Good day, Browns fans!
I like to try to find the positives in these games, no matter how they turn out. Unfortunately, there aren't many to find in this game. Rarely have the Browns played so poorly, top to bottom as in this game. The fact that this follows a largely lackluster effort against the Bears raises concerns. Let's look at the various areas of the team.
While Trent Dilfer struggled in this game, I think the blame largely lies elsewhere. Rarely did Dilfer have time to thorw, and when he did, he made some good things happen as in a third-quarter sideline pass to Dennis Northcutt. That was the exception in this game, though, not the rule. The interception Dilfer threw to Ray Lewis was the fault of his arm being hit.
Reuben Droughns did a solid job, especially running up the middle, but once again, the Browns didn't run much. His best run of the day was wiped out by a holding call. William Green finally had some nice plays as the change of pace back, but he didn't see much action.
Other than a couple of nice catches by Northcutt, the wide receivers were no shows in this game. Even if they could get open, Dilfer didn't have time to get the ball to them. Antonio Bryant at least caught a few short ones. Other than the nice catches, Northcutt inexplicably failed to turn around on a deep ball where he was open. He looked back, then turned his back and ran out the play. I speculate that his misjudged the ball and thought it was going elsewhere. Once again, Frisman Jackson did not make good on limited opportunities.
The offensive line set the tone for this game throughout, and it was a dud. Besides the obvious penalties and the bad snap that led to a fumble on the first offensive play, the line didn't protect Dilfer. The only thing you can say positive here is that the line managed to open some holes up the middle when the Browns ran. Overall, the line looked to me like they didn't move around well, they missed blocks, and just gave a lackluster effort. Since the play on offense starts with the line, the line struggled all day.
Despite continued problems defending the run and allowing receiver to pick apart zone coverages, the defense managed to hold the Ravens to 16 points after being put in terrible situations by the offense and special teams in the first half. Stalwart Orpheus Roye had another solid effort. Gary Baxter had a nice interception off a deflection. I actually thought Jason Fisk played better than some of the earlier efforts, but that's hardy great praise. Beyond that, it's hard to say too many positive things about individual performances. And, at crunch time when the Browns needed a stop, the defense could not produce, just as in the Colts game.
After complimenting some of the backup defenders last week, particularly Ethan Kelley and Orlando Ruff, they got pushed around big time this week. Kenard Lang was torched by Todd Heap through much of the game. When Andra Davis and Ben Taylor made tackles, they were usually only after a gain. Even Daylon McCutcheon struggled.
It looked as if the defense was so concerned about Jamal Lewis that they let Chester Taylor consistently gain yards whenever he was in. They did manage to hold Lewis to a respectable running total, but 150 yards overall is too much.
How this defense is managing to be on the short end of the statistics yet still keep the team in the game is a minor miracle.
Dennis Northcutt had yet another big punt return killed by not one, but two penalties. This has to stop. Kyle Richardson was mediocre at best. The coverage teams suffered more breakdowns, both on a punt and a kickoff.
For the first time this season, the Browns didn't look ready to play. The Browns on offense didn't run the ball despite having great success with it, and passed consistently even though it wasn't working. While the play calling has been creative, in this game "creative" was a luxury. Granted, down 16-0 there would be a tendency to throw, but there was an entire half remaining and plenty of time to run, not to mention that the Ravens haven't been great on offense.
This staff was bound to have a clunker eventually. The big question is what comes next.
The Browns have to start looking at those players who aren't cutting it. While there isn't tons of help on the bench, it is important to watch the players to begin to sort out who has a future on this team.
The Browns return home to face a Lions team that has struggled on the road. Might there be a Jeff Garcia sighting Sunday? Several former Browns return including Kevin Johnson, Earl Holmes, and Wali Rainer.
The season is short, bark hard!