A week off, a new starting quarterback and I am ready for some football! That's right, I have talked myself into it. The second half of the season is here and the Browns are ready to break out. Why, you ask? Well, umm… did I mention there is a new starting quarterback? Wait, what? He already started three games? Damnit.
Ok, maybe Quinn isn't a new starter, just recycled one. Still, the week off renewed my hope for the second half. I am so confident (or delusional) that this team is about to turn things around, that I decided to keep a running journal of optimism during the Monday night game against the Ravens. By the end of this journal, I will either be saying I told you so or lying face down on the floor making unintelligible noises beside a pile of empty beer bottles. Alright, let's be honest, empty beer bottles are going to play a role in the evening either way.
So fingers crossed, here we go:
Gruden just publicly announced that he likes Brady Quinn. Interesting. I found that particularly interesting because it was the first thing that any commentator has said about the Browns through all of the pregame coverage. Does one decision by Bill Belichick really required a solid hour of debate by former coaches and players that end up screaming at each other?
Trust your defense!
No, Manning is too good. You should trust your MVP, Tom Brady, when the game is on the line.
This article nearly ended prematurely. I was finishing up a conversation as the kickoff ended and looked up to see a replay of an injury. I thought for a moment it was Josh Cribbs and nearly changed the channel to House. That was close.
14:09 1st Qtr
Sack! 4th down and the Ravens have to punt. See I told you things were going to improve.
13:05 1st Qtr
So Jamal can run without stutter stepping. Good news. He showed a great burst on his first carry and we are off to a good start.
11:07 1st Qtr
Punt. At least it wasn't three and out. A wildcat reverse to Massoquoi went for a loss on 3rd down. Really, I don't mind the play call. They hadn't shown much of anything out of the wildcat other than a straight Cribbs run thus far this season so maybe it was worth a shot to make a big play early.
4:44 1st Qtr
Wide left! It was a pretty good drive by the Ravens, keyed by a long run by Rice. The Browns defense held tough eventually and the field goal was wide left. So it's still tied at zero but the running room on that drive was concerning.
2:00 1st Qtr
On third down, Quinn read the blitz perfectly and completed a pass to Heiden in traffic for the first. A few plays later Quinn and Furrey hooked up on a quick screen reminiscent of the play Quinn ran extensively at Notre Dame. Neither play was spectacular, and yet successful routine plays are what this offense has been missing. Let's hope more follow.
14:30 2nd Qtr
So a promising drive ended with a punt but the Browns defense holds again on the back of a great third down stuff Robaire Smith. To this point the defense has really shown up and the offense is establishing the short passing game and the run. Proving they can work the ball short (since they haven't for the last month) should pay dividends down the field later in the game.
13:30 2nd Qtr
Great third down slant from Quinn to Massaquoi. Who says Quinn has no arm? That was a laser that got to Mo Mass before the defender thought it would and the play goes for 30 yards. The offense has not been spectacular thus far but they are getting some things accomplished.
4:09 2nd Qtr
Damnit! The Ravens were looking at 3rd and 10 from their own seven yard line and they convert to Mason. That was kind of a back breaker that may come back to bite us. Really, it already left a mark since the offense finally battled for field position and a 3 and out there could have meant great starting field position, the Browns first points, and a halftime lead.
So the defense held to end the half and the Browns ran out the last 56 seconds with a run and a kneel down. Fans don't seem to like it but I have to agree. I am game for some risks, but putting the ball in the air against the Ravens from deep in your own territory is not a good risk.
Chance of driving even 65 yards for a field goal in under a minute... not good. Chance of throwing a pick and giving them points to end the half… higher. So it is all tied at zero with a few drives of greater than five plays by the offense. Not really a break out performance but I will take it.
14:00 3rd Qtr
The Browns go 3 and out on two tipped passes. That was ugly. I have an uneasy feeling in my stomach.
12:30 3rd Qtr
Touchdown Ravens. That was an absolutely terrible play by Brandon McDonald that set up the score. If you are by yourself in man coverage, your man can make the catch occasionally. However, you cannot completely misplay the tackle and give up the big play. Inexcusable. His teammates apparently agree since they looked entirely disinterested in stopping Ray Rice on the ensuing touchdown run. 7-0 Ravens
12:12 3rd Qtr
Quinn throws to Robert Royal who tips the ball up in the air beautifully for Landry. Royal pulled off a really nice setup there to let Landry get under that one. Let's see if Landry high fives him after the score. Nope. That's bush-league. Typical Ravens not giving credit where it's due. 13-0 Ravens.
Not a great pass by Quinn. Regardless, the short stuff is established. Now that the Ravens are keying on it, maybe it's time to go down the field. Also, it may be time for me to switch to whiskey.
