Therefore, when I am looking at the New England Patriots, I’m not too pretty to look at.
(Although, many of those of you that know me might argue that I look that way no matter what team I’m looking at.)
No. 1 on Defense. No. 2 on Offense. Solid Special Teams. Depth deeper than the Grand Canyon or Paris Hilton.
One does not want to face this team everyday. Maybe when you’re at your very best – your very cockiest – you might feel that you are perhaps ready to prove your mettle against such a team.
A team that features the narcolepsy-inducing exiled gremlin coach of your former visage. A team that, despite their 3 recent championships, still plays bedpan-cleaner to a frickin’ baseball team.
This is what we – and by “we”, I mean every last goddam team in this league – wish we could be. We hate them. We hate the colonic residue out of them. But we grudgingly respect the evil empire which they have established.
Hell, I’d sell my soul for a whole lot less than what they have accomplished as of late. Just one championship would do. Or a meaty taco with extra hot sauce. Or just some hot sauce. Mmmmmm… hot sauce…
I expect Derek Anderson to throw at least 2 interceptions today. (Goal achieved in the 1st half.)
I expect the Browns to hang around and make more of a game of it than the pundits assume, but I also expect them to be overwhelmed in the end and lose by 14 or more. (Goal achieved, but there should be an asterisk next to the losing by 14. Or not.)
I expect Jamal Lewis to have a surprisingly good game. (Guess we’ll never know.)
I was out late the night before, if you know what I mean (nudge nudge wink wink), so I closed all the blinds, turned the AC on high, and sat down with a nice refreshing glass of water and a Red Bull. Obviously, I wasn’t excited for the game, as I was 99.9999999% certain it would not end well for my beloved Brownies, but I was interested to see how we fared against the Best Team In Football™.
Keep the volume low… take a couple of these Tylenol here… begin watching.
You know, where the opposing RB runs for 6 or 7 yards a punch, or the opposing QB drops back and has so much time that they could knit a quilt big enough to cover Missouri. There is absolutely no pass rush or push up front. I will harp on it here so that I don’t have to bother later, because I would run out of ways to describe how much time Tom Brady had to throw somewhere near the middle of the 2nd Quarter of this review.
With nary a 3rd down, the Patriots drove down to 1st and Goal at the Cleveland 3. Poor them. Little did they know that inside the 5 is when the Browns Defense roars to life. It’s part of their deception. Lure the other team down the field, give them a false sense of security, let them creep inside the 5 yard line, then – BAM! – nail them with a stop and force them to kick a FG. It’s genius!
So when the unsuspecting Patriots found their 3rd and Goal pass getting knocked down by Eric Wright, our trap was sprung, and in came Steven Gostkowski for the humiliating 3. Patriots 3, Browns 0.
This stop was big, as it allowed the Browns – for a little while at least – to believe they could hang in this contest.
The Browns started out at their 34 and immediately were able to launch Jamal Lewis off the left side for a nice 11 yard gain. Unfortunately, that was the day for Jamal. He hurt his foot, and it was Jason Wright time for the remainder of the game.
Jamal Lewis was done with everything except the collecting. I wish I could get paid $218,750 for 13 seconds of work. I’d be a helluva porn star. Or a lawyer.
Same difference, I guess.
Derek Anderson converted a 3rd and 4 with a nice 17 yard slant to Joe Jurevicius, moving the ball to the New England 32. Then a nice 20 yard pass to Braylon Edwards, and an 11 yard screen to Wright, and the Browns were sitting almost-pretty with 1st and Goal at the Pats 1.
As everyone knows, the most challenging yard is the 1st and Goal yard. Atlanta had 1st and Goal at the Tennessee 1 late in their game – to tie – and came away with nada and bupkiss. Which is exactly what the Browns got on a bad Anderson pass on 1st down (luckily not INT’d) and an uninspired run up the gut for no gain on 2nd down.
Well, it was 3rd and Goal from the 1, and the worst-case scenario involves a Browns Field Goal, right? RIGHT?
