OK, on the count of three, I want everyone to take a deep breath- 1.... 2... 3... (keep your shoes on, Steeler fans... you only need to count the number of teeth in your mouth.)
Now relax and exhale. It worked for me as I struggled with the frustration of such a close loss yesterday.
But then I looked at the game on tape and I started to see things a little differently. I would like to use a little analogy to describe my thoughts on the performance of the Browns yesterday against Seattle. So bear with me. For Steeler fans reading along, an analogy is
- Similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar.
- A comparison based on such similarity.
(Just doing my part to help the semi-toothed Neanderthals, AKA Steeler fans.)
|#88 JaJuan Dawson|
You're sitting in the chair at the eye doctor's office. They pull this large, gangly contraption down in front of your face and you are now looking at a chart through various movable lenses. The doctor asks you to tell him or her whether the chart becomes more clear or less clear as various lenses are adjusted. The different levels of blurriness where the image in the lens was just a shade away from clarity is what I saw in this game from the Browns. They were oh, so close on so many plays and they aren't far from putting away a game like this.
Let me explain.
During most of this game, the Browns' offense enjoyed success both through the air and on the ground at various times. But the Browns had drive killers.
- Mike Sellers dropped a perfect pass that would have given the Browns a first and goal. Rather, the Browns ended up settling for a FG attempt.
- Kevin Johnson did not go up and 'make a play' on the pass thrown by Couch into the endzone. It was tailor-made for a comeback catch at the goal line.
- JaJuan Dawson let a pass go right through his hands, although it was a hard-thrown ball just a few yards from the line of scrimmage
- Ricky Dudley dropped a pass that would have given the Browns a first down and kept a drive alive.
- Quincy Morgan let rookie CB Kevin Lucas come over his back on a pass from Couch where Morgan should have extended his arms and come back towards the QB.
- Tim Couch made the wrong read and threw deeper into double coverage when he had Jamel White shorter for a certain first down.
- 4 of the 5 offensive linemen would block perfectly only to have one guy breakdown, causing a busted play. Oddly, that same offensive linemen would go the next 10 plays without making a mistake.
- On another play, Quincy Morgan didn't recognize a blitz and failed to break off his route.
These are only examples of what I am referring to. There always seemed to be one play that would have or could have kept a drive alive if not for a very correctable mistake.
I don't fault Quincy Morgan. He is a rookie and will make rookie mistakes. He showed he could overcome on two passes in particular that give me hope- One was a simple slant where he went down, caught the ball and then held on when he was hit. On the other, Couch put the ball out there and gave him a chance to go mano y mano with Kevin Lucas and Quincy made the play. He fought off Lucas and came down with the ball.
As I watched the game a second time on tape, the play of the offensive line really struck me. They did a nice job, in general, of protecting Couch and of giving the backs some room to run. Where they struggled is precisely where any offensive line with very little time together would struggle- picking up stunts and blitzes. There were occasional breakdowns as well, although I thought Ross Verba played a tremendous game at LG. It is entirely understandable that this team, like any offensive line, needs to play together so they can trust each other and know what's expected from the players next to them on those occasions a team blitzes or stunts. From the 5 offensive linemen on the field yesterday, there is not even a hint of comparison to what went on last season. There was even a push forward on short-yardage plays.
I think Terry Robiskie is too talented a coach to allow the dropped passes we saw yesterday to continue. I am certain that is one thing the Browns will work on at practice this week- instilling in these players the importance of making each and every play when the ball comes to them. And to not just catch the passes that are perfect, but to become a playmaker on passes that require it. To reach out and catch a pass with the hands to prevent the CB from deflecting it from behind. To out-jump the CB and come down with that crucial TD pass or first down pass.
I think Tim Couch has obviously played better football, both as a pro and while at Kentucky. I saw a few mis-reads and plays where he was uncertain what to do.
All of these things that I'm discussing are mistakes that can and will be fixed, I believe. Better and more consistent execution is required and will come with more repetition. Consistency. The younger players now know what it's like to play a full 60 minutes in an NFL game and what is expected of them. The offensive linemen won't hesitate on a blitz or a stunt. It's obvious they can do it. Each problem that I've pointed out was both evident and corrected at different points of the game.
So to everyone who was as distraught as I was immediately following that game yesterday, I'll reiterate my request that you take a deep breath and count to 3... 1.. 2... 3 (don't forget to exhale).
Keep in mind the number of new starters on this team and remember that the offense being behind the defense, particularly under a new system with many new personnel isn't all that surprising. Just ask Seattle. They struggled with the same problems against our defense.
The mistakes are correctable and one thing is certain- The team that took the field and competed for 60 complete minutes was a tremendous improvement over what passed for a bottom-dwelling NFL team last season.
The focus is just a little blurry right now, but Doctor Davis is adjusting the lenses and the focus will be right in short order.
- James Jackson had to be shocked when Chad Brown went over top of him for a sack. Jackson was in proper position, but Brown made a hell of an athletic, acrobatic play that you won't see more than a couple times during an entire season.
- John Randle was largely held in check and John Randle is a hell of a football player.
- KJ was blatantly hit out of bounds on the first play of the game, and though I've heard many complaints about the officiating, the luxury of watching the tape showed that many of the pass interference non-calls were actually correctly not called.
- The Browns will need to shore up the rush defense towards their right side because this is where Seattle had all of their success. I'm sure Pittsburgh and The Bus will notice as well.
- Nice rookie performance for Gerard Warren.
- Dumb forearm shiver on Corey Fuller's part, in what was otherwise a well-played game by Corey.
- KUDOS to the great effort on the part of the defense.
And one last thing...
IT'S STEELER WEEK!!!!!!!!!
To any Browns players who may be reading this, know one thing:
YOU MUST BEAT THE STEELERS.
It's a moral imperative and anything less is unacceptable.