Rich's Rant: Whoa There...

Leave it to Rich Passan to have a different take on the Browns 9-7 win over the Oakland Raiders last Sunday. The veteran sportswriter provides one of many viewpoints available on Bernie's Insiders - our only editorial policy for our writers is "tell the truth as you see it". Rich always does....

Easy now, Browns fans. Don't feel too full of yourselves.

Of course, the Browns beat the Oakland Raiders Sunday in a game that gave a whole new meaning to the word "ugly." Big whoop.

The two teams in this one had nothing on Cinderella's stepsisters.

Fact is, neither team played well enough to win. They both stunk.

For the time being, let's strip away the veneer of that victory and look at what really happened.

Coming off that nice game against Cincinnati last week, the Browns should have waltzed into Oakland and drilled the Raiders. It looked as though Charlie Frye was beginning to get it and the offense appeared to turn a corner.

There seemed to be a swagger in spite of the loss to the Bengals. There was a feeling the offense seemed to be picking up momentum.

Instead, the Browns unveiled a lackluster performance that was mindful of the losses earlier in the season to Houston and Detroit. Don't let the scoreboard fool you. The Browns took a major step backward despite the victory.

If building blocks are going to be built in the club's quest to put out a quality product, it's best to build them on the Cincinnati loss, not the Oakland victory.

Do not overlook the fact the Browns could not score a touchdown in three tries from the one-yard line in the opening quarter with play calling as imaginative as a first-grade primer. Quarterback sneak, anyone?

Do not overlook the fact the Raiders effectively made Reuben Droughns look like anything but a 1,000-yard runner. So where was that wonderful offensive line we've heard so much about?

Do not overlook the fact that Antonio Bryant had his normal compliment of dropped passes.

Do not overlook the fact that the legend of Charlie Frye went poof (at least until Saturday against Pittsburgh) as the Raiders pounded on him mercilessly. Sure, he made a few nice throws, but his walk-on-water act will have to wait.

Nine points against a Raiders defense that has surrendered more points than all but five teams in the National Football League. Nine paltry points. The Raiders no doubt stunned themselves at holding a team to single digits.

Praise Frye all you want for his poise, ability to escape the pocket and fortitude for taking big hits while in the act of throwing, but this one was headed for a loss until an act of stupidity by Oakland defensive end Derrick Burgess late in the game changed directions.

Burgess bailed out the Browns by grabbing a fist full of Frye's facemask while sacking him for a nine-yard loss on third-and-3 at the Oakland 43 as the Browns mounted their last drive. Scrap the sack, give Cleveland a first down and new life.

On defense, stopping the run again still seems totally beyond the Browns' grasp. Fourteen games into the season and opposing running backs still rack up sizable numbers. LaMont Jordan, who has struggled all season, was the poster boy this week.

We have become accustomed to Andra Davis and Ben Taylor making first contact with the runner three or four yards beyond the line of scrimmage and then watch as they are dragged another three of four yards.

The secondary, on the other hand, played reasonably well, especially Leigh Bodden, who has steadily become solid at right cornerback. They made Kerry Collins look like, well, Trent Dilfer.

But one has to wonder what defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was thinking in the second quarter when his defensive call put Sean Jones man-to-man on Randy Moss on what turned out to be the Raiders' only score of the day. A second-year guy with precious little experience and poor cover skills against an All-Pro wide receiver? What in the world did he expect?

The Browns had another ally, besides Burgess, in this victory: Replay. Were it not for replay and a (correct) reversal of the call on the field on an apparent Droughns fumble on the final drive, the trip back to Cleveland would have been a lot longer.

One question on that play. It was second-and-2 at the Oakland 19 with less than a minute left in regulation. Why was Frye lined up in shotgun formation? Which begs another question: What in the world was offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon thinking?

Is it too much to expect Carthon to improve his play calling? If anything, it's getting worse.

For example, the Browns had a third-and-1 at their 41on their penultimate drive of the game. Time for a Droughns run. Or at the very least a high-percentage, low-risk short pass.

Instead, Frye inexplicably dropped back and tried to hit Corey McIntyre downfield. It was picked off.

McIntyre is a fullback who hardly plays and is known more for his performance on special teams. Throwing downfield to a fullback who is a backup? At the risk of sounding repetitious, what was Carthon thinking? Or Frye, for that matter.

Even with the aforementioned strokes of good fortune, the victory did not come routinely on the final play of the game. And Browns fans have Kyle Richardson to thank for that.

Jody Littleton's snap on Phil Dawson's game winner was a grass scraper, squirting along the ground back to Richardson, the holder, who trapped it at his right foot. It was a terrible snap.

Richardson, who has taken some deserved heat for his punting this season, swiftly got the ball up and ready just as Dawson's foot swung through.

About the only bright spot of the afternoon was Alvin McKinley's block of a Sebastian Janikowski field-goal attempt with three minutes left in regulation to keep it a one-point game. Imagine that, a blocked kick as the highlight.

It was extremely disappointing to see the Browns, coming off that solid performance a week ago against Cincinnati, play so poorly on both sides of the ball. They played down to the Raiders' level, conveniently forgetting they reside on the same talent planet as Oakland.

If they play Saturday against Pittsburgh the same way they played against Cincinnati, they've got a shot. If they play the way they did in Oakland, forget it.

So don't get too cocky about this victory. Nothing good came out of it. It felt more like a loss.

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