If you told me at the beginning of the season the Browns would be 1-2 at their bye week, I would have thought that was not that bad of a thing. But after seeing the first three games, and how close they came to being 3-0, I feel disappointed because for the third week in a row they were not out talented. Just like the Steelers game, the Browns lost to the Ravens 23-21 on their own efforts.
There was plenty of blame to go around. First, they self destructed in the fourth quarter on offense, defense, and special teams. The quarter started with a terrific interception by Tashaun Gibson, only to lead to a missed 50-yard field goal. I had a great view of the kick, and the wind took it almost at a 90-degree angle as it approached the goal post. On their next drive, the Browns had their biggest offensive play of the day, a 70 yard pass to Taylor Gabriel. However, on his longest pass of the day, Hoyer could not lead the receiver. Taylor Gabriel made the best of the situation, but if the throw would have been leading him he would have run into the end zone after the catch for a touchdown. This lead to a blocked field goal. There is no excuse for that happening. That’s two botched kicks in two weeks. Last week it was a botched extra point, this week a blocked field goal. Inexcusable. On the following Baltimore drive that lead to a field goal, the Browns defense had to burn two time outs and also had two penalties for having twelve guys on the field. Again, inexcusable.
On short to medium passes, especially play action and under screens, there are very few better than Brian Hoyer. However, it is the thing he can’t do, throw deep, that haunts the Browns. His passing percentage and rating are both inflated by the fact that the team doesn’t even try to throw long. This is partly because they lack a deep threat until Josh Gordon returns, but is also because of Hoyer’s limitations. I really like the kid and am rooting for him, but his imitations are obvious. They will become more obvious when Gordon does return, because he will be open downfield and the Browns won’t be able to get him the ball.
The media bragged about Hoyer’s 3-0 record as a starter coming into the season. That wasn’t really true, on the night he got hurt it was Brandon Weedon who won the Buffalo game for the Browns after Hoyer’s early exit. This year his record as a starter stands at 1-2. But some weaker opponents soon appear on the schedule, it looks like Gordon will make an appearance soon, and the running game is clicking. Brian Hoyer can still lead this team to some good things this season, but in the big picture if you want to reach the Promised Land, sooner or later you need a quarterback with an NFL arm. To be honest with you, I am not sure either of the Browns two quarterbacks has it.
Unnecessary penalties, using time outs when they shouldn’t be used, missed and botched field goals, lack of a downfield passing attack. Those are not the characteristics of a championship team. On the other hand, how the Ravens managed the game at the end of the fourth quarter was textbook. Their use of time outs, how they managed the clock, and their play calling on their last drive down the field is how quality NFL teams play at crunch time.
I wrote when the Browns lost to Pittsburgh in week one that they will sometimes play like a team that has had four coaching changes in five years. That happened again in the fourth quarter against Baltimore. That is going to keep on happening for three or four more games. But it will soon be an excuse the Browns cannot use to explain their poor play at times.
Before the game we did a little pub-crawling in the Warehouse District. But instead of heading to West 6th Street where the establishments are usually packed before and after Browns games, we took another path. Sometimes people forget about the places on West 9th. Some nice outdoor patios, good mix of bars and restaurants, and a lot less people make it a great place to hang out before and after games. The bad weather waited to make its appearance until well after the game ended, so it was another beautiful day to hang out outside before and after the game.
We made it to bye week with a 1-2 record but also with many reasons to be optimistic. After the bye the Browns travel to Nashville to play the Titans. If you are going to the game enjoy yourselves, Nashville is a very fun town. I’ll be watching the game with my friends in the Central Maryland Browns Backers after attending the Maryland/Ohio State game the day before. This is a great group of people who have been together for years; most of them dislocated Northern Ohio natives. I can’t wait; it’s going to be a great time.