On 3rd down and Goal, Anderson dropped back, did an admirable job avoiding the rush, and rolled to his right. As he ran, he crossed over a space-time continuum border. This is Charlie Frye, a strange disembodied voice told him. Whoever you throw to is open. They are even more open if you throw back across your body into heavy coverage.
Really?, asked Derek.
Go into the light, hummed the Ghost of Charlie Past.
OK. I will!!!
So Derek’s incredibly inadvisable across-the-body throw was batted into the air by Asante Samuel and plucked out of the air by Junior Seau, who celebrated by turning and jumping into the air in front of the stands.
Have I mentioned air? Oh, yes. That thing that just abandoned the Browns’ sails.
Just when it looked like the Browns had completely sabotaged their chances, they forced the Pats to a 3 and out, and Cleveland took over at their own 32. But since the Defense had uncharacteristically reclaimed momentum, Derek Anderson felt it was time to give it right back.
During his pass towards Jurevicius, Anderson did not see Adalius Thomas crossing in front. Thomas slapped the ball up in the air, and Asante Samuel caught it for DA’s 2nd pick in as many throws.
In post game interviews, Romeo Crennel tried to take the blame for this pick off Derek, saying that it wasn’t his fault that it got tipped. Let me see… Derek threw the ball. He threw it to a spot where a defender was close enough to reach out and tip it. The resulting tip was intercepted.
How is that not his fault?
Anyway, on the very next play, Tom Brady tossed the ball to Donte Stallworth, who was running a crossing pattern. It should’ve been stopped for a gain of 12, but it appears that Leigh Bodden was under the impression that Sunday was a Tackling-Free Holiday; his pathetic attempt was easily rebuffed by Stallworth, who turned up the field from there and trotted in for a 34 yard TD. And just like that – with 2:33 left in the 1st – the game was effectively over.
You just can’t make mistakes like that against a team as good as New England and hope to have a shot. Patriots 10, Browns 0.
The Browns took the ensuing kickoff and moved the ball as far as their own 44, but, on 2nd down from there, Tim Carter couldn’t make the adjustment to get under a bomb from Anderson, and then DA flat out missed Braylon Edwards on 3rd. The Ghost of Red Grange came out and punted, and the quarter came to a close.
End of 1st: Patriots 10, Browns 0.
The quarter opened with the Patriots trying to run the ball down Cleveland’s throats, and they were doing a fine job at that, picking up big chunks as they crossed midfield. However, Robaire Smith made a nice play on Kevin Faulk on 2nd and 5, Stallworth mercifully dropped an easy pass, and New England forced themselves to punt.
The Browns took over at their own 12, and promptly did a whole lot of nuthin’. At least they didn’t turn the ball over. Time to punt again.
New England got the ball at midfield and moved rapidly towards the Goal Line. During this drive occurred one of my favorite – and, by “favorite”, I mean “vomit inducing” – plays. 2nd and 3 at the CLE 32. Sammie “Little Rhino” Morris took the handoff, shot up the middle and slammed into Leon Williams, driving Williams backwards and basically plowing him into the ground before going down for a 6 yard gain. Yes, our Inside Linebacker, Leon Williams. You know, the one that everyone was touting as a “more physical presence” and a “better playmaker” than Andra Davis. Nice play, Leon. We’ll get to mock you some more later.
With ease, the Patriots moved to 1st and Goal, which is where they made the cardinal error: they got inside the 5 yard line. Ha ha! They fell for it again! On 3rd and Goal from the 4, Robaire Smith shot through the line and nailed Morris for a 3 yard loss. Patriots 13, Browns 0.
Due to a penalty on the kickoff, the Browns had to start at their own 10. And that’s when the Jason Wright Show began. Cleveland inexplicably ran Wright right up the gut on 5 of the next 6 plays – and it worked. Big kudos to Wright and the Offensive Line as they established their presence with authority against the best Defense in the NFL.
