STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--QB Colt McCoy continues to fight and struggle, but his play thus far has not been sterling. He ranks 17th in the league in quarterback rating at 78.7, and has not been able to stretch the field for the offense. McCoy's gut and drive earned a win over Cincinnati, but aside from one final drive his last two games have been poor. If he doesn't grow the final 12 games the Browns may have to ponder a quarterback in the next draft.
--RB Peyton Hillis will continue to be the Browns feature back. That's the word from coach Pat Shurmur, who said Hillis needs to be the team's focal point at running back. Shurmur continues to insist Hillis' illness when he missed the Dolphins game was legitimate, and that he got 10 carries against Tennessee because the Browns fell behind. Hillis was in for 50-some snaps, according to Shurmur.
--RB Montario Hardesty earned increased playing time with a good game against Miami, but struggled in the passing game against Tennessee. Hardesty dropped at least three passes -- some had the count at four -- and all were the short catch and turn variety. Coach Pat Shurmur acknowledged the problem, and said Hardesty has to get back to work.
--WR Mohamed Massaquoi had a very inconsequential six catches in the loss to Tennessee. After coming through with a big catch to beat Cincinnati, Massaquoi again became the victim of the Browns propensity to throw underneath. He averaged less than eight yards per catch.
--WR Greg Little matched Mohamed Massaquoi's catch total with six last week, but when a rookie has six catches after not playing in his final college season it means a little more. Little has developed with each game, and could be the guy the Browns turn to to try to stretch the field in the final 12 games.
--TE Ben Watson caught the 25th touchdown pass of his career, a nice achievement for a tight end who has had a nice career. Watson was one of the Browns better free agent signings of the past few years.
--CB Joe Haden could miss extended time with a sprained knee. Haden had an MRI, which showed a sprain. With some players, a sprain means four-to-six weeks on the sideline. If that happens with Haden, it would be a significant loss to the secondary. He had been the Browns best player there, by far.
--C Alex Mack had an appendectomy the day after the loss to the Titans. Mack played in discomfort, but fought through and was sent to the hospital on Monday. He would seem to be 50-50 for the game following the bye week, but Mack is a tough player who has not missed a snap since he was drafted. It would not be surprising to see him on the field against the Raiders.
--TE Evan Moore lamented his lack of touches in the loss to Tennessee, but Pat Shurmur said Moore was on the field for 20 plays. Too, Moore is most effective in the red zone, and the Browns were not in the red zone much. Moore might want to concentrate on improving as a blocker and stop trying to make one-handed catches if he wants to be on the field more.
--TE Alex Smith has moved into the backup tight end spot on running downs. Smith is a much better blocker than Evan Moore, so the Browns play him instead of Moore, who is a receiver at tight end.
--KR Josh Cribbs did not make a significant contribution on special teams in the loss to the Titans, and his absence was noted. The Browns struggle offensively and need big plays from Cribbs to jumpstart their offense. When he can't give them, it turns into a long day. Don't think opposing teams don't notice, either.
--PK Phil Dawson is probably the league's most underrated kicker. This season he has become the Browns second alltime leading scorer, and Sunday he made two kicks longer than 48 yards in a crosswind that would have scared many. Dawson is as smart and dependable as they come.
REPORT CARD VS. TITANS
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Never have so many passes meant so little. Colt McCoy threw 61 times and completed 40, both franchise records. He also threw for 350 yards, an impressive number. But his yards per attempt were 5.7, a figure that would place him 28th in the league. Problem is it's a figure that is consistent with his season's production. Beginning the game, McCoy had averaged 5.71 yards per attempt, which ranked 28th in the league. That figure is indicative of the Browns' offense. There is little ability to throw the ball down the field, and little threat that it will work if the Browns try. Tennessee merely forced the short throw and made the sure tackle. It worked well, and until the Browns develop some sort of down-the-field threat the offense will struggle.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus -- The Browns ran fairly well when they ran, but they ran so infrequently and with so little consistency the offense never got going. Peyton Hillis had only 10 carries, and Montario Hardesty seven as the Browns concentrated on throwing -- to the point that they threw 41 times in the second half and ran five. That kind of unbalanced approach is both a result of falling behind and a reason they stayed behind. No team can succeed when it abandons the running game. The Browns proved it.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- The Browns failed completely on some key plays, all of which gave huge results to Tennessee. First, T.J. Ward got beat for a touchdown on the most basic of moves by a quarterback, as Matt Hasselbeck simply looked him off the coverage. Later, Usama Young took a terrible angle on an 80-yard touchdown reception. Then Dimitri Patterson got picked off a coverage and Mike Adams did little to stop another big play. In one half, Matt Hasselbeck threw for 194 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions He came within inches of a fourth touchdown in the second half when Ward was beat again. The Browns simply played a poor, poor game, and Hasselbeck took advantage.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Chris Johnson entered the game with less than 100 yards in his first three games. Against the Browns he gained 101. That said a lot about the run defense, but what said more was Johnson's 4.4-yard average. Johnson is as talented a back as there is in the league, so stopping him is a challenge. The case could be made the Browns contained Johnson, but the better case could be made that a main goal of the Titans was to get Johnson untracked and the Titans got Johnson untracked.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Phil Dawson was his usual glittering self, with field goals of 48 and 51 yards into a cross wind that hit 40 miles per hour. Dawson has refined kicking in Cleveland Browns Stadium to an art form. Brad Maynard averaged only 34.5 yards on his punts, but the conditions affected him -- and he was able to drop a couple punts inside the 10. The Browns did not get a big return from Josh Cribbs, which hurt. At this point in the Pat Shurmur era, the Browns need returns from Cribbs.
COACHING: D -- This was not Pat Shurmur's finest day, or Dick Jauron's. For whatever reason, the Browns defense allowed Matt Hasselbeck to sit back and pick them apart. There was little pass rush, and when the Browns blitzed Hasselbeck read it and found the receiver. Once Tennessee got ahead, Shurmur did nothing but throw. And throw. And throw some more. To the point that Colt McCoy finished with the absurd total of 61 throws. Shurmur was right that the game dictated the throws, but when the team is behind and the defense tees off a quarterback is at risk. Shurmur never looked to bring in backup Seneca Wallace, if only to give McCoy a break from a tough game. This was a bad day all around for the Browns. Shurmur called it a team loss, and said it included him. He was right.