Ryan Pontbriand has been called the best draft pick of the Butch Davis era.
Since being a shocking fifth-round pick in 2003, Pontbriand has been one of best long snappers in the league. If a kick had to be made, Pontbriand was automatic.
Just as automatic was placekicker Phil Dawson. In Sunday's home game against the Rams, Dawson made four field goals in blustery conditions. But when the game was on the line and the kick was needed most, Pontbriand and Dawson did not come through.
Pontbriand's snap hit the leg of his left guard, and a potential game-winning 22-yard field goal with just more than two minutes left was wide left.
The snap is supposed to be automatic, but in this case it wasn't. Pontbriand appeared to double-clutch the snap, and guard Alex Mack moved on the first movement of the ball. When the snap went back, Mack's leg was in the way.
"It just looked like a ball I've never snapped before," Pontbriand said.
Holder Brad Maynard managed to get the ball down, but the timing was way off on the play. When Dawson went to kick, his body was in front of the ball, and the kick sailed left.
"The guys played hard and put us in a position to finish the game for them," Wagner said, "and we let the team down."
--Quarterback Colt McCoy might have played his best game of the season in Sunday's loss to the Rams.
McCoy completed 20 of 27 passes for 218 yards, with no touchdowns but no interceptions. McCoy's rating of 97.5 reflected his effort, which even included a rarely seen deep pass to Greg Little for 52 yards.
"We had our opportunities, but in a game like this, there is just no room for a mistake," McCoy said.
The biggest problem was the Browns did not score touchdowns.
Drives that went to the 26-, 14-, 26-, 25-, 9- and 4-yard lines ended in four field goals and one miss. That's not good enough.
"It's embarrassing," receiver Josh Cribbs said. "I don't have an answer."
The last two home games the Browns have not scored a touchdown. The Browns have not scored 20 points since the second game of the season. The past four games, Cleveland has scored 12, 12, 10 and six points.
--Wide receiver Josh Cribbs had a chance to break the game open when he fielded a punt in the fourth quarter.
Cribbs is one of the best returners in the game, and almost every time the Browns have scored this season, Cribbs has helped with a return. That was his mind-set as he caught the ball.
But St. Louis linebacker David Nixon stripped the ball, the Rams recovered and then made a field goal for the game-winning points.
"No excuse," Cribbs said. "It's just embarrassing. In traffic like that, I'm supposed to wrap it with both hands. I was just being careless."
Nixon said the Rams took advantage of a problem they noticed about Cribbs on film.
"We saw that he likes to have the ball exposed, and he doesn't secure the ball very well," Nixon said.
In the end, three of the Browns' most dependable players made key mistakes: Cribbs, placekicker Phil Dawson and snapper Ryan Pontbriand.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--RB Chris Ogbonnaya had a decent game against the Rams, running for 90 yards on 19 carries. Ogbonnaya was playing the league's worst run defense, but he ran well and hard the entire game -- including gaining 32 yards on one carry. Ogbonnaya's rushing total was a career best. He also had 19 yards on two receptions.
--WR Greg Little took advantage of injuries to St. Louis' secondary to catch six passes for 84 yards. The Rams were without four players in the secondary -- two were hurt on one first-half play -- so the Browns needed to take advantage, but Little did a good job. His day included a 52-yard catch late in the first half.
--QB Seneca Wallace was used on some trick plays, lining up at receiver a couple times. On one play, Wallace -- the team's backup quarterback -- took a pitch from Josh Cribbs out of the Wildcat, then pitched to Colt McCoy, then raced down the sideline to catch a 21-yard pass from McCoy.
--RB Peyton Hillis missed another game with a strained hamstring, and he does not appear close to returning. Hillis will not play against Jacksonville, coach Pat Shurmur said Monday. Shurmur added that he hopes Hillis could return the following week in Cincinnati.
--S T.J. Ward will miss his second game with a foot injury. Coach Pat Shurmur said Ward would have another X-ray on his foot, and a determination on treatment will follow. That assessment sounded as if Ward may miss significant time.
--PK Phil Dawson missed his first field goal that wasn't blocked when the game-winner went awry. Prior to that, Dawson had been 16-for-18 with two kicks blocked. Sunday's miss was caused by a bad snap.
REPORT CARD VS. RAMS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- The Browns threw the ball well, as Colt McCoy completed a season-best 74 percent (20 of 27). Included was a deep throw to Greg Little and a trick-play throw to backup quarterback Seneca Wallace. McCoy was facing a secondary decimated by injuries, but he was able to take advantage for 218 yards. The problem: The Browns could not finish drives. They had five scoring chances but did not get in the end zone once. That ultimately cost them the game.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- Chris Ogbonnaya had by far his best game as a Brown, gaining 90 yards on 19 carries. The Rams are the league's worst run defense, which tempers the total a bit. Also, the production never led to scores. The Browns ran for 126 yards as a team but failed to score a single touchdown.
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- Another team didn't throw for a ton of yards on the Browns defense because it didn't need to. With Steven Jackson topping 100 yards, Sam Bradford threw 26 times for 155 yards. The biggest play Bradford made was a touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd. That touchdown ultimately proved to be a key to the game.
RUSH DEFENSE: D-plus -- The Browns continue to struggle against the run. Jackson ran for 128 of the Rams' 133 yards. Many of them were vital, including two runs after Phil Dawson missed a field goal with 2:10 left. Those two runs went for 6 and 5 yards and gave the Rams the ability to run out the clock. Jackson is one of the best and more underrated backs in the league, so it's not a real surprise he ran on Cleveland. But the Browns continue to struggle against the run this season, giving up 142.8 yards per game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The units that usually carry the Browns let them down when it mattered most against St. Louis. Josh Cribbs' fumble, Ryan Pontbriand's bad snap and Phil Dawson's missed kick gave the Rams a 13-12 win. It was a tough way for the special teams to end the game. Dawson had made four field goals in very difficult conditions and appeared poised to make the game-winner. However, he missed. Somehow, it seemed as if the Browns' most dependable pro deserved a better ending.
COACHING: B -- That assessment might seem odd given the result, but Pat Shurmur did a lot right for his team in this game. He finally turned to the Wildcat and let Josh Cribbs run. He ran a double-pitch and pass to the backup quarterback that gained 21 yards. He had McCoy throw deep late in the first half for 52 yards. He ran an end-around with Little. And the Browns, despite some tough losses in previous weeks, arrived ready to play. Shurmur will be second-guessed for not throwing in the end zone late in the game prior to Dawson's kick, but in the end, he trusted his most trustworthy players. It wasn't Shurmur's fault the Browns could not make a field goal to win. He deserved better.