The run moved the ball up to 1st and 10 at the Browns 46, but then Edwards got a False Start (I LOVE it when WR’s do that). On the next play, with 2 minutes left in the half, as Derek Anderson dropped back to pass, Mike Vrabel bullrushed Ryan Tucker backwards, swatting Anderson’s arm as he began to throw, causing the ball to float up in the air like a harmless balloon that eventually drifted into the waiting arms of Junior Seau. Seau ran down the field, inexplicably waving his arms as if to say “Look Ma!”, before getting downed by Kellen Winslow at the Cleveland 25.
OK, Derek, you get a pass on that INT. That one actually wasn’t your fault.
As with the previous turnover, the Patriots did not take long to go for the throat. 3 plays, including the 7 yard TD swing pass to Ben Watson, who was so open that he had to send smoke signals to Tom Brady to let him know he was ready for the ball. A brutal mistake right before halftime. Very frustrating as the Browns certainly played well enough to not be down what they were: Patriots 20, Browns 0.
1:01 was left on the clock when the Browns started their next drive. They tried to move the ball, but then Anderson got slammed by Teddy Bruschi for a 10 yard sack, a sack so mean that it looked for a moment like we were going to have a Brady Quinn appearance. But Derek shook it off, the Browns decided that maybe kneeling was a wise option, and off to the locker room we go.
Halftime: Patriots 20, Browns 0.
Gostkowski booted the 2nd half kickoff out of bounds, so the Browns began with fantastic field position at the 40. So the obvious move was to go 3 and out and punt.
The Pats got the ball back, and, after a Ben Watson end around for a 1st down at the Cleveland 45, it looked like New England was going to step on the Browns collective throats. But then a remarkable thing happened: Tom Brady forgot how to throw. Two passes to two wide open receivers that were somehow nowhere near the intended target. Once again, the Patriots stopped themselves, then punted into the End Zone.
Finally, the Offense (which had been snoozing since the opening drive) found its smelling salts, moving in big chunks down the field: 13 yard screen to Wright, 15 yard pass to Winslow, 17 yard pass to Tim Carter (Tim Carter!), 12 yard pass to Edwards. On 3rd and 4 from the Patriot 24, Anderson flew a floater towards Winslow, who mysteriously whiffed on it. There was no doubt that he could’ve had it. It looked like he just misjudged it – or didn’t care. In baseball, he would’ve been charged a passed ball.
So… another opportunity lost… and Phil Dawson came on for the FG. Patriots 20, Browns 3.
Inspired by the Offensive “production”, the Defense came out and held New England to an easy 3 and Out, including Eric Wright stoning Morris on a 1st down run for no gain. (Beautiful tackle, Eric. A good game as a whole from you.)
Cleveland took over at their own 37, but Anderson got sacked on 1st down by Bruschi (again). The drive was doomed to a quick punt when Rodney “Spaz” Harrison got nailed with a Personal Foul – Facemask. Drive survives. Wright caught a screen for a few yards to midfield, but then Winslow couldn’t quite haul in the 2nd down pass (got hit) and Edwards couldn’t get the missile slant pass (bad throw). Drive dies.
But what to my wondering eyes should appear but another Patriots 3 and Out! Wright had fantastic coverage on Randy Moss on 3rd and 3, and then Pats Punter Chris Hanson shanked one out of bounds at the Browns 45, and the New England crowd actually booed their team.
Talk about spoiled.
It was 3rd and 5 at the 50 when Derek Anderson dropped back, avoided the rush, and sprinted – well, OK, plodded to his right. He may not be fast, but he used a bit of nifty footwork to tightrope the sideline and pull out the 1st down. Winslow caught a pass for 9, Wright ran for 7, and the Browns went to the 4th Quarter with 1st and 10 at the New England 27.
End of 3rd: Patriots 20, Browns 3.
The final period began with a bang, as, on the 2nd play, DA floated a beautiful pass down the left sideline to a wide open Tim Carter (Tim Carter!) for a 21 yard TD. He caught the ball, went down, then did his Braylon Edwards impersonation by sliding untouched into the End Zone. The crowd murmured in discomfort. We had a game, ladies and gents. Patriots 20, Browns 10.
