Joe's Game Review: Carolina

"What a difference a week makes", Joe Brownlee writes in this week's game review, "After a huge win that put the Browns in a great position for a playoff run, the Browns turned in the worst choke job since The Return." Joe mixes in more commentary this week as he examines the Browns debacle at home against the Panthers.

Good day, Browns fans!


What a difference a week makes. After a huge win that put the Browns in a great position for a playoff run, the Browns turned in the worst choke job since The Return. There is blame to go around, though there were a few bright spots.


I enjoy writing these reviews. I like to bask in the glow of a win and I find writing about the game therapeutic after a loss. But in this case, there is no joy in this task this week. I haven't had this feeling since 1993 when the Browns frittered away a chance to reach the playoffs late in the year. People are crunching playoff scenarios, but if the Browns can't beat a badly wounded team at home in a game that has tons of meaning for them, they have no shot. They don't deserve a shot. They blew it big time.


I'm going to break from the some of the facts and offer a little more commentary than usual as we look at the team and how they fared.




There has already been a lot of discussion this week about the play of Tim Couch. Is he a bust? The remarks by Jimmy Johnson and Terry Bradshaw have been repeated. The fact that of the three interceptions in the game, one was the result of pressure and one was a pass Andre Davis should have caught. Frankly, I don't care about any of that. I am simply tired of all of the excuses for Tim Couch. He has no supporting cast. He has some good skill players now. He has no running game. He has one now. He has had too many coaches/systems. Not true now. He has no offensive line. While still a problem, they have generally protected him well this year, though not in this game.


The fact is, this was a huge game for the Browns and Couch made one really big time throw. He just did not get the job done on a day when 14 lousy points are enough to win. He showed little leadership and made some bad decisions. Now he comes out and says he is pressing at home. This is year four for Couch, and if we toss out the injury-marred 2000 season, it's still year three. He continues to press and make the same mistakes when under pressure and he doesn't seem to be learning from them. This does not give me a lot of confidence that he will get a lot better. I was a Couch fan early on, but the end of last season made me have doubts. These doubts are becoming very serious in my mind.


I'll agree Couch did not have as bad a game as some are making it out to be. But the Browns needed Couch to step up and make some plays and he didn't. They lost the game. That's bad enough.


Running Backs


William Green had another solid game, and that was without a whole lot of run blocking going on. I really liked the way he caught the ball, with the exception of one play. He did whiff badly on a block that led to a sack, but William Green one-on-one with Julius Peppers was not smart to begin with.


Jamel White's return was uneventful except for one bad play. On a third down, White took a screen pass and one yard from getting the first down, he tried to turn back inside to make a big play. He lost ground and the Browns had to punt. Dumb. I'm a big Jamel White fan, but this was a play that hurt a lot.


James Jackson played a little and did OK.


Wide Receivers

Did some wide receivers play? This was like a 2000 game when all the catches at wide receiver, all five, were made by Kevin Johnson. While unspectacular, this might have been his best game of the year. The best plays Quincy Morgan and Andre Davis made all day were blocks on running plays. Dennis Northcutt had a huge run on a reverse, but was injured and maybe lost for the year. His absence really hurt the offense, much in the same way Jamir Miller's loss hurt the defense. Andre Davis has been hampered by injuries, but his inability to catch a less than perfect but decent pass from Couch at curch time was his low point this year. Frisman Jackson played.


Tight Ends


At least Steve Heiden caught a couple of passes. Darnell Sanders dropped one that might have been huge.


Offensive Line


Memo to Ryan Tucker: If you run your mouth, back it up. Two false starts that turned third-and-makeable into third-and-forget-it was bad enough, but to repeatedly get beat was just plain sad. Barry Stokes made a nice block downfield on a run, but other than that, he and Shaun O'Hara got shoved all over the field. The line has been so terrible on running plays, and did decently. They have been decent on passing plays, but were worse than usual. The poor line play forced Couch into "do too much" mode and it killed the team.


Defensive Line


Orpheus Roye and Knard Lang showed up. Roye had some nice plays again. Man, Courtney Brown gives a lot of effort but he just doesn't make plays. It was stunning to see him miss a tackle that would have stopped a run for loss. Gerard Warren looks fat and out of shape and is a non-factor. Rodney Peete stinks and the line gave him all day to throw. They got no pressure at all. And when a no-name back who is in essence a rookie with no experience lights you up for 122 yards, there is something wrong. Overall, this performance was bad and it hurt the defense.




Did we play a nine man defense? I know Earl Holmes played, but did Dwayne Rudd and Darren Hambrick? They had six tackles each, you say. I don't know how. Neither one of them did squat to contain running plays to the outside. Rudd can't be shown the door fast enough for my taste. And, of course, Holmes got burned for the only touchdown of the game. He was at least passable and gave effort.


Defensive Backs


Both Earl Little and Corey Fuller gave good efforts and had solid games. Both had an interception. Anthony Henry drove on one ball and got burned when he failed to make the pick. And how about Robert Griffin? We need our big name free agent leader to step up and make a tackle when we need the ball back, and he is just embarrassed. Shameful.


Special Teams


What went right? Phil Dawson had short kickoffs and missed a very makeable field goal, though wind was a factor. Dennis Northcutt fumbled at the end of a nice punt return. Andre Davis had a forgettable effort on kickoffs and returning punts after Northcutt left them game. I guess you can say that Chris Gardocki did his usual solid job and that the return of Lenoy Jones was successful with three tackles.




I've heard numerous people saying holding the Panthers to 13 points meant the defense played well. Sorry, thanks for playing. The Panthers missed two field goals, and they didn't manage to score touchdowns, but the defense did not have a great game. In fact, turnovers bailed them out against the Saints like in 2001, but there was no bailout here. The offense put them in tough situations, but the offense didn't let Dee Brown (or was that Jim Brown?) pick up 122 yards.


The offense was rotten, but where were the adjustments? The Panthers took away the run in the second half, but the Browns never adjusted back. Putting Mark Campbell and William Green on Julius Peppers over and over was foolish. And while I applaud opening up the offense, a day like Sunday with wind and cold might have been a day to throw some high percentage stuff. The Panthers didn't cover the middle and the Browns didn't take advantage. A lot of this goes back to poor coaching.


When a team is this unprepared for an important game, Butch Davis has to take the blame. You can point to very few players that had good games on Sunday, and that is a poor commentary. The sad part was, had they won, a lot of things broke in a way favorable for the Browns. At 6-6, it would take a miracle to get to the playoffs. We're looking at an 8-8 team at this point. Maybe that's for the best anyway.


The Competition


The Bengals had a chance to go up two scores on the Ravens at halftime. Instead, they blew it as usual and lost. The Maddox-less Steelers took care of business in Jacksonville.


Next Up


The Browns play for pride in Jacksonville. If Sunday was any indication, they have none.


The season is short. Bark hard!

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