December Doldrums

There is no way to sugar-coat the Browns game on Sunday. Not the way the team played. Not the manner with which the Browns were rolled by the Ravens. It was ugly and the problems starts with the quarterback.

CLEVELAND — With less than two minutes gone in the fourth quarter, Cleveland Browns Stadium had the feel of that fourth preseason game. The weather told a different story. Instead of that hot and sticky late-August air, the cold temperatures and steady rain simply added to the depressing atmosphere.

The Ravens essentially clinched this victory with 13:21 left in the first half. Ray Rice scored on a 6-yard touchdown run and the deficit already felt too much to overcome for the Browns' offense.

Talk about depressing.

Unlike previous losses this season, there wasn't late-game defensive miscommunication or a botched field goal attempt that cost the Browns a victory. The Ravens added a field goal with 17 seconds left in the first half and the depression was in full force.

Why? The Ravens defense is good, but the Browns offense was just that bad and it begins with the quarterback.

After 11 games, McCoy simply had his worst game of the season, as he finished 17 of 32 passing for 192 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Browns offense finished with only 13 first downs to Baltimore's 24. The Browns had 233 total yards while the Ravens surpassed 400.

For the season, McCoy is 247-for-425 passing for 2,524 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Regardless of the numbers, the second-year quarterback is now 0-7 against AFC North opponents with another showdown coming this Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Football may be the ultimate team sport, but in order for the Browns to succeed in this division, this conference and this league, the team's quarterback has to be more than competent. At times, McCoy has shown some competence in his short career, but he has never made big improvements upon those positive progressions.

Therein lies is the most depressing area of this 2011 season. Entering this season, the Browns didn't make any qualms that a Super Bowl berth was not the top goal. Instead, seeing progress — including from McCoy — was one of the top priorities.

Granted, McCoy had the deck stacked against him at the start of this season. Shortened offseason. New coach. New offense. Lack of talent at skill positions.

But at some point it is up to a top-tier NFL quarterback to make the players around him better. McCoy has failed to elevate the games of Evan Moore, Greg Little, Josh Cribbs and Ben Watson. McCoy's completion percentage is below 60 percent. He's thrown questionable interceptions at the wrong time. His accuracy is lacking and inconsistent. But, more than anything, in a season in which the defense has actually played better-than-average, he hasn't helped this team win consistently.

It is too bad. It is hard not to root for McCoy. He wants to lead. He wants to win. Perhaps he wants it too much. The NFL doesn't have much patience for a player lacking in overall talent but teeming with a desire to win. There has to be both.

McCoy does not appear to have both.

And that is a depressing conclusion to arrive at on a depressing day inside Cleveland Browns Stadium.


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