Rich's Rant: No Defense For This Loss

How could the Browns lose? To this team? On this night?

It was enough to make even the heartiest Browns fan lose all hope. It was enough to make even the most die-hard Browns fan shake his head in utter and abject disgust.

After what happened against the Denver Broncos Thursday night at Cleveland Browns Stadium, it is now safe to label the 2008 Cleveland Browns "The Team That Does Not Know How To Win Football Games."

What other conclusions can one come to after witnessing the club's second meltdown in four days? Just when you think you have seen it all from this poor excuse for a football team, they go out and play "Can You Top This?"

It was bad enough that the Browns blew a 14-point lead and lost to the Baltimore Ravens four days earlier at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Little did the fans know at the time that was chapter one in the "How Not to Win Football Games" saga.

Gamboling on that same field in front of those same fans and doing the same thing Thursday night, this time blowing a 13-point lead against a team that was battered physically on offense, became the final indignation. The Browns appear to have written the primer on the subject.

The Browns' history with the Broncos now adds another sad chapter to go along with The Drive and The Fumble.

For fans who have known various levels of frustration over the last 10 seasons, the latest loss to the Broncos should not come as a complete shock. And yet, it feels exactly that way.

There is not one valid excuse for the manner in which the defense performed against the Broncos in the 34-30 loss in front of the home folks. The Browns knew the Broncos had to throw the ball because all their running backs were rooting from the sideline nursing injuries.

In addition, five defensive starters sat out with injuries and Denver's best tight end, Tony Scheffler, was hobbled with a groin injury that forced him out of the game on numerous occasions.

Let's review. No running backs, best tight end hurt. Let's see. What are the Broncos going to do on offense?

Hmmm. You think maybe they're going to throw the ball? Maybe the Browns should attack the quarterback. Sounds like a plan. To everyone, that is, except the Browns.

They knew the Broncos were going to throw the ball. They couldn't do much else. And still, the Browns couldn't stop them.

Rarely did they blitz. You can't give a quarterback like Denver's Jay Cutler that kind of time and expect to get away with it. And Cutler did what any good quarterback would do, strafing the Browns' secondary at will for nearly 450 yards.

Brandon McDonald experienced an evening that will guarantee nightmares for the next several days. That's if he's able to sleep at all.

Even when Brady Quinn – this piece should have been about him, not the Browns' magnificent defensive collapse – brought the club back to a 30-27 lead with five minutes left, one still got the feeling Quinn would need another comeback effort.

And the defense, which had played reasonably well until a few days ago, didn't disappoint. The Broncos, that is. Desperately needing a play from anyone, no one in Brown and Orange stepped up.

When Denver rookie fullback Peyton Hillis overpowered Cleveland not-so-strong safety Sean Jones for a yard on fourth-and-1 at the Denver 45 after initially being trapped a yard behind the line of scrimmage, the final chapter took shape.

It provided the impetus the Broncos needed to score the winning touchdown. A rookie fullback who was playing only because all the other running backs were injured and Denver coach Mike Shanahan was desperate.

The Browns couldn't stop a rookie fullback. A rookie fullback who entered the game with only three carries for the season and that was in a 41-14 rout of the Oakland Raiders in game one of the season. That was three months ago.

A rookie fullback!! That's beyond pathetic.

The Browns couldn't stop anyone all evening, spoiling Quinn's debut as a starting quarterback in the National Football League after replacing the deposed Derek Anderson. With only one practice under his belt, he played extremely well.

Showing poise and resourcefulness in the pocket all evening, he threw the ball well and was decisive with his decisions. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski called a lot of quick-developing plays most of the evening and Quinn seemed comfortable with the rhythm of the offense.

Rarely did he make a bad throw. After the first series of the game, only penalties and a Kellen Winslow Jr. fumble stopped the Cleveland offense.

The only time Quinn failed when it counted – and it wasn't really his fault – was on the last drive of the game when Winslow failed to hold onto a fastball that would have given the Browns a first down near midfield with plenty of time left to score.

What a metaphorical way to end the game, the ball slipping through Winslow's hands like winning the game slipped through the team's fingers.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Browns should have won this game. In this woulda, shoulda, coulda world, the Browns didn't. Twice in four days. And that's not acceptable.

For a season that began with such high hopes and expectations, what has transpired in the first nine games has been excruciatingly painful. And the hurt doesn't seem to be going away with no painkillers in sight.

Sure, it's tough to be a Browns fan, especially after the last two games they've played. But what hurts even more is that this is possibly as good as they're going to get this season.

Imagine that. Scoring 30 points in a home game against a team that resembled a M*A*S*H unit and losing.

What's next?

Changing quarterbacks didn't help. Quinn did a terrific job under the circumstances. He didn't look like a quarterback making his NFL starting debut with just one practice.

So what's next?

Too bad the Browns can't change defenses.

The good news? The Browns have 11 days to lick their wounds.

The bad news? The Browns have 11 days to lick their wounds.

The sooner they get this one out of their system, the better. Now, they've got to wait 11 days before getting that shot.

Following the game, coach Romeo Crennel admitted that "we're not doing a good enough job." Ya think?

Wonder if by "we" he meant the (a) players, (b) the coaches, (c) the front office, (d) the owner or (e) all of the above. I'll take (e), Alex.

Can this season become any more bizarre?

Stay tuned.

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