Many expected the Browns would not even show up. Most expected them to be blown out. The Browns got a few breaks, but it wasn't enough to win the game. The play on the field to me was one of a team that was playing hard but was overmatched as opposed to the debacle 10 days ago in Pittsburgh.
As far as an analysis, the reasons the Browns lost are clear:
Inability to convert third downs on offense, especially when there was short yardage. The coaching staff knows this line cannot succeed in a must-run situation, and it showed. Unfortunately, passing for them didn't work, either.
An overmatched and injured defense could not hang with the Ravens the entire way.
If you are like me, you are trying to sift out some kind of read on the team in these remaining games. So let me give you some of my somewhat random takeaways from this game.
The Browns tried to stretch the field, and at times were successful. The receivers made some good plays along the way.
The Browns were able to move the ball against a very tough defense despite not converting a single third down (0 for 11) and having almost no running game.
The offensive line could pass block a lot of the time.
The Browns allowed Josh Cribbs to attempt a trick play. More of this, please.
Travis Wilson caught his first NFL pass, and it was a nice one, too.
Derek Anderson made some good plays. He also made some terrible throws, showing why he threw so many interceptions at the college level. But the Ravens are a tough defense and Anderson hung in well and was poised under pressure.
Inconsistency. That is the watchword for this offense.
The offensive line got eaten alive anytime there was a blitz. The only running room was when the Browns ran in passing situations.
What a vote of no confidence for the line when the Browns passed every single time on third and short.
It appeared Braylon Edwards was not running the correct routes. It will be interesting to see what comes out about that this week.
Leon Williams. His tackle on Heap on third down was tremendous. This guy is a playmaker. He has to be in the rotation going forward.
Kamerion Wimbley continues to be a disruptive force, despite missing some tackles.
There was a pass rush at times!
I thought the defense played hard despite largely being overmatched.
The defense came up with turnovers.
Willie McGinest can read the play, but he is too slow to do anything about it.
Leigh Bodden played and had an interception, but he clearly isn't 100% yet.
The Browns did decently against the run other than losing contain on one play. Still, that one play went for 52 yards and was huge in the game.
The secondary has fallen apart without Brian Russell. Yes, they are playing castoffs, but things weren't like this until Russell could not play. He has been making the on-field calls and in my opinion, was clearly the glue holding things together. The young players don't have the same mental grasp of the game.
Stick a fork in Ted Washington. Other than Nick Eason's hustle, there just isn't much good to say about the defensive line play. I'm rooting for Simon Fraser, but if he is an every down player for your team right now, you are in trouble. Alvin McKinley is serviceable, but not a starter.
Daven Holly has had a pretty decent year considering he should probably have been a special teams player at best this season, but the Ravens went after him and he got toasted.
Missed tackles again.
Dave Zastudil. He just does his job.
The coverage teams were usually there to make a play, but too often let the returner escape. With BJ Sams injured, the Browns should have done better. Most of the lapses didn't hurt thanks to penalties.
Phil Dawson missed yet another field goal. I'll probably get skewered for saying this, but it may be time to think about some meaningful competition for Phil in camp next year.
No return game, something that has been a huge factor for the Browns this season. The Baltimore special teams did a great job.
If you listen to the OBR Radio Show, you heard me say that I think Romeo Crennel should find other employment. I want to explain my rationale a bit. First, I won't argue that Crennel was dealt a tough hand on both lines and at quarterback this year. Like many, I also agree that Crennel is a good man. But, I think if a better coach becomes available, then the Browns should make a move. In other words, the firing would not be so much punitive as it would be a chance for the team to improve.
In my opinion, better players and such would not change the fact that Crennel just doesn't seem to be a good leader. He makes decisions more on dogma ("I don't play rookies", "I'm sticking with my coordinator") than based on looking at the situation at the time. More talent might help to gloss over bad decisions, but I think the root of the problem isn't eliminated unless someone is put in charge that will make better decisions. This goes for staffing decisions, personnel decisions, and game day decisions. Isn't the primary job of the head coach to make decisions? If so, it seems to me Crennel is a lost cause.
Let me qualify this by saying that the Browns should not jump from the frying pan to the fire by simply firing Crennel and hoping someone better is available. If they do not see a better alternative out there, the Browns would be better off standing pat for now and pray that things turn around with one more year. But if someone becomes available that looks like a better alternative, I say cut your losses now.
On the quarterback situation, I don't see Derek Anderson as the long-term answer for the Browns, at least not right now. But, I think Anderson's play so far has shown that the Charlie Frye experiment is over. If the Browns keep Frye in the mix, he will have to compete for the job. Anderson has flaws, but he also does a lot of positive things Frye hasn't shown in pretty much a full season of starts. I like Frye and have rooted for him to succeed, but unless he makes a quantum leap over the off season, the Browns need to move on.
It's also becoming clear that despite the problems on the offensive line, Reuben Droughns just isn't the same player as last year. He is slow and he isn't cutting back at all, something that he did with great success last year. I hope he can show more in the last couple of games, especially since it appears that Wright may be out for a while.
I know the Browns have bigger needs, but I really think they ought to bring Brian Russell back – as long as it does not break the bank. Also, whether he retires or not, Joe Andruzzi is done. The Browns will likely need an offensive line coach. Perhaps Andruzzi could fill that role.
As a fan, it is hard to watch the team many of us fought very hard to keep showing itself as one of the worst run organizations in the NFL. The Browns are a mess pretty much top to bottom. I ask myself why I went to the Hall of Fame to protest or write NFL sponsors or have phone conversations with university public relations directors because of the move of the Cleveland Browns. I normally do my best to make space for the games on Sunday. This week, I recorded the game and went to a Christmas gathering. I expect a lot of people are not going to carve time out of their Christmas Eve to go to a game when the team may or may not decide to play hard. I find myself feeling very apathetic toward this team right now.
Changes must be made. Some of that means getting better players. Players who will give their heart and soul for the Cleveland Browns. But some of the changes need to be made off the field. And those are the ones that will really set the direction for this foundering franchise.
The final home game of a disastrous season. The plucky Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit, but will anybody come to see it?
The season is short. Bark hard!