Good day, Browns fans!
Has this team hit bottom? Another poor performance turned into a loss to the winless Texans. Worse, for the second game in a row, negative plays handed the game to an opponent that could have been beaten. Let's examine some of the individual performances.
Let's get this out of the way first: Trent Dilfer did play better than in the previous two games. Unfortunately, that isn't saying much. Dilfer didn't throw an interception, but a fumble inside the Houston 15 early in the second half swung the momentum of the game. A lot of the same old problems showed up in this game. There were off target passes, missing open receivers, and holding on to the ball too long. When the Browns needed a play at the end, Dilfer threw off target, took a sack on a third down, then underthrew on fourth down. Had that ball had more air under it, it was a touchdown that would have won the game. Dilfer is a great human being, but his continuing mistakes and inability to consistently throw accurately over 15 yards are killing the offense. Of course, Dilfer has help.
Reuben Droughns had another nice game and ended up with 99 yards. Droughs always seems to be able to turn negative plays into positives. More than once he fought off a tackle and gained more yards. However, fighting for yards led to a costly third quarter fumble. William Green ran effectively as a change of pace runner. My biggest gripe with Green would be that he continues to have too many runs for losses or no gain. While Green did nicely overall, the set of downs on which the Browns eventually got their touchdown was not Green's best. Corey McIntyre got in the game at fullback. Terelle Smith played as well.
Antonio Bryant was a lightning rod for criticism after his critical drop against the Lions. In this game, he had four catches for nearly 100 yards, but everyone will talk about the two he did not get. One pass he caught in the end zone but was unable to get both feet in bounds. The Browns had to settle for a tying field goal. The other was on the final play, but Bryant never got a chance because the underthrown pass was tipped away. Dennis Northcutt could not hang onto a pass that was a bit too high along the sideline on the final set of downs. That was his only chance of the day. Braylon Edwards had a beautiful catch on the final drive. Josh Cribbs saw limited action at wide receiver.
The tight ends made some decent catches. Aaron Shea plucked a low pass of the top of the grass for the Browns only touchdown on a fourth down play.
The offensive line did a nice job on running plays, with the Browns rolling up over 150 yards rushing. On the other hand, Cosey Coleman's whiffed block on the final third down led to a sack and effectively ended the game for the Browns. The Browns had just one penalty – a false start on Ryan Tucker on the final series. Joe Andruzzi twisted a knee and left the game for much of the first half. Backup Mike Pucillo came in and did a solid job.
The Browns rolled up 325 yards of offense, but killed drives with fumbles and bad plays on third down. But, these are the Texans and they don't have a great defense, either. Can the Browns continue to tun theis effectively against better defenses?
Once again, the defense continues to plug away and, despite serious lapses, play well enough to allow the team to win. Once again, gaffes by the offense and special teams put the defense in bad situations all day, and once again, the defense held the opponent to field goals.
One problem I've noted in the past is the inability of defensive players to shed blockers and make plays. The defense did much better on that in this game, but then again, it is the Texans. In particular, Jason Fisk showed more in this game than any other this year. On the other hand, he didn't exactly dominate. In fact, Nick Eason had a nice near-sack. In general, the defense wasn't able to put the quarterback away when they did get there.
In this game, we saw two linebackers step up and make the kind of disruptive plays you expect to see from linebackers in a 3-4. Andra Davis had his best game of the year. He sacked Carr and it was obvious he had studied the Texans because he was able to sniff out plays despite all of the misdirection the Texans used. Chaun Thompson had a great game and for a change made plays throughout the game. Could this be a sign of things to come? We can only hope!
In the secondary, though he got burned early on an out and up move for the only Houston touchdown, Leigh Bodden followed up a solid game last week with an excellent effort in this game. He seemed to be tipping balls away from receivers all day. The Texans were obviously choosing to go after Bodden rather than McCutcheon, an understandable strategy under the circumstances, but Bodden certainly held his own. This was an encouraging performance given the loss of Gary Baxter for the remainder of the season.
I think some players are finally starting to catch on to the 3-4. But, again, I'll believe more of what I thought I saw when the Browns take on a better opponent.
What a disaster! Let's start with Kyle "Shankman" Richardson. After a three-and-out to start the game, Richardson follows it up with a 19-yard punt. That was bad enough, but late in the game when the Browns needed to play field position, Richardson came up with a 10-yarder. I was never sold on Richardson; he was only available because he has not done a great job anywhere he has been. I won't even mention the one he kicked into the end zone when the situation called for a corner kick. After two bad punts in the Lions game, it is time to send Richardson looking for other employment.
Then there are the coverage teams. Despite the fact that Jerome Mathis had a huge game returning kickoffs against the Colts last week, the Browns acted like they had never seen the guy before. After consistently breaking long returns (except for one fantastic tackle by Mason Unck), the Browns chose to kick to Mathis after tying the game at 16. Sixty-three yards later, the Browns looked foolish, and the Texans were able to kick the game-winning field goal without having to move the ball much at all.
This game left me puzzled on several occasions. For example, the Browns had run effectively with Droughns on their second possession. When they get a first down in the red zone, then sit Droughns and bring in Green. Green is stuffed on the first play and is ineffective on the second. Why is Braylon Edwards not playing more? He has clearly been the best of the receivers to this point. Is Dennis Northcutt getting open or is Dilfer missing him? Where are the seam routes to the tight ends we saw earlier in the year? Are opponents taking them away?
Crennel's challenge of the Bryant ‘touchdown' has taken a lot of criticism because people felt the replay showed it was incomplete. Many said Romeo should have waited. No doubt these are the same people that were upset because Crennel had not thrown the red flag before this week. I think regardless, it was a worthwhile challenge. The Browns had three timeouts and you never know what the refs will call.
Last week, I said I would start Dilfer. The Browns did that. If they cannot beat the 0-6 Texans, I'm not sure what more Dilfer can do. While the rest of the offense has had problems, I wonder if the spark of going to Frye would not be what the offense needs. The argument goes that Frye would get blitzed silly. One thing I saw with Frye in the preseason is that he learns from his mistakes. I also think Frye's ability to make a play by running would help the offense. Those who say that players like Tim Couch were ruined by playing too early also can take solace in the fact that the Browns have more talent on offense than they did in 1999. Granted, that talent isn't playing well right now.
I think it's time for a change. The team is going nowhere as it sits right now. Frye may not be the answer, but the Browns have to see what they have in Frye at some point.
I said last week that now we would see what this coaching staff is made of. I'm not sure what we saw was all that great. Let's see what happens Sunday against the Titans.
The season is short, bark hard!