So a win is a win… wait, that was last week. I mean, at least we can call this a moral vict… no, that was two weeks ago. So what was the silver lining this week? Oh yeah. So after all these years, the Stoolers were bound to get a win eventua… hold on, that doesn't sound right. Let me check something quick. Damn it.
I may be Mr. Optimism, but that doesn't mean I'm an idiot (well, it might mean that). A thirteen point loss in which the Browns defense gave up over five hundred yards is not a great place to look for a silver lining. Don't even get me started on the offense. I mean one hundred yards through the air. Really? Watching this offense try to pass feels a lot like watching Nascar (no offense intended to Nascar). They go around in circles for hours and end up exactly where they started. And half the time you only keep watching due to a morbid fascination with car wrecks.
Ok, I vented and feel a little better, so let's get back to the silver lining. For starters, some key players in this game either couldn't go the whole way or missed the game completely. Would Kamerion Wimbley have changed the outcome of this game? I say yes. Wait, he's not a quarterback? Alright, so his presence probably wouldn't have meant a win, but his loss combined with the injury to D'Qwell Jackson surely made a difference.
Before the game, if I told you that Kaluka Maiava would be dropping into coverage while Jason Trusnik was rushing the passer, what would you have predicted? Ben Roethlisberger gouging the Browns for huge gains through the air? You were right. Congrats.
You caught me, excuses are not really optimism, but it's easy to forget that the Browns should have lead early in this game. The interception by Josh Cribbs gave away a sure 3-0 lead and a spark that might have kept this game close. I don't totally agree with the call to have Cribbs put the ball in the air in that situation but before we throw the coaches under the bus, let's consider a few factors. First, the Browns had not shown pass out of the wildcat in any previous games, and an overreaction by the defense could have meant an easy touchdown. Second, not every play is going to work, but that doesn't excuse a bad decision. If that ball is thrown away, or Cribbs just takes off running, the Browns lead 3-0 at worst.
Speaking of the coaches, the game plan against the Steelers showed some encouraging signs. Well, at least one sign. The Steelers are allowing seventy-five yards rushing per game and the Browns racked up ninety-one. That is not a huge number, but it is better than average despite the inability of the offense to sustain drives of more than a handful of plays (they had six drives of five plays or less). That success certainly didn't come by lining up and running straight into the teeth of the league's second best run defense. On a day when the Browns offense was overmatched, the use of the wildcat stood out as an inspired choice.
Love or hate the NFL's latest fad, there is little denying that the Browns use of the wildcat kept this game closer than it might otherwise have been. The next step is for this offense to utilize the other fad overtaking the NFL this season: the forward pass. I'm not going to insult anyone by pretending things are looking great in the passing game (my delusions of optimism do know some bounds), but I do like the potential of the rookie receivers.
Massaquoi in particular looks promising. His hands seem to improve as he gains confidence and he already runs sharper routes than the guy he replaced. Speaking of Bray… I mean, "He who shall not be named," I couldn't help but smile when he got flagged for holding during the Jet's loss. Ahh, the memories. Enjoy Jets fans. Yeah, I'm petty and small but I'll take silver linings where I can get them.