Derry: Bench the Team

The Cleveland Browns bumbling loss to the Texans on Sunday is the low point of the season to date, writes OBR columnist Frank Derry

Chad Johnson got benched for dozing off during a team meeting one day before the Bengals' game last Thursday night against the Steelers. With that in mind, the entire Browns team should get at least a one game suspension for sleeping through Sunday's embarrassing 16-6 loss to the lowly Houston Texas at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

When it comes to Monday Night Football hangovers, this was a beauty. In no way, shape or form did the Browns show any of the enthusiasm demonstrated in their 29-27 victory over the Buffalo Bills six days earlier.

Instead, every unit of the team played as though it was in a coma.

There have probably been uglier games in Cleveland Browns history. The first game back following the strike in 1982 comes to mind. But at least that game had a silver lining as the Browns somehow prevailed over the Patriots, 10-7. And they had an excuse in that they hadn't played a game in more than two months!

The 2008 Cleveland Browns only played like they hadn't been on the field since September … of 2007!

Sunday's game had absolutely no redeeming qualities. It was horrible football right from the opening kickoff until the final gun. And not just on the Browns' part. The Texans were dreadful in many ways, especially when it came to penalties. They nearly self destructed on their first drive, which resulted in the game's only touchdown, with two holding calls. In the second half they had a 93-yard kickoff return by former Browns receiver Andre Davis wiped out by a penalty. And on the Browns' fruitless 13-play, 49-yard drive in the fourth quarter, they had a face mask penalty and two illegal contact calls that kept the drive alive.

Inopportune penalties also hurt the Browns, but they were compounded by three interceptions, two lost fumbles, numerous dropped passes, a bunch of missed tackles and a woeful field goal attempt by Phil Dawson.

Those lowlights all contributed to the Browns' seventh loss of the season against four wins. The Browns are still mathematically capable of making the playoffs, but even the most diehard Browns fans must now accept reality … this team will not be playing football in January!

Goat horns should be given to virtually player and coach on the team. Certainly it was the guys on the field who were the main culprits, but the coaching staff obviously was not successful in getting the team prepared for a game everyone realized was going to be a difficult one for which to get motivated.

Houston came in with an eight game road losing streak over the past two seasons and a 3-7 record this season. They are playing a second string quarterback … Sage Rosenfels … who had thrown one touchdown and five interceptions the past two weeks. He added two more picks against the Browns, but also managed to complete 24-of-32 passes for 275 yards and a 17-yard touchdown to Kevin Walter, who burned oft-beaten Brandon McDonald for the game's only touchdown to cap an eight minute-plus drive to start the game.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has to realize McDonald is not yet capable of consistently playing solid man-to-man coverage. And head coach Romeo Crennel definitely has to be questioned about his decision to play both Brady Quinn and tight end Kellen Winslow.

Quinn, who suffered a fractured finger against the Bills, was mediocre at best before getting pulled late in the third quarter. Quinn did lead the Browns to a couple of first half field goals, but in the third quarter suffered the first two interceptions of his NFL career.

That led to the return of Derek Anderson, who not only threw an interception, but also for some unknown reason decided Braylon Edwards was going to be about his only target on a fourth quarter drive. In one stretch during that drive, which was aided by those two illegal contact calls against the Texans, Anderson threw to Edwards on four out of five plays. He caught one of those passes, turning it into a nice first down, but also dropped a couple of balls that hit his hands.

Edwards had what has become his typical game, making a nice catch sandwiched by horrible drops. Edwards had at least three more drops on the day, giving him about 20 for the season. Remarkable!

Winslow, meanwhile, was a total non-factor, not catching a ball until just over two minutes remained in the game. The shoulder injury that he suffered against the Bills and kept him off the practice field all week had to be a contributing factor.

While the drops by Edwards are no longer a surprise, the two lost fumbles by Jamal Lewis, both of which were critical, were stunning. Coming into the game, Lewis had nearly 400 touches without losing a fumble.

One was clearly his fault when he was hit hard while striving for additional yardage. The other might very well be shared by Anderson, whose handoff was high.

In a season when little has gone right for the Browns either on or off the field, Sunday's disaster might very well have been the low point of it all.

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