A lot of people are talking about "which Derek Anderson" showed up for this game. In reality, there is just the one. Against the Bengals, he got away with some bad throws. In this game, the Raiders made him pay for some of those throws. The other issue against Cincinnati was how many plays Anderson left on the field. Since so many other plays were made, that tended to get lost in the noise. In a game where you lose by two, those plays are magnified.
The miss of a wide-open Heiden in the end zone cost the Browns four points alone. And who knows how things might have played out had Anderson thrown to Joe Jurevicius instead of the stone-handed Tim Carter midway through the fourth quarter. Anderson had his moments. He did make some good plays late in the game to give the Browns a chance to win. The inconsistency is going to be maddening at times, and while better than the departed Charlie Frye, Anderson still puts the defense in holes with ill advised throws.
My biggest beef with this game was a philosophical change in the offensive approach. Against the Bengals, the Browns passed to set up the run. In this game, the Browns tried to run first. Jamal Lewis was by no means awful, but with the passing game not doing much, the defense could focus on the run. As proof of what I am saying, when the Browns went down by 9, they had to go to more of a pass first approach and they had a lot more success. Some of that has to do with getting the ball into the hands of the other playmakers on offense. Until fairly late in the game, for example, Kellen Winslow had only had a negligible impact.
There were some creative moments, such as the direct snap to Cribbs. But, for the most part, the run-run-pass approach we have seen all too often in Cleveland in recent years put the offense in a lot of third and long situations. Considering Anderson's inexperience, I think I'd rather do some throwing on the early downs to take some of the pressure off him.
Also, for anyone blaming the offensive line, despite Anderson's one sack, he was not even pressured very often. The line perhaps could have been better against the run, though Oakland has a pretty decent defensive front. This offensive line puts the Browns in a better position to make plays than any time in recent memory. My only complaint would be false starts, problems lining up, and so forth. Those things had settled down in the first two games. I know the Browns were upset about the Raiders supposedly simulating the snap count, but you have to be ready for things like that on the road.
Consider the fact that in many games last year, 24 points would have been more than the Browns would score, not to mention plenty enough to win the game. Not this season, however.
Every time you think you have a handle on just how bad this defense is, you watch another game. It just gets worse. I guess it is progress that they held a team under 30 points, but when you consider the woeful state of the Oakland offense with a gimpy Josh McNown and the statuesque Daunte Culpepper (and I ain't referring to his muscular physique), this was not much of a performance to celebrate. Said simply, this defense stinks.
I will single out a few players who showed some things. Sean Jones continues to give effort each game. Chaun Thompson came ready to play. He was the only linebacker whose name was called in a positive way on a consistent basis. Daven Holly made a few plays early on.
But beyond that, it's hard to sift through the wreckage of this performance and find much of anything constructive to say about anyone else. Kamerion Wimbley had two sacks, but beyond those plays, I wasn't even sure if he played in the game. I expect a lot more that what I saw from Antwan Peek. You have to make those plays behind the line. Leigh Bodden had a tough week against Chad Johnson in the last game, but nobody on the field this week was Chad Johnson. Brodney Pool looks like he is trying to avoid contact, but then again, so do the inside linebackers on most plays.
There aren't words for me to use to describe the play of the defensive line. Robaire Smith and Orpheus Roye were non-factors other than falling on McNown's ankle. Ted Washington is worthless. His best play of the day was when he fell on someone. Shawn Smith got some playing time this week, as did Ethan Kelley, but neither was effective. The only lineman I thought did anything of value was Simon Fraser. I had really hoped Roye would have something left in the tank, but he is always a step slow.
At least this week the Browns did not play a prevent-style defense. They went fairly straight up. But they got little pressure on two immobile quarterbacks, could not stop the run at all, and the capper was allowing 27 yards on a screen pass on third and 23. The defense over-pursues, guys abandon their responsibilities, and the linebackers in particular could not get off a block to save their lives.
Todd Grantham is a high motor guy. I like that. But this defense has too much talent to play this badly, even if the defensive line is a shambles. The linebackers won't be as effective in that situation, but you expect them to make some plays. Turn up the heat under that chair. Grantham's defense won't hold New England under 60 the way things look right now.
Josh Cribbs. Enough said. The Browns might have been blown out if he does not return that kickoff. I love the move he put on Janikowski. Phil Dawson had some decent kickoffs this week. At least they were better than last week. Of course, he missed the most important kick of the game. Forget the blocking, which was bad, but the kick looked low to me. Nat Dorsey strikes again. Scott Player at least fielded every snap. He's no Zastudil, but he did a solid job. Gotta love the single bar face mask. The coverage teams were better than a week ago, but they are still struggling some.
If this was a big test for Romeo, as I believe that it was, he failed. When Braylon Edwards is saying the players were "overconfident" and "looking past" the Raiders, I have to wonder what is going on in Berea. The Cleveland Browns, overconfident? I thought you had to win something first. Two games in a row would be a nice start. At least Crennel looked almost life-like on the sidelines, which is an improvement.
It does appear to me that the offense is on the rise. I think the game plan was flawed, but even so, the offense made did make some plays. On the defensive side, how can you even make a game plan? They can't stop the run, they can't stop the pass, and even if they blitz, they don't pressure the quarterback. Once again I say, there are big holes, but the back eight ought to be better than this.
Some of the problems are personnel. Tim Carter is a waste. Even if the Browns can't get anyone better, I'd rather take my licks with Travis Wilson. At least he has some potential to improve. The Browns simply have to see if there is anyone who can help at receiver and on the defensive line.
I know that the fact that the Browns played like crap and still could have won at the end is progress. It honestly is. But this fan base is so sick of moral victories it just doesn't matter. My sense is the owner is sick of them, too. I think that the next three weeks are critical for the direction of this season and beyond.
The hated purple menace invades Cleveland. The Browns and their staff desperately need a win.
The season is short, bark hard!