Rich's Rant: It's Over, Phil

With the exception of the 2002 and 2007 seasons, this is the time of year Browns columnists start using phrases like "hand grenade" as verbs. Rich Passan doesn't disappoint...

If the Browns had any playoff ambitions for this season, they did a spectacular job of hand-grenading them Sunday during one of the most forgettable afternoons at Cleveland Browns Stadium in a long time.

And that's saying something because there have been many games of that ilk in the last 10 seasons.

If we learned nothing else from the 37-27 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, we learned this: The 2008 Cleveland Browns are not playoff worthy. They are not even close. And anyone who believes they are are either fooling themselves or will believe anything they are told.

Phil Savage and his minions can put on a happy face and bloviate all they want about how this is just the halfway point of the season and "we're still not out of it." And technically, they'd be right. Unfortunately, there remains a segment of Browns fans who will buy into that. They are the idealists. A group dwindling in number, but hearty.

If Savage believes the Browns can turn the season around in the final half, he's into self-deception. There is no concrete evidence that points in that direction. And don't even bother talking about the victory over the New York Giants. That looks more and more like an aberration.

The Ravens were ripe to be taken Sunday. They were a team with a rookie quarterback, a rookie running back, a suspect offensive line and a secondary racked with injuries.

Fans leaving CBS Sunday must have been stupefied as the Browns put on a clinic on how to blow a football game and added another notch to their games-lost-that-should-have-and-could-have-been-won belt. Collapse is much too kind a word to be used here.

The 24 unanswered points the Browns surrendered in the final 20 minutes, starring the complete and utter disintegration of the offense and defense, should send a strong message to the front office. That message? Start preparing for next year because this one is gone.

The Cleveland offense is a canvas of scatter-shot football. You never know what you're going to get on any given drive, let alone any given play. When the Browns try to stretch the field, good things usually occur. And when they choose to go horizontal, something less than good generally takes place.

This offense showed very little creativity against a Baltimore defense susceptible to misdirection plays. Most of what we saw Sunday was of the vanilla variety and the blame for that should land at the desk of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.

And the Cleveland defense, which had played reasonably well in the last several games, turned pudding soft despite the efforts of Shaun Rogers.

If the Browns can't beat a team like the Ravens after owning a 27-13 lead with six minutes left in the third quarter, I'd like to know what gives Savage confidence his team can come back and qualify for the postseason.

He has a team full of players capable of making plays, but when it comes time to make those plays, they fall woefully short.

The Browns had the Ravens right where they wanted them at 27-13 and then did what average teams do in that situation. They took their foot off the Ravens' throat and let them back in the game. They got too comfortable.

After sacking rookie Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and creating a third and 16 at the Baltimore 15 after going up by 14, the Browns went soft. Instead of continuing to harass the young quarterback, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker went into prevent mode by rushing only three men on third down.

Flacco, with time to pick his nose as well as which receiver to throw to, connected with Derrick Mason for 20 yards against a soft zone and the Ravens were resuscitated instead of facing a fourth and long and down 14. The Ravens went no huddle and emotionally climbed back into the game 10 plays later.

(Speaking of no huddle, how come the Ravens trust a rookie with only eight games experience to run a no-huddle offense and yet Derek Anderson is saddled with what has turned out to be a stodgy offense? Just wondering. More on Anderson later.)

When are these coordinators going to realize that the only reason the Ravens were in the third-and-long predicament was because of pressure brought by an aggressive defense and that the prevent defense doesn't work?

The Baltimore defense fed off that little comeback and shut down the Browns' by-then bland offense with four consecutive three-and-outs. Bland, that is, except for Braylon Edwards' drop – this is not a recording – of a perfectly thrown bomb by Anderson that should have wound up on the score sheet as an 80-yard touchdown.

The Browns' coaching staff clearly did not take advantage of a banged-up Baltimore secondary (three starters out) and the rookie quarterback who proved he could be flustered when pressured.

Of the Browns' 12 drives, eight began with a run (producing 13 yards) and only one produced points, Jason Wright's touchdown catch and run that gave the Browns the 27-13 lead. Four of the drives began with a pass, the first three producing 13 points (two Phil Dawson field goals and an Edwards TD pass).

Coincidence? Perhaps, but it certainly had to make more than a few fans wonder why running the ball preoccupied the minds of the offensive coaching staff.

Why the Browns didn't attack the Ravens' secondary more, especially on first down, is a mystery. They did the Ravens a favor by trying to ram the ball down their throats infantry-style.

What made them think they could run against a Baltimore defense that ranks among the best in the National Football League in that category? That wasn't going to happen with Jamal Lewis looking more like a ballerina than an NFL running back with his tiptoeing style.

On the other hand, the Ravens believed they could punish the Cleveland front seven and were right as rookie Ray Rice sliced and diced that defense for nearly 160 yards. A combination of poor tackling and awful gap integrity didn't help.

Another question for Savage to ponder: Why after eight games are opposing teams still running on the Browns as though they're not there? Leaks that were thought to be fixed have resurfaced.

With half the season left and the club's immediate future hanging in the balance, perhaps it's time to find out whether Brady Quinn is the future at the quarterback position. It has become more than apparent that Anderson is not the guy who will pave the way to the postseason on offense. Not after his extremely uneven performance against the Ravens.

The loss spoiled the return to form of kick returner Joshua Cribbs, who is finally finding the magic that rewarded him with a Pro Bowl trip last season. Too bad his 278 total yards were earned in vain because his teammates and the coaching staff couldn't match his intensity and play-making abilities.

No, this one was a team loss. Everyone was culpable. From coach Romeo Crennel to his coaching staff to players on both sides of the ball.

It sent a strong and clear message to Savage. It's a message that most likely will be ignored.



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