CINCINNATI – Last Sunday at Detroit notwithstanding, the Browns offense this year has not had too many chances to score.
So when an opportunity presents itself, especially in the latter stages of a relatively close game, the Browns have to take advantage of it. More specifically, they have to at least give it a try.
The fact they elected not to do so in Sunday's 16-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium is a little puzzling. Call it a non-play of the game, play of the game, if you will.
From the end of the third quarter into the beginning of the fourth, the Browns, trailing by the final of 16-7, had snail-paced their way from the Cleveland 40 to the Cincinnati 43, where they faced a fourth-and-3 with 13:13 left,
That's plenty of time. Or is it?
With the fact the Browns find sustained drives and points as hard to come by as bad chili in Cincinnati, it might not be that much to work with.
The Browns needed two scores to win, and there was no guarantee they were going to have a better chance than this the rest of the day.
Plus the Browns seemed to have the Bengals defense on its heels for one of the few times all afternoon.
So if the Browns were ever inclined to roll the dice and take a shot on Sunday, this seemed to be it.
But instead of doing that, the Browns went with the more conservative approach and punted.
That backfired, though. Reggie Hodges' punt went into the end zone for a touchback, and thus, with Cincinnati taking over possession on its 20, the Browns gained just 20 yards on the exchange.
"Nine points down and with 13 minutes left, I didn't want to take a chance there," Browns head coach Eric Mangini said. "I thought we'd punt and keep them backed up, which we didn't do."
Instead, the Bengals got the Browns pinned up in their own end, and kept them there. Cincinnati moved to its 39 and then punted to the Cleveland 13. On their next drive, the Bengals drove to the Cleveland 44 and then punted to the 10. Then it was Cincinnati getting to its 33 and punting to the Cleveland 19.
The best the Browns did on any of those possessions was get to their own 46. They didn't come close to scoring any points.
The Browns finally went for it on fourth down – fourth-and-5, to be specific – from the Cleveland 46 with 1:59 left ,but they failed when quarterback Brady Quinn passed incomplete to wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi.
So, in retrospect, should the Browns have tried to get the first down at the start of the quarter, instead of at the end?
"I always want to go for it and be aggressive, but I'm not a coach," Quinn said. "That's not my call."
But maybe it's a call that someone who is a coach should have made.