In the first quarter, the Cleveland Browns were less than a yard away from scoring a touchdown and taking an early lead. The Browns ended the drive with a field goal.
In the fourth quarter, the Browns were less than five yards away from scoring a go-ahead touchdown. The Browns ended the drive with an interception in the end zone.
Sandwiched between those two drives was a display of incompetent offense. The result was the Browns' ninth loss in 13 games this season and 15th loss in 17 games against the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2003.
Midway through the first half, the Steelers looked defeated. Oh, they led 7-3, but with the thoughts of the players and fans were with Ben Roethlisberger, who was in the locker room with what looked to be a badly injured ankle. Charlie Batch came in the game for Pittsburgh and he looked like, well, Charlie Batch.
With 6:08 left in the first half and Roethlisberger going to get X-rays, the Browns' defense gave the Browns' offense a chance to take control of the game. The Browns took over with 4:55 left in the first half at their own 48-yard line. They went three-and-out. The Browns defense forced the Steelers to a three-and-out and Cleveland got the ball back at Pittsburgh's 43-yard line. The Browns went three-and-out.
By then it was almost halftime and a golden opportunity passed. The Browns did not take control of the game, and as Roethlisberger came back onto the field at the start of the third quarter, the Browns' chances began to dwindle.
Defensively, the Browns did their job. In that second quarter, the Steelers' starting quarterback was knocked out of the game, and the Browns forced two fumbles in a seven-play span. It was up to the offense to score points.
It continued in the second half, as a goal line stand and a Mike Adams interception gave the Browns' chance after chance to go down and take a lead.
It never happened.
This one stung a little more. Expectations were low entering Thursday night. But as the game progressed into the fourth quarter, the outcome was still in doubt.
For a majority of the games this season, the Browns' defense puts the offense in position to go out and win a game. Instead, the offense has continued to fail miserably and the Browns lose.
The offense can't deliver. Just think of the games the Browns could have won this year with a competent offense:•Bengals in week one.
•Raiders in week six.
•49ers in week eight.
•Rams in week 10.
•Bengals (again) in week 12
•Thursday night against the Steelers.
Yes, the defense has had their fair share of poor performances, but in those six aforementioned games they put the offense in position to go win the game.
So what is more embarrassing? Only scoring three points or losing to a one-legged quarterback? In this era of the offense-friendly NFL, I'm leaning toward the former rather than the latter. But it's close.