Rich's Rant: A Vest Too Close

A team playing not to lose usually does, but the Browns tenderly tiptoe forward regardless. Rich wonders where last year's offense went...

All you need to know about the Browns' offense against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday can be gleaned by looking at the third-down conversion line. 

Never mind the fact the Browns converted third down on 11 occasions in the reaching-for-the-No-Doz 10-6 loss. Hone in on the number of third downs they faced in nine possessions: A patently ridiculous 20. 

For a team averaging a shade under 14 third down situations a game, it speaks volumes about the manner in which the Browns intended to play this game on offense. Any closer to the vest and they would have strangled themselves. 

There is no question that offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski played this one not to lose rather than to win. In fact, he appears to have programmed the offense in that manner in the last three games. 

The Browns were totally ineffective on first down, too. In 22 first-down snaps, the Browns ran 13 times for just 45 yards and threw nine times for 24 yards. Only once did a first-down play result in another first down.  

They haven't scored an offensive touchdown since the first minute of the fourth quarter in the Buffalo victory three games ago and just two touchdowns in the last 12 quarters. 

The passing game, which has been reduced to popgun status, hasn't produced a touchdown since Kellen Winslow Jr.'s second score of the game in the Denver loss. That's 14 quarters ago. 

In the last three games, the Browns have been in the red zone on 10 occasions and have put up a touchdown and seven field goals. An optimist would say, "Well, at least they came away with something." You can imagine what a pessimist would say.  

Right now, the Browns' biggest scoring weapon is Phil Dawson. As the redoubtable Dick Enberg, who worked the game for CBS-TV, would bellow, "Oh my!!" At least come up with better ways to score something other than field goals.  

Last season, the Browns were a threat to score from just about any place on the field. Now, it makes no difference where they get the ball, makes no difference who the quarterback is. One thing is certain: They won't – no, make that they can't – get into the end zone. 

It all can't be the players' fault when it gets this bad. Someone else has to take the blame for the awful nature in which they play the game with the ball in their possession.

This redolent offense has come to a virtual grinding halt with no relief in sight. Brady Quinn is gone for the season and it looks as though Derek Anderson might join him depending on the severity of his knee injury. That would mean – oh no!!—Ken Dorsey at quarterback. 

Dorsey is your quintessential third quarterback. Has a good head, a weak arm and should enter games only in an emergency. He has no business playing as the lead quarterback of a National Football League team.  

He is the quarterback around whom Chudzinski coordinated the high-scoring offense at the University of Miami several years ago. Except this is the NFL and if the Browns get any more conservative on offense, they'll be playing at the high school level.  

Against the Colts, the pass patterns were short, shorter and dumpoff. 

Saying hello to Dorsey is like saying goodbye to the rest of the season. Yep, another 4-12 record Romeo Crennel can slap on his resume on his way out of town. 

We have been led to believe that Chudzinski is an innovative coordinator. We're waiting.  There is no panache, no imagination, no creativity to this offense, except maybe when Joshua Cribbs lines up at tailback and takes a direct snap. Once a game. And the Colts were more than ready for it Sunday.  

Where are the misdirection plays, the deep seam routes, the quick-snap plays, the counter traps, the no-huddle, the Cribbs-at-tailback play where he throws the ball?  Where, oh where, is the offense? 

I'm sick and tired of watching Anderson or Quinn drop back on third and short and throw teensy weensy passes that look more like long handoffs in order to get a first down. Whatever happened to the stretch-the-field mind-set that helped elevate the Browns to contender status last season? 

Wasn't Donte' Stallworth brought in to do just that? Randy Cross, who furnished the commentary for the CBS telecast of the game to most of the nation, came up with a cogent observation. 

"Donte' Stallworth is MIA," Cross observed out loud in the latter stages of the game. "They're throwing away from him." 

When you're 4-7 with virtually no hope of playing in January, you trot out the playbook. The whole playbook. What harm can it do? 

Losing 10-6 isn't any worse than losing 30-6, especially at this time of the season. Losing this way isn't a moral victory. It's a loss.  

The Colts were ripe to be had since the Browns' defense held their strong running game in check and made Peyton Manning look very ordinary at quarterback. Limiting the Colts' offense to three points is a significant accomplishment. 

All the Browns needed was one touchdown. One measly touchdown. The closest they got was the Indianapolis 8.  

The Colts were without their best player on defense in safety Bob Sanders. Middle linebacker Gary Brackett exited early and didn't return. But the faster, quicker and much smaller Colts proved that faster, quicker and much smaller can produce victories, especially when their offense sputters. 

Defensive end Robert Mathis confirmed that when he scooped up Anderson's fumble midway through the fourth quarter and scored the game's only touchdown after Dwight Freeney bull-rushed and overpowered Joe Thomas en route to the strip sack. When Kevin Shaffer fanned on Mathis at the Cleveland 33 following the strip, you just knew the game was over at that point.  

And what has happened to the normally reliable Thomas, who has been beaten badly in crucial situations in two straight games? It seems that all facets of the offense are crumbling.  

Four more games before this nightmare is over. And three are on the road. Against teams with winning records.  

Pass the Pepto. 

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