Rich's Rant: Burn the Tapes

For a game the Browns won, there's an awfully strong desire to never speak of this event again.

It was a classic case of Murphy's Law insanely out of control.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong in what was laughably labeled a National Football League game Sunday in Buffalo.

When the 1-3 Buffalo Bills and 0-4 Cleveland Browns played each other only because the official NFL schedule mandated it, very few observers expected a good game.

What they received, however, was a study in how not to play the game. It clearly lived down to its buildup. With few exceptions, game checks should be withheld for this one.

The Browns and Bills explored uncharted territory in ineptitude as they dragged the game of modern football back alarmingly close to the era of leather helmets, high top shoes and no facemasks. Neither club wore throwback uniforms, but this would have been the perfect game for them.

It was a game neither team deserved to win.

It was almost as though the Browns and Bills tried to outdo each other in the badness department. For 60 excruciatingly long minutes, these two so-called teams tried to hand the game to each other.

"We don't feel like winning this one," the Browns seemed to say. "You take it."

"No thanks," responded the Bills, who looked more like the maladroit Browns all afternoon. "You take it."

Talking about playing down to the level of your opponent.

Nine false starts for the Bills. Nine!! That's usually Browns territory.

At any point, referee Jerome Boger could have announced, "False start, offense, Number (pick one)," and if he had added, "This is not a recording," no one would have blamed him.

If you didn't see the game and found out the Browns won, 6-3, you might naturally assume two good defenses battled all afternoon. Not even close.

Try two bloody awful offensive football teams.

It was simultaneously Shakespearean comedy and Neanderthal football at its best.

From start to finish, it was a Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing and All's Well That Ends Well. That's if you're a Browns fan.

Burn the tapes of this one immediately. Never allow a pair of human eyes to ever watch again what took place Sunday.

Poor Don Criqui and Randy Cross up in the CBS television booth must have been wondering what they did to deserve the shortest of short straws when drawing this assignment.

At one point, Cross summed it up when he said, "I don't know why there's a sense of urgency to attempt to do what they haven't been able to do all day."

If not for the strong running of a rejuvenated Jamal Lewis (give that man his paycheck), the Cleveland offense was less than a cipher. Derek Anderson gamely threatened Jeff Garcia's 0.0 passer rating for the Browns against the Dallas Cowboys in September 2004.

He wound up at 15.1 (how did he get that high with just two completions in 17 attempts and a pick?), but is the quarterback of record on the winning side.

Hey, how can you argue that? Would you rather have a passer rating of 100.7 and a loss?

Anderson was victimized by countless drops, including one by tight end Robert Royal wide open at the Buffalo 25 early in the third quarter with nothing but the goal line in front of him. Perfect throw, in stride. Drop.

Murphy's Law.

And now that Braylon Edwards is gone, Anderson must work with arguably the least-feared receiving corps in the NFL. Two rookies, a journeyman, a return specialist and a newcomer pose quite a challenge for the quarterback.

As it was, the Browns still needed a huge break as Bills return specialist Roscoe Parrish brain-cramped himself into muffing a Dave Zastudil punt inside his 20-yard line with less than three minutes left and no timeouts.

Murphy's Law.

And predictably, it took a Billy Cundiff field goal to win it. A touchdown would have been too much to ask for.

Still, Cundiff added to the drama when he inexplicably booted the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving the Bills the ball at their 40.

Murphy's Law.

It forced Cleveland fans held their breath because they're veterans at witnessing strange events that turn victories into losses.

But Murphy's Law finally turned a blind eye toward the Browns and focused on the Bills, who didn't come close to threatening (an oxymoron on this very forgettable afternoon).

And how about that Zastudil. Give him a paycheck, too. Seven of his nine punts landed inside the Bills' 20, three inside the 5, two inside the 1-yard line.

The Browns celebrated the victory as though they had won some sort of meaningful game. But what else do you expect from a team that won its first game of the season and broke a 10-game losing streak?

"A win heals everything," Joshua Cribbs said. Only one problem. The Browns have way too much to heal.

At this point of the season, however, they'll take a victory anyway they can get it.

But not without a caveat: Play this way next Sunday in Pittsburgh against the Steelers and the Browns will pay a dear price in any number of ways.


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