Newswire: Bad to Mixed to Good

Here are today's major stories in the aftermath of the Browns 26-24 loss to Oakland...

The word "thud" appears in at least three stories in the OBR's obsessively updated 24-hour newswire.

While columnists argue that it sounds somewhat like Tommy Kelly's hand on the Browns fatal blocked kick yesterday, I disagree. That was more of a "thwack". Or a "whomp". Or a "Let me stomp on your hopes".

All those heart palpitations at the end of regulation, for nothing, I guess, unless you want to count the sheer excitement value of that last-minute drive. For what it's worth, most of the writers linked today aren't giving Brownie points for that.

Here are some thoughts on the themes of the day:

The Browns Run Defense is an Unstopping Force

I doubt the Browns inability to stop Lamont Jordan and Justin Fargas came as much of a shock to anyone, and Raiders head coach Lane Kifflin wisely stuck to the run throughout the entire game. Kifflin, the ex-USC offensive coordinator, knew that Browns haven't stopped any feature running back since the pre-season, and haven't shown any significant improvement since the start of the season.

To date, the Browns have allowed at least 4.5 yards per carry to feature backs, generally allowing over five yards per rush. That's how to lose a lot of games in the NFL.

The problem is the same one identified during the off-season: the Browns have an aging defensive line that Phil Savage hasn't been able to fix yet, and the hopes that Orpheus Roye and Ted Washington would have last hurrahs in 2007 wearing orange and brown simply hasn't materialized. Washington wasn't even on the field for the team's first series, being replaced by NT Ethan Kelley.

The problem with the run defense is made worse since the Browns interior linebackers are not the type of players who often seem to be hitting opposing rushers near the line of scrimmage. A number of folks around the OBR hoped that Leon Williams might be that sort of impact ILB for the team this year, but Williams' failings in pass coverage have made it hard for him to be a constant contributor.

Based on the forums and chat rooms, fans' fingers are being pointed at DC Todd Grantham and head coach Romeo Crennel for the team's problems, but GM Phil Savage probably shouldn't get a free pass. It is Savage who aggressively cleaned house when he arrived in 2005, dealing away linemen like Michael Myers and Gerard Warren (who started yesterday for Oakland). Savage also thought highly enough to draft D'Qwell Jackson with the second pick in 2006, and Jackson hasn't made the impact on the running game that some might have hoped.

Savage himself will tell fans that not everything can be fixed at once, and the defensive line is due for free agent and draft pick attention during the 2008 off-season. This season is showing that it clearly can't wait any longer.

Tribune-Chronicle: Browns Defense Dropping the Ball
ABJ: Game leaves Crennel disgusted, players angry
Official Site: Defense struggles in loss
Bud Shaw: Losses cast shadow on Crennel's defensive reputation
Romeo: It's the Players (Ace Davis' blog)

Derek Anderson: Coach Killer

Anderson is a tantalizing quarterback. He will occasionally look brilliant, as he did against Cincinnati and during the final two drives against the Oakland Raiders. His size, arm strength and those moments are enough to convince coaches to run him out there, but his streakiness is enough to silence even a talented group of skill players like Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, and Joe Jurevicius.

Anderson's two interceptions on Sunday were on ill-advised throws, which left him holding an 18.5 quarterback rating after the first half of play. He missed a wide-open Joe Jurevicius twice, but looked Manning-esque on a throw to Braylon Edwards, where he effectively looked off the safety.

Again, this shouldn't surprise anyone. as Anderson's streakiness has at least been consistent. His five interception game against Tampa Bay is the dark mirror image of his breakout against the Bengals. His first-half play on Sunday, and his finding the zone late in the game is yet another mismatched pair from Anderson's history.

Remember, this is a player who owns the second-highest totals in PAC-10 history for both touchdowns and interceptions.

Plain Dealer: Quarterback Derek Anderson inconsistent

Josh Cribbs: Pro Bowler?

WR/KR/Everything Joshua Cribbs continues to be a major force on special teams. Instrumental in the Browns win against the Bengals the week before, Cribbs was once again stellar against the Raiders.

Most notably, of course, for his 99-yard touchdown return, Cribbs also served as the gunner on punt return units and was in position to make plays a number of times. Cribbs also took a direct snap in an unusual formation in the first half where Derek Anderson lined up to the left side as a receiver.

The Raiders best defense for Cribbs was the leg of Sebastian Janikowski, who kept Cribbs from damaging the Raiders by blasting kickoffs deep into the end zone on several occasions. Cribbs was given more latitude to return deep kicks by Romeo Crennel, which paid off as Cribbs made Cleveland's first score to bring the score to 16-7.

Chronicle-Telegram: Cribbs does it to Raiders again
Tribune-Chronicle: Cribbs Continues to Amaze
ABJ: Cribbs shows he has Pro Bowl potential



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