Joe's Game Review

Joe Brownlee analyzes the Browns-Bengals game. Your weekly reality check from a long-time Browns fan whose objectivity and keen observation have made him a trusted voice...

Let's get one thing straight from the get-go: I'm not one of those people who believes a win has turned around all the ills of the Cleveland Browns. In fact, I'd say this game was a confirmation of the things I and many others have been saying about the team. That's not to say there weren't some good things that happened. Let's look closer at what took place.

OFFENSE

I suppose we need to start with the quarterback position. Other than a handful of nice throws late in the second half, Derek Anderson was every bit as bad as he had been all year. While he had only one interception officially -- and it was a bad one -- the one that was called back by penalty was not only worse, it was the exact same mistake he made on his final throw in Baltimore the previous week. Anderson didn't get hit a ton, but the Bengals were able to get close enough to rattle him on several plays. His miss on fourth down was just terrible. There was pressure, but he did not even try to step away from it. I will give him credit for as good a throw as I've seen from him to Kellen Winslow to set up a first and goal situation, and a very nice out to Braylon Edwards. He also had a nice fade to Edwards for a touchdown after a first attempt had been too long. But beyond giving credit where credit is due, this was not a great performance by Anderson. Maybe this will give Anderson confidence, but it didn't do much for mine.

The offensive line was better than OK, but there were problems. Before leaving with a head injury, Kevin Shaffer had some problems on the edge. Hank Fraley also got blown up on one play that I noted. One of the measures of the line was that on the first series, the Browns were ripping off eight and nine yards per carry against eight men in the box. After that first series, the Browns did not run up the middle effectively the rest of the day. I think this line misses Ryan Tucker a lot. Kudos to Eric Steinbach for playing hurt, unlike other members of the offense I won't name. Also, Isaac Sowells played surprisingly well in place of Shaffer.

I thought other than a dropped pass by Jerome Harrison, all of the running backs were effective. I really liked the misdirection plays they used with both Harrison and Jamal Lewis on the field at the same time. Lewis looked better in this game. It appears to me he is getting better as he gets healthier. The only big issue he had was a muffed handoff near that goal line that the Browns were luckily able to recover. A similar play was a disaster in New York in the preseason, but here it actually advanced the ball. Jason Wright had a very nice run on the opening series, but he also completely missed a block that killed a play. Lawrence Vickers continues to play effectively either running the ball, catching it, or blocking.

Kellen Winslow was the missing man through much of the first half. The Browns threw to him twice early. One was a bad throw and the other was a broken up by a good defensive play. But there were plays where Winslow was open and was ignored. He finally became an important part of the offense in the second half where the Browns were more effective. I liked seeing Winslow and Steve Heiden on the field together a lot. While Heiden does not have the talent Winslow has, he is underrated. Many teams would be happy to have him at tight end.

DEFENSE

While the defense made some bonehead mistakes, it was mostly effective. I've said several times that if the defense could go from being awful last year to OK this year, the Browns would be fine. Of course, that assumed the offense would not have gone from very good to terrible.

The Browns played without Robaire Smith, and Shawn Smith eventually left with an injury. Despite that, the line did a solid job. Shaun Rogers pushed back the center on the opening possession, causing him to step on Ryan Fitzpatrick's foot and making him fall down for a loss. Corey Williams still seems uncomfortable in the 3-4, but he is getting better. He made some plays in this game. Louis Leonard also played. The biggest beef here is that both Williams and Leonard were each called for lining up in the neutral zone twice! This kind of mistake is ridiculous from a professional team. One Bengal drive might easily have gone three and out if not for this stupid mistake.

The linebackers overall continue to underachieve, but there were bright spots. Alex Hall continues to show some ability to rush the passer, unlike Kamerion Wimbley. Wimbley did have a sack and made a tackle or two. Funny how Hall and Winbley's stats were nearly identical, but I don't think it reflects their relative effectiveness. I thought D'Qwell Jackson made some nice plays again, though Andra Davis was quiet. Leon Williams was used in pass coverage, particularly against the tight end, and I thought he had his best game in quite a while.

In the secondary, Eric Wright's fantastic interception followed by a miserable fumble is the face of this season for the Browns so far. Other than that serious problem, that might have been the best game Wright has played this year. Brandon McDonald made some great plays except for a missed tackle that led to a long gain. Mike Adams had another interception and he played a good game. Brodney Pool, after a great effort against the Ravens, was quiet. I thought Nick Sorenson had a solid effort as well. He seems to be gradually improving when used on defense.

Overall, the defense allowed two long drives. One led to a field goal and the other to a touchdown. The Browns needed to get the Bengals off the field, but could not. But other than those two drives, the defense was largely effective. I liked the aggressive style, but the obvious blitzes aren't fooling anyone and need to be looked at going forward. If Fitzpatrick can point out the blitzer because it is so obvious, that's a problem. And how many times did the Browns send the house and still not get to the quarterback?

SPECIAL TEAMS

Phil Dawson's pooch punt was not a big surprise since the Bengals had a man deep. It would have been more effective if a Browns penalty did not allow the Bengals to dig out of the hole. Zastudil was OK. He did not have his best game. It's nice to see Josh Cribbs slowly returning to form. The coverage teams were better than in some of the earlier games, but there were some lapses that hurt.

COACHING

What is there to say? Romeo Crennel stubbornly stuck with Anderson through this turkey of an effort. How bad does he have to be to get pulled? Less than 25 yards passing in the first half? Pathetic! While the idea of Anderson turning a corner because of this game sounds great, I just don't buy it. I hope I'm dead wrong. I think we'll just see more of the same.

Yes, the Browns won, but if Carson Palmer had played, they'd have probably lost by at least 10. The Browns played a putrid game against a bad team playing an inexperienced backup quarterback. The Bengals turned it over five times and made numerous mistakes, yet the Browns won by just eight points. Forgive me if I'm not ready hand Randy Lerner the Lombardi Trophy just yet.

I liked the fact that Browns established the run early, but not passing at all on the first drive seemed like more of an "in your face" move toward the press and the fans for the criticism of how much the Browns have passed. They should have thrown on second and goal on that first series. It was a very Belichick-like move.

Does this roster have holes? Yes. That's certainly part of the problem. Injuries also play into problems with depth. But if you ask me where the problem lies, I simply believe these players have more talent than what we are seeing right now. That indicates to me the problem is on the sideline.

It's hard to listen to all the "look, everything is alright now because we won" talk coming out of Berea. Not only are the fans too smart to believe it, but it is causing the entire leadership of the team to lose what little credibility it has left. I shudder to think of the mood in the stadium if the Browns come out and play badly against the Giants. I have little confidence that the team will make the changes it needs to make to prevent that, and I'm not talking about non-brown pants.

Let me be clearer about something I said earlier: if it were me, Donte Stallworth would be gone after not playing in this game. Steinbach played hurt, Shaffer and Shaun Smith played with a cast. Man up and get your behind back on the field.

This organization is on its third regime since The Return. It is looking more and more like its remaining time is limited.

BOTTOM LINE

At 1-3, the season isn't sunk just yet. By the end of October, it could be, with games against the Giants, at Washington, and at Jacksonville. If the Browns hit 1-7, I predict this coach will meet the same fate Sam Rutigliano did when the Browns hit 1-7 in 1984.

NEXT UP

The bye week. It will no doubt be filled with happy propaganda about why the ship isn't sinking.


The season is short. Bark hard!



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