Browns-Bengals: Report Card

The grades are in... what would you give a team that blew it's playoff chances losing to a 5-9 club?

How does a team go from controlling its playoff fate to having to wait for the last game of the final day to know its fate?

When it does not beat a 5-9 team to clinch a playoff spot.

That's what happened to the Browns on Sunday. Knowing they needed a win to clinch the playoffs, the Browns played poorly in a 19-14 loss at Cincinnati.

"You can talk about it and all that, but it is what it is," coach Romeo Crennel said. "We lost a golden opportunity because we don't have control."

Derek Anderson threw four interceptions on a blustery day, but there were several gaffes.

The Browns botched an early field goal when the winds sent the snap awry, and they bypassed a field goal to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Cincinnati 19. The Bengals held, so when the Browns mounted a last-gasp drive they needed a touchdown instead of a field goal to win.

The Browns have done a lot this season, but they now know their last game means nothing in the playoff hunt. If Tennessee beats Indianapolis Sunday night, the Titans are in. If they lose, the Browns are in.

"We've lost control of our playoff possibility," Crennel said. "Now we're waiting to see what happens."

It could be a painful, difficult wait.

NOTES, QUOTES


--Derek Anderson came up small in the biggest game of his career. Anderson's four interceptions doomed the Browns -- especially two very bad throws late in the first half.

"When you turn the ball over four times you can't play very good," coach Romeo Crennel said. "Whether all of them were your fault or not."

Anderson's two picks late in the first half gave Cincinnati 13 points and put the Browns behind 19-0. That forced them to throw to catch-up, and that meant going away from Jamal Lewis.

--P Dave Zastudil said he'd never had the wind blow a snap off line in his career as a holder, but it happened Sunday.

Zastudil said winds were gusting (to 40 miles per hour) as he knelt for the snap, and the Browns tried to wait for the wind to stop. But the play-clock ran down, and they had to run the play.

"I'll take the blame for it," Zastudil said. "But it was a very, very difficult ball."

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--WR Braylon Edwards caught two touchdown passes, giving him 15 for the season and setting a Browns record.

--TE Kellen Winslow was frustrated all day by QB Derek Anderson's decisions. Winslow was open twice and Anderson threw interceptions elsewhere, but Winslow also did not come back for the ball on Anderson's fourth interception.

--RB Jamal Lewis had 21 carries on a day when conditions seemed to call out for him to carry 30 times. Kenny Watson, his counterpart in Cincinnati, ran 30 times and the Bengals won.

--CB Leigh Bodden had two interceptions to give him six for the season. Bodden always seems to rise to the challenge when he faces Chad Johnson and the Bengals.

--LB Willie McGinest knows the Browns hurt their playoff chances, but he's been around long enough to know that you shouldn't give up. "It's never over 'til it's over," he said.

REPORT CARD VS. BENGALS

PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Four interceptions. Enough said. Three of the interceptions were bad decisions or bad throws by Derek Anderson (though on one he had to get rid of the ball or be sacked). The play-calling seemed odd. On a day when winds were constant and gusting in the 40-plus mph range, the Browns relied on the pass, with Anderson throwing 48 times and Jamal Lewis running 21. This was not a day made for passing, and it showed.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Browns ran effectively, just not enough. Jamal Lewis averaged 4.4 yards on his 21 carries. But the problem was he had only 21 carries. NFL coaches seem to have a fixation on the pass when the run is working. In the wind in Cincinnati, it sure seemed to make more sense to have Lewis pound the Bengals' weak defense. For some reason, the Browns did not do that.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Carson Palmer was not the reason Cincinnati won. He threw for only 115 yards and was intercepted twice. He did get a touchdown on a short field following a Browns turnover, but Palmer had as much trouble throwing in the wind as Anderson did. The difference was the Bengals did not try to force the pass. They ran the ball.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- The Browns have struggled all season trying to stop the run, and it finally caught up to them. Kenny Watson ran 30 times for 130 yards, way too many for a back like that. The Browns' struggles against the run have been well-documented. In this game, the struggles against the run helped cost the Browns a win.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- A week earlier against Buffalo, the Browns' special teams won a game with a miracle field goal by Phil Dawson. Against Cincinnati, the Browns' inability to handle a snap cost them a chance to win the game late. There were reasons Dave Zastudil did not handle the snap -- the wind took it -- but it still wound up costing the Browns.

COACHING: D -- Losses highlight decisions. So it was against Cincinnati. The Browns went for a first down on fourth-and-1 from the 19 in the first half and did not make it. Taking the points there might have been the better option. Then the Browns had Derek Anderson throw 48 times and Jamal Lewis run 21. That's a ratio that will never work in the Browns' favor, especially when the quarterback is throwing interceptions. It was not a good day for the coaching staff.


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