Rich's Rant: Passive Football

Rich Passan tees off on the Browns for their performance against Baltimore.

There is a simple explanation for the Browns' embarrassing loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

They weren't ready to play a professional football game. They weren't ready physically; they weren't ready emotionally; they weren't ready spiritually.

The players arrived in passive mode against the hated division rival. So did the coaches.

With few exceptions, the players played with no intensity, no sense of urgency or purpose, no focus, no attitude, no direction. They played football on their heels. And there was absolutely no excuse for it.

Yep, this one had defeat stamped all over it. From the bumbling first offensive play of the game to the head coach's meek white flag of surrender with four minutes to go.

Blame this loss on Romeo Crennel and his coaching staff. The Browns were not prepared.

The Ravens, on the other hand, arrived with a whole bunch of chips on their shoulders. They choked the Cleveland offense, swarming to the ball with an aggressive attitude. They made big plays when they needed to in all three phases of the game.

They didn't play a great game to win this one. They didn't have to.

The Browns were tentative, sluggish, seemingly non-caring as they went through the motions in the first half. And they got zero help from the coaching staff.

What in the world is offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon's philosophy? We were led to believe the Browns would be a run-first, pass-second team this season.

So can anyone explain why the Browns' first offensive seven plays of the game were passes? Better yet, why was the opening offensive play of the game from shotgun formation with a center who has trouble snapping the ball in that formation?

The result was almost predictable. Trent Dilfer fumbles the low snap, the Ravens recover and convert it into the only touchdown of the game when Todd Heap scored.

And where was Crennel on that play? Heap's left foot was in the end zone, but the ball was clearly not. And yet the red replay flag remained crumpled in Crennel's back pocket.

At least take a look, take a chance. Be aggressive. Don't just stand there.

That's not a second guess. I immediately thought he had a shot at getting the call reversed. Throw the damn red hanky.

It took a half for Carthon to figure out the best way to beat the Ravens' run defense is to run straight at it. Why did it take longer to figure out that the best way to avoid the Ravens' solid pass rush was to roll Dilfer out and away from that pressure?

How many rollouts did Dilfer get in last week's victory against Chicago? Nearly half his pass plays were rollouts. Against the Ravens? Two, maybe three late in the game.

Not to mention four sacks and two fumbles. The only consolation is that Dilfer is still vertical.

When is Carthon going to realize the best way of having Dilfer manage a game and cut down on his errors (the two fumbles and an interception) is to limit the number of times he throws the ball? That's what Brian Billick did when Dilfer was the quarterback in the Ravens' Super Bowl championship.

And when the Cleveland offense woke up with a nice drive to open the second half, Crennel cold-watered it by opting for a Phil Dawson field goal on fourth-and-3 from the Baltimore 7. The Browns were down 16 points and needed a touchdown and an uplift at that point (16-7 looks a lot better than 16-3). A field goal could come later.

It amounted to a victory for the Baltimore defense.

Passive, passive, passive.

And Crennel added to his docile approach when he elected to punt on fourth-and-6 at his 38 with four minutes left in the game and the score 16-3. What in the world was he thinking?

What's the worst that could happen? Turn the ball over on downs? What would have been wrong with that? At least show your men you're willing to fight to the end. Don't give up. Punting at that point sends the wrong message to your guys, especially those who play defense.

Then there are the special teams. Joshua Cribbs isn't coming even close to duplicating what he did in the exhibition season. And what's a Browns' punt return without a penalty? It's almost an upset when Dennis Northcutt returns a punt and no laundry is thrown.

Now the special teams' malady is spreading to defending the punt return. Baltimore's B.J. Sams had a pair of beauties on Kyle Richardson boots with no flags thrown. Imagine that.

What in the world is Jerry Rosburg teaching the special teams? It's OK to block your opponent in the back, hold him and get your hands in his face, but just don't get caught? Get someone in there who knows how to play by the rules.

All in all, skunks give off a better aroma than the one emanating from this loss.

It could have been avoided with better game planning and a much nastier attitude.

Yes, it was only one game. But it was a game against a hated opponent.

I could accept a loss like this against someone like Detroit or Tennessee or Miami. Not Baltimore.

This was unacceptable.

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