Downfield WR Blocking Shines in Loss

The truth is what it is: the Browns downfield WR blocking crushed the Ravens, so we won. Really.

Once more, still chilled and somewhat hoarse of voice, I find myself back in my home pondering the aftereffects of a dismal loss to the Baltimore Ratbirds on our home turf, this one by a score of 35-0.

What a sad, listless, affair it was. Some inspired defense, which served to hold Browns nemesis Jamal Lewis at bay during the first half, collapsed under the weight of offensive ineffectiveness and turnovers as the Ravens were given opportunity after opportunity to run Lewis at an undermanned Browns defense.

On sports radio, we'll hear a lot about the team's uninspired play late in the game over the coming days. We'll hear the call for the heads of the entire coaching staff and highest-paid players.

No one will notice the most important thing about today's game: The downfield wide receiver blocking and long-snapping was solid.

We fans just aren't knowledgeable enough to spot that stuff, since we don't live football day-in and day-out, so don't expect to hear about it on the radio.

Tim Couch, oddly, may lack the football insight to spot this as well. Today's game may have doomed the quarterback as a Brown, although he wants to stay in Cleveland.

While Couch's head is added to the list of those to be delivered on platters, let's take a closer look at one of Couch's fumbles, this one on a third down early in the fourth quarter.

The play was set up by two failed passes on first and second down.

On the two plays previous, Andre Davis and Quincy Morgan failed to bring in imperfect, but still catchable, throws from Couch. On first down, Davis failed to bring in a low throw in the middle of the field, and Morgan allowed a high toss to sail through his hands.

On both plays, Couch faced a Ravens rush, but it was somewhat tempered by the Browns frequent use of Lee Suggs to run the ball. But with two straight incompletions, third down was clearly a passing situation.

As he dropped back, Couch faced a go-for-broke Ravens rush and was clobbered by Ravens LB Terrell Suggs. Couch coughed up the football, which was recovered by the Ravens. One play later, the Browns defense gave up a 24-yard run by Jamal Lewis, the Ravens had themselves a 21-0 lead, and the Browns collapse was in progress for good.

The fumble and Couch's later interception will be remembered in tomorrow's newspaper columns. But it was those two missed catches, in my opinion, that were key in turning a possible comeback into a Ravens romp.

If either of those passes are pulled in, the Browns get a first down and Couch isn't faced with a third-and-long in his own territory.

But what if the Browns management hadn't been so concerned by Kevin Johnson's downfield blocking earlier this year? What if they hadn't been so annoyed by his tendency to talk to the media?

Johnson, in the eyes of Browns management, was too much of a one-trick pony, too one-dimensional. All he did is catch passes.

Personally, I think KJ would have made one of those catches.

The examples of the Browns out-thinking themselves can be found again and again.

Butch Davis gets so concerned about the NFL's roster limitations that he over-emphasizes versatility at nearly every position and loses patience with players who aren't multi-dimensional. Exit Qasim Mitchell, the huge lineman who didn't learn fast enough for the Browns, but is now filling in at left tackle for the Bears. Enter Craig Osika, who can block bad enough at three different positions to get cut by the 49ers.

The team's front office gets so caught up in the sudden emphasis on long-snappers in the wake of the Trey Junkin disaster (and subsequent swiping of Ryan Kuehl) that they draft a long-snapper in the fifth round. The previous year, we had drafted a guy by the name of Andra Davis in the same spot.

Carmen Policy gets so worked up by rowdy Browns fans that the Cleveland Browns Stadium gets turned into part football stadium, part product placement showcase, and part puppet theatre. Whatever it is now, the team doesn't win there, and if you can't win at home, you're generally doomed.

The Browns scouting department finds draft steals. Unfortunately, they not only try this in the later rounds, but on Day One, selecting Chaun Thompson and Chris Crocker in the second and third rounds this year. Neither helped the team much at all in 2003.

The way it looks now, the Browns were badly out-drafted by the Bengals this year. All the Bengals did was pick players that ranked high on everyone's list rather than try to shock the world with top-secret finds. Eric Steinbach, Dennis Weathersby, Kelly Washington - get used to hearing those names.

This awful season is drawing to a close with the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals fighting for the playoffs, two teams whose claim to fame is being owned by men Browns fans consider to be dolts, or worse.

Meanwhile, the Browns have the Lerner's money, Policy's hyper-spin media savvy, and the coach they craved in Butch Davis.

Perhaps the Browns are too smart. At this point, they appear too clever for their own good, or ours.

 


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