9:13 3rd Qtr
And another tipped pass that gets intercepted. Where is that bottle of Makers Mark? I know I left it around here somewhere…
Not a terrible pass by Quinn, aside from the fact that it was another attempt at gaining 3.5 yards through the air. So I can get behind "taking what the defense gives you." Seriously, I really can. But if Quinn and Daboll haven't figured it out yet, let me offer a small piece of advice: THIS DEFENSE IS NOT GIVING US FIVE YARD SLANTS AND SCREENS!! Also, there is Ray Lewis. Heard of him? He lives in that five yard area. Worth mentioning.
To start the game, some of the short stuff was working a little and I'm all for it. But I always thought that you establish that stuff to bring the defense up and then you take them downtown. In my crazy mind, that is how a "game plan" is supposed to work. I guess I have a lot to learn about football…
7:20 3rd qtr
44 yard field goal. Ravens up 16 to zip. On the upside, I found my Makers Mark and I'm starting to calm down. The defense actually made a respectable stand after Quinn's second pick. It's really time for the offense to do something if this half of the season is going to get off to an good acceptable start. My optimism is waning. And by waning, I mean I am half in the bag and my last string of profanity made my dog blush.
4:00 3rd Qtr
So on 3rd down and two, I commented, "so here comes the wildcat" and sure enough, there it was. Short. Don't get me wrong, I am in favor of the wildcat with Cribbs, especially on this team. But at some point you can't be that predictable. Well, you can be that predictable, you just end up 1-8…
1:30 3rd Qtr
Ok, they picked up the 4th and short on a quarterback sneak but three plays later on 3rd and long, Ray Lewis comes through untouched. Great.
Jerome Harrison looked confused in pass protection, which is odd since that is clearly one of his strengths. I mean, what other possible explanation could there be for giving him zero carries but lots of opportunities in pass pro against a talented, blitzing defense?
Either Harrison is a great pass protector or the coaches have lost their damn minds. I don't really see a third option, so which is it? You know what, don't answer that. I'm switching back to beer before this gets out of hand.
10:15 4th Qtr
So I think we are at 7 punts now for the Ravens. I feel really bad for the defense. Despite the injuries, they are really playing a great game. One guy that deserves special mention is David Bowens. I had not been overly impressed with his play on the outside this season but he has stepped into the middle tonight and really led this defense. 2 sacks, a mess of tackles, and some obvious leadership with audibles and getting guys lined up right.
Meanwhile, the offense is completely breaking down. The o-line is now getting in on the action with some embarrassing pass protection. However, a first down pass for a loss a couple "drives" back showed that the Ravens defense is now giving us the backward pass. Let's hope we can take advantage.
9:20 4th Qtr
A 14 yard pass completion to Furrey! Wait, this might be a new receiver that was just activated. Gruden says his name is Fury so I assume that is someone new. If not, Gruden is going to have to learn these players names if he wants to coach this team… Regardless, that may be the second longest play of the night for Cleveland. Nice work Fury. Also, beer = yummy.
8:40 4th Qtr
Quinn throws a duck down the sideline on 3rd and long and Jaws says, "at least they attempted to throw deep." When the commentators are congratulating you for attempting to throw a pass… well, let's just say that's not good.
0:05 4th Qtr
Quinn just threw two consecutive bombs out of bounds. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if that was actually part of the game plan, but receivers may find it difficult to make plays when the ball lands closer to the fans than the playing field.
Oh, and Cribbs managed to get hurt on the final play. As of the end of coverage, he's still down on the field. For his sake and for this team, I really hope he is ok. I was going to say that the passes out of bounds really added insult to injury but now we have successfully added injury to insult to injury. That may be a first.
Post Game Wrap-up
This offense continues to show a total lack of focus. Truly troubling is the bizarre and seemingly immature decision making on a game to game, and even a play to play basis.
As an example, here is a hypothetical question for you. Let's say that you have an aging running back without a lot of burst left but with a lot of experience. Also, you have a young runner that really pops when he gets carries but sometimes struggles in blitz pickups. What would you do?
If you answered, use the young guy exclusively in pass protection and then find carries for a third back that you recently signed off your practice squad, well good job, you apparently agree with this coaching staff. Also, you and I cannot be friends.
Frankly, I'm confused and I doubt I am the only one. And really, that is just the punctuation on a sentence filled with contradictions. What is the offensive philosophy in Cleveland right now? You take what the defense gives you, until they take it away. At which point, you continue to try to take it back… or something.
As far as optimism goes, the defense again played a very respectable game. Really, only 7 points are on them with the rest coming from a pick six and another interception that led to a field goal. If there is optimism to be had, clearly that is it. The injustice is that any recognition of this defensive effort will disappear into the haze of ineptitude on the other side of the football.
At this point, if the defense chooses to fight the offense in the locker room, I can't blame them. My advice to the offense: take what the defense gives you. You deserve it.