Tuesday, December 6

The Razor's Edge

The Cleveland Browns' 24-10 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens this past Sunday was bad. It was really bad. It was "I'm glad I have a basketball game tonight so I have an excuse to stop watching early" bad. As they always have done thus far in the Paddy O'Shurmur era, they came out flat, didn't move the ball consistently, and couldn't stop the other team from rushing, in this case to the tune of 204 yards for Ray Rice. Baltimore held the ball for nearly 38 minutes. The score easily could have been more lopsided. But weirdly, I'm not convinced that the offense is that far from being able to move the ball consistently and score points. I'm serious. The mistakes keeping us form success are so minor that I can truly envision the Browns getting on the right side of that razor's edge that separates winning from losing in the NFL, even in games like yesterday's where there's a very obvious talent gap.

Let's consider the plays and moments that stopped and slowed the Browns' offense yesterday and how they very easily could have been productive.

Kickoff
How about the opening kickoff? That stupid thing was headed right for the out of bounds line and managed to sneak itself just inside the pylon. That foot or so of ball motion on a 75-yard kick cost the Browns a free 20 yards. Frustrating.

First drive
The Browns were moving the ball quite nicely (despite another Greg little drop) and had 2nd and 2 at the Baltimore 39. Announcers love to point out the exceedingly obvious fact that teams have more success when they put themselves in "manageable" 2nd- and 3rd-and-short situations yet here and other times they fail to capitalize. In this case, a run for no gain, an incomplete pass, and a 25-yard punt.

There's no reason this drive had to end like that! Punting from the 39 on 4th and 2 is simply a terrible decision. I eschew the "nothing to lose" line of thinking for a bad team like Cleveland; you do what gives your team the best chance to win regardless of record. In this case, punting was not that. Run it twice from 3rd and 2! Play action on 4th down! Not this pathetic punt which, by the way, the Ravens erased in exactly one play. Just indefensible coaching


Second Drive
The Browns had gotten a first down to their 38 on a nice catch and run by Jordan Norwood. After a head tackle from Ed Reed, Norwood tossed the ball up towards a ref, not noticing that a raven had moved into that area. Hits the raven in the face mask, 15 on the Browns. Come on. It was totally innocuous, totally unintentional, and totally a letter of the law call. Even though the Browns kept 1st and 10, that call basically throttled the drive.


I hate the Baltimore Ravens
I really do. Horrible colors, dastardly players (Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs are among the league's biggest and loudest idiots), stole our team, everything. They suck. I saw this bus crap out a whole load of them on Saturday and was just appalled. Among the group was one attention-seeking steeler fan, who, not content to antagonize the Baltimore fan base, had to come to Cleveland to antagonize ours. No one likes you.

Third Drive
Pick up a couple of first downs out to the Baltimore 44, then Norwood fumbles a ball that came inches from the sideline before Reed (of course) scooped it up. Just like that, another promising drive cut short by the fickle roll of the ball.

Fourth Drive
One fucking yard from our 33 was all we needed. Got zero.

The fifth and sixth drives were a hurried INT and a kneel down, so let's skip those and go to the second half.

Seventh drive
Not good.

Eighth drive
After a takeaway by the defense, the Browns get the ball at midfield and immediately lose eight yards. Colt McCoy's job, by the way, is impossible. Yet on second down, thanks to unusually good pass protection, McCoy has time to hit Hillis streaking down the left sideline for a 52-yard gain down to the Raven 4.

Then from the 3 McCoy tosses one right off of Evan Moore's hands in the end zone. Again, this margin between successful and unsuccessful offense is paper-thin, and Moore's drop found Cleveland four points shy of where they should have been.

The rest of the game featured a lot of passing, much of it errant, all of it desperation and somewhat hapless as Baltimore kept applying pressure in the Cleveland backfield. Moore did grab a 22-yard strike from McCoy to make the final margin better, but the game was long since lost.

But the fate of the drives up until the 4th quarter or so show that it's always some little thing keeping the Browns from sustaining drives and scoring points. A missed block here, an inability to gain two yards in three plays there, a dropped pass., etc. The Browns just need to cut out the unforced errors on offense and I think they can actually start to be successful. Let's try it out on Thursday, eh?

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