Passan: A Half to Test Your Heart

The second half of the Browns loss to the Jaguars shows the challenges facing fans and team...

The Browns have lost many football games over the last few years in strange and bizarre ways. Too many ways to count.

But the one they lost Sunday to the Jacksonville Jaguars at CBS had to leave those remaining hearty Browns fans so slack-jawed, it would not be surprising that even they have given up on the season.

It's proving exceptionally difficult to be a Browns fan these days.

It's as though the Browns and their coaching staff have attached Murphy's Law to their backs. The mistakes just keep on coming. When one hole in the dike is plugged, another bursts forth.

Here we are 12 games into a 16-game season and the Browns' proclivity for implosion boggles the mind.

Dropped passes, defensive lapses, ill-timed penalties, no pass rush, special-team letdowns and coaching blunders. Name them and they seem to find the Browns.

Yes, Charlie Frye looked good in the first half against the Jaguars – although his receivers made a few plays for him on ill-advised or poor throws – after offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon took off the wraps. Made the kind of throws, for the most part, that Trent Dilfer has struggled with all season. The kind that should keep Dilfer strapped to a clipboard.

And yes, the defense shut down the Jaguars' running game in the first half and made David Garrard look like a quarterback making his first start of the season. He seemed uncertain of his reads, despite the lack of a Cleveland pass rush, and didn't receive much help from his receivers, most notably Ernest Wilford, who dropped two passes in the end zone.

It looked like a classic case of role reversal with the Browns looking like an 8-3 team and the Jaguars playing like the sad-sack 4-7 Browns.

Just about everything seemed to be in working order as the Browns took a 14-3 lead into the locker room. The Jaguars cooperated, thank you very much, by not pressuring Frye and the rookie took full advantage.

Even though Antonio Bryant gave his best Quincy Morgan imitation by dropping a pair of third-down, drive-killing passes, the game seemed under control in the opening 30 minutes.

Then something strange happened. The second half.

The Browns hauled out the silver platter, polished it until it gleamed, gift-wrapped it and then handed it to the Jaguars. No thank-you cards required.

The Browns' defense had no answers for a rejuvenated Jacksonville offense as Greg Jones bullied and battered the front seven. And Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio finally figured out the best way to slow down a rookie quarterback is to throw just about everything at him.

"In the second half, the whole idea was to put pressure on the rookie," said defensive tackle Marcus Stroud. "We showed him stuff he's probably never seen. Coach challenged us and we responded."

Consecutive three-and-outs, which included three sacks of Frye, sandwiched among three Jacksonville scoring drives and in 14 minutes, helped turn a 14-3 lead into a 20-14 deficit. Three possessions, 17 points. Ball game.

It all started with something as simple as a special-team breakdown on the second half kickoff. It resulted in just a field goal, but was a portent of things to come. And they arrived swiftly as the Browns' offense went clueless.

The defense couldn't get off the field – haven't we heard that before? – in the quarter and the bend-not-break defense bent. Then broke. Twice.

Three penalties didn't help. Bryant's illegal block blunted one drive before it got started; Leigh Bodden's 46-yard interference penalty helped immensely on the Jaguars' go-ahead touchdown journey; and Braylon Edwards' interference penalty early in the fourth quarter took the Browns out of field-goal range.

While the light went on for Del Rio, the switch remained off for Romeo Crennel and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Instead of taking a clue from Del Rio and blitzing the daylights out of the seldom-used Garrard, playing in place of the injured Byron Leftwich, they chose to sit back.

It worked in the first half, they must have reasoned, so it had to work in the second half. Ever hear of adjustments, guys? The Jaguars made them, on both sides of the ball. Where were yours?

And where was Crennel, the defensive genius that he is supposed to be, after he finally seemed to get the time management thing down late in the game? Played it perfectly after punting with a little more than two minutes left.

Got the Jags in a third-and-19 hole near midfield with 2:09 left with no timeouts and the two-minute warning looming. Get the ball back with two minutes left. There was still some hope to which to cling.

Ah, but these are the Cleveland Browns. That Murphy's Law thing. Something was bound to go wrong. What in the world could it possibly be this time?

Turned out it was a massive brain cramp by the genius and his defensive chief. Third-and-19 and they played it as though it was third-and-7. Straight four-man rush and man-to-man in the secondary. Pressure on the flanks.

What, no prevent? No three-man rush, eight-man zone spread out all over the field? Play your zones, men, and don't let anyone get loose. Man-to-man on a third-and-19? What were they thinking?

Murphy's Law.

Garrard saw the cavernous hole in the middle of the field, blinked a few times in wonderment and lumbered for 28 yards. Twenty-eight yards on a third-and-19!

After the game, Crennel was asked about that run. "He's a running quarterback," he said. "We should have known better."

Got that one right.


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