Herein lines the frustration of McCoy's performance. He would make some quality throws to keep the chains moving and the Browns offense on the field.

Then, he would take a sack or miss an open target or simply make a bad throw.

Yet it wasn't always McCoy's fault.

In the first half, when the game still to be had, the Browns had two play calls that were head scratchers.

With 7:38 left in the first quarter and the game scoreless, the Browns drove down to the Titans 24-yard line and faced a third and 6. A 25-yard pass to Greg Little three plays earlier put the Browns deep in Titans territory.

Yet on third down, the Browns sent Josh Cribbs in motion. He took the handoff from McCoy, then pivoted and looked to pass, but Karl Klug sacked him for a 7-yard loss. The Browns were forced to kick a field goal.

Midway through the second quarter, the Browns now trailed 14-6 and the game was slipping away.

Cleveland faced a third-and 1 at the Tennessee 41-yard line. Hillis was stopped for no gain on third down. The Browns decide to go for it on fourth down, but instead of giving it to Hillis again, who rushed for 10 yards on second down, the Browns pitched it outside to speedy Armond Smith who was tackled for no gain.

"I felt like we needed something," Shurmur said.

"I felt like that was a play we flip to him and that's one of those we got a chance to go the distance. There's a place to be aggressive and I was trying to give us a bump there. (Smith) is the fastest guy we got and I felt if we get him to the perimeter there is a chance for a big play.

Shumur is equipped with a smart offensive mind. Perhaps it is too smart for his own good. On those two aforementioned plays, the Browns seemingly over thought things in order to try to make a play. Cribbs pass on third down? Pitch the ball to

Armond Smith when one yard is needed and a 250-pound running back is on your team?

Perhaps the Browns need to employ the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

"There are a lot things we need to get better at," Shurmur said. "It starts with me."

Against the NFL's No. 1 defense, the Browns offense looked like No. 2. The bye week is next followed by 12 games to close out the 2011 season.

No one will mistake this team for a Super Bowl contender, but there are still a dozen more opportunities for progress to be on display.

Will it improve? That's the ultimate question.

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