Passan: Danger Signs Flare Despite Win

While Rich Passan is happy to see the Browns get in the win column, he also saw danger signs flaring amidst the coaching decisions and play in Oakland on Sunday. Get another perspective from the often-contrary and free-thinking OBR columnist...

If the Browns have any designs on competing in the National Football League, they're going to have to do a much better job then they did Sunday in Oakland.

Sure, they beat the Raiders. These days, everyone beats the Raiders.

That's no great accomplishment, unless you're the Browns and beating anybody is considered an accomplishment.

It's a victory, but why did I feel better after the Browns lost to the Baltimore Ravens the week before? Why did I get the sense that this team was approaching a corner? And not the one fraught with impending doom.

They played a much better game against the Ravens in a losing cause. They had a swagger about them, the kind of body language that foretold good things. They felt good about themselves, even in defeat.

And well they should have. They played perhaps their smartest game of the season and with any kind of a break, could have defeated the Ravens. They deserved to.

All the Browns had to do was bring that attitude, that swagger to Oakland and the rest would take care of itself. Let their natural ability take over.

To validate their Baltimore performance, they needed to arrive in Oakland and dominate arguably the worst team in the NFL. Instead, they played down to the Raiders' level.

Will the real Cleveland Browns stand up?

Was the Baltimore game an aberration? Was it a one-game thing and now, we're back to the same old, same old?

If the Browns play in Carolina this Sunday the way they played in Oakland, it's going to be a long afternoon for Romeo Crennel and the boys.

The same problems that plagued them in the first two games returned against Oakland. The run defense was pitiful, the defense had trouble getting off the field on third down, the pass rush left a lot to be desired early on, Charlie Frye made stupid mistakes and the offense turned the ball over three times.

Where is the wonderful run defense we heard so much about at the beginning of the season? Big play after big play. Rushing only three men and allowing the Raiders to nearly convert a third-and 16.

If this is wonderful, I want no part of it.

Timeout for a scale-balancer: The Browns held the Raiders to just 38 yards on the ground in the second half. Love those adjustments. Time back in.

What was defensive coordinator Todd Grantham thinking with young Raiders quarterback Andrew Walter making his first pro start? Let's give him time to throw? It took a whole half for the Browns to blitz the kid.

If it does, the coaching staff has no business feeling sanguine about this victory. Too many things went wrong. There's no way the final score should have been so close, especially with a 37-23 edge in time of possession, or the outcome in doubt well into the final quarter.

Yeah, I know, the Browns overcame a 21-3 deficit to win. But these are the Raiders, against whom no deficit is safe. These are the Raiders for crying out loud.

Too many things have to be corrected. And Crennel's assertion about going back to the drawing board is getting wearisome.

Offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon must – repeat, must – involve Kellen Winslow Jr. in the offense much more. He is the best player on offense and is being badly misused.

Winslow has to be an integral part of the offense. He is a playmaker. He needs to have the ball in his hands as often as possible. Make the opposition pay attention to him.

And his quarterback has got to learn that under no circumstances do you throw the ball late back to the middle of the field like he did in the waning stages of the game. Never. Ever. Got it?  Some day, he's going to cost his team a game or two with stupidity like that.

It is a cardinal sin. And if Carthon and Crennel aren't all over Frye because of that, something is  wrong.

Frye also has to work on his pocket presence. He has to do a much better job of sensing the pass rush. A few times against the Raiders, he impersonated the Statue of Liberty when it was apparent he was in trouble.

Time out for another scale-balancer. It's nice to see the Rueben Droughns of 2005 finally show up, but if he doesn't stop putting the ball on the ground, he might find himself watching a few games from the bench. Time back in.

If the players feel good about themselves after this victory, they are sadly mistaken. They did not play well. They just played better than the worst team in the NFL.

I know, I know. At this stage of the season, especially the way the Browns have played, any victory should be treasured, right? Enjoy it, shut up and don't complain.

To be honest, I'm getting tired of Crennel's inability to get his team ready for games. They appeared to go through the motions (except for Joshua Cribbs' two terrific kickoff returns) as the Raiders took the 21-3 lead in the first 25 minutes.

What's wrong with this team in the fist half of games? Are they given sedatives before leaving the locker room? They play sleep-inducing football

OK already. They won. Big whoop.

But the dangers signs are clearly and unmistakably there. If not heeded, the Browns could join the Raiders at the bottom of the NFL barrel.

And you fans deserve better than that. A whole lot better.

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