Browns-Vikings: Report Card gives out the objective grades for the Browns performance in the season opener...

The Browns did what was expected of them in their season opener. Problem is they were expected to lose.

That they did, turning a 13-10 halftime lead into a 34-20 loss that saw the team's only offensive touchdown come with less than 30 seconds left.

The Browns lamented playing a poor second half, but the entire effort was poor. The Browns led at halftime thanks to a Josh Cribbs punt return for a touchdown.

The offense did little the first two quarters, despite being rewarded with a short field after Minnesota oddly tried an onside kick to start the game.

That drive ended in a field goal, just as a drive that saw the Browns move to the Minnesota one-yard-line ended in a field goal.

The defense brought some clever blitzes and did some things to confuse Brett Favre in the first half, but in the second half it was the same unit that could not stop the run a year ago. Minnesota ran for 225 yards in the opener.

Is it a good thing if a team lives up to expectations when expectations are low? Not really. In the Browns' case, living up to expectations means the team's fans are in for a long season.

Browns coach Eric Mangini said the team's fate is in its hands. It can play like it did the first half, or it can play like it did the second half.

The problem: Neither half featured consistently good football for a team that has a serious lack of legitimate NFL talent.

  --Brady Quinn finished his first start in a season opener with 205 yards, padded by the fact the Vikings gave Quinn almost anything he wanted on the team's last drive.

Quinn threw an interception when a receiver ran inside and he threw out, and on another throw the ball slipped out of his hands as he tried to throw across his body.

Quinn did some good things, but mainly threw short. Early in the fourth quarter he had 72 yards passing.

Brett Favre won a game when he threw for 110 yards because the Vikings rushed for 225. Quinn does not have the support or the help to throw for 72 yards in three quarters and win.

--Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan promised his defense would stop the run in Cleveland. For the opener, he drew probably the toughest assignment he could draw in Adrian Peterson and the Vikings.

Suffice it to say that the Browns did not stop the run. Peterson ran for 180 yards, Minnesota 225.

A year ago the Browns gave up 152 yards rushing. This team has not been able to stop the run at all since it returned from a three-year hiatus in 1999.

Until it does, it will be difficult to win.


--QB Brady Quinn didn't shine when starting the season opener, but he did face a very difficult defense. That being said, Quinn threw short and seemed near-obsessed with the checkdown. But for a few deep fades, there was little to indicate the Browns believed they could go down the field against Minnesota's defense. Perhaps it's because they couldn't.

--RB Jamal Lewis showed some of his old spark in the opener, running for 57 yards on 11 carries. At halftime, Lewis had actually outgained Adrian Peterson. Lewis also caught three for 47 yards, meaning he totaled 104 for the game. Expect Lewis to continue to be a big part of what offense the Browns generate.

--RB James Davis left the game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury. Davis had a big preseason, but found things a lot tougher in the regular season. He gained five yards on just four carries.

--WR Josh Cribbs started opposite Braylon Edwards at receiver. Cribbs continues to show his abilities on punt and kickoff returns, but he's not polished enough as a receiver to draw attention away from Edwards. The Browns might be better off with Mike Furrey in the starting lineup.

--WR Braylon Edwards struggled to connect with Brady Quinn. Edwards misread one play, cutting in when he should have stayed out and the result was an interception. There did not seem to be a lot of chemistry between the two, as Edwards had just one catch for 12 yards.


PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Discount the late touchdown. Minnesota had half its team and all of its minds on the bus to the airport by the time the Browns scored with less than 30 seconds left. What mattered was that the Browns could not protect Brady Quinn (four sacks and numerous hits after the throw) and could not get the ball down the field. Quinn had thrown for just 72 yards early in the fourth quarter, and 13 of his 21 completions went to tight ends or running backs. Until the Browns show they can stretch the field, teams will bring an eighth player into the box to challenge the running game.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- It didn't account for a lot of yards, but was surprisingly effective at times against Minnesota's tough front. Jamal Lewis averaged 5.7 yards per carry and ran well. There were holes. Problem was the Browns never had the ball long enough to sustain anything. 

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Minnesota did so little in the passing game it's hard to say the Browns played poorly or well. They did harass Brett Favre some early in the game (four sacks), but when Favre needed a throw he usually was able to find the time and the receiver. For Favre to throw for 110 yards and win is unusual, but it's what he and the Vikings signed up for when it got him to join the team. Favre only has to manage things and let the rest of the team win the game. The Browns were willing participants in Favre's management.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- Minnesota took charge and control of the game when it decided to run the ball with Adrian Peterson. There's no shame in not stopping Peterson; a lot of teams have not stopped him. But there is shame in giving up more than 200 yards rushing, especially when the Browns went into the locker room at halftime with a lead. No team can win with that kind of run defense.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Josh Cribbs tied a team record with a punt return for a touchdown, the seventh of his career. Cribbs continues to be one of the NFL's special team stalwarts. But breakdowns in coverage gave the Vikings a kickoff return of 41 yards and a punt return of 36. That can't happen.

COACHING: D -- The Browns were ready to start the game. They weren't ready to start the second half. One of the criticisms of Eric Mangini has been that he gets outcoached in second halves, that he does not make great halftime adjustments. It did not appear that the Browns made any adjustments Monday, while the Vikings adjusted and gave the ball to Adrian Peterson. If this is a trend, it will be troubling. One other coaching decision Mangini made was to keep the identity of the starting quarterback a secret. It made absolutely no difference in the game.

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