Or did we?
My girlfriend was leaping around the living room. “Isn’t that awesome?” she asked me.
“Yes. But I’ll be a lot more excited if they don’t do what I think they’re gonna do,” I answered.
“What do you think they’re gonna do?”
“What they did in the Raiders game. Claw their way back into the game, then allow the other team to go on a long, time consuming TD drive.”
Sigh. It sucks that my worst Browns fears are usually realized.
Yes, the Browns Defense that held the Pats 3 times in the 3rd Quarter gave up Big Mo.
In my opinion, this drive comes down to one evil disgusting play that garners the Nicole Richie Award™ for this week. 3rd and 3 at the Cleveland 31. If you stop them here, then they are forced to kick a FG, they’re up only 13, and a Browns TD gets them within one score of a MASSIVE upset. Brady tosses the ball to Wes Welker on the sidelines, seriously short of the 1st down. Bodden had him dead to rights for the sure stop, except, as we mentioned before, Bodden was taking a Tackling-Free Holiday. So Welker squirmed out of his grasp, avoided taking the full brunt of Eric Wright’s follow up attempt, and reached towards the 1st down marker.
Now, it wasn’t a 1st down. But it was 4th and Inches instead of 4th and 4, and of course Bill Bellichick was going to go for it. And of course it was converted, so Bodden’s whiff did – in essence – lead to the 1st.
Actually, it led to the TD, as Brady hit a wide open Ben Watson for his 2nd score of the game. Sean “All Pro” Jones, who has played nothing like an All Pro this year, just let Watson truck on by, and had no chance to catch back up on the 25 yard strike. What happened to you, Jones? Did Brian Russell help you that much? I mean, if he did, I’ll call him right now and beg him to come back, ‘cuz you been suckin’ arse this year. Patriots 27, Browns 10.
With 9:40 left in the game, the Browns took over, and Anderson threw a 12 yard out to Edwards, who made one of the best catches I’ve ever seen, diving, reaching out with his left hand, catching the ball, securing it, and landing in bounds – all in one motion. Yes, Braylon, that is the kind of catch Elite Receivers make. Here’s the Scarlett Johanssen Award™ for you.
A clever little shovel to Cribbs got the Browns down to the New England 40, but that’s when the Pats brought the thunder. DA had to throw away the 1st pass due to pressure, then got sacked by an unblocked Vince Wilfork (missed assignment by Wright), then had to run for his life and shoveled the ball into the turf to avoid yet another sack. On 4th and 20, you have to punt.
The Pats blocked in the back on the return, so their drive started at their own 7. And this enigma that is the Cleveland Browns Defense once again rose up and forced a 3 and Out. New England had some 8th string RB named Kyle Eckel in there – it seemed that perhaps Bellichick was taking mercy on Romeo. Which, of course, increased the chances of good field position after the NE punt.
And it came to fruition. The Browns took over at the Patriot 35 with 6:44 left. It only took 2 plays. A nicely called pass up the middle to Wright for 21 yards, then Anderson (as he was getting hit) slung a 14 yard TD to Winslow. That was a helluva throw, Derek. A helluva throw. Patriots 27, Browns 17.
“I know what you’re thinking,” my girlfriend said.
“You’re thinking the Patriots are gonna march right down the field again.”
“Actually, I was thinking about the psychological effect of radiation on aardvarks. But what you say makes sense too.”
As you know, the Patriots did march down the field again. There’s really no reason to discuss it. OK, maybe one reason: to ridicule Leon “Physical Presence” Williams again, as he got toasted so badly by Ben Watson for 35 yards (on 2nd and 20, no less) that he set off the smoke alarm in my kitchen.
The Defense isn’t sucking this year due to an individual here or there. It’s a group effort.
After a Defensive Holding penalty on All Pro Jones, the Patriots were sitting 1st and Goal on the Browns 8 with 1:56 left. Bellichick said “Your boys played OK today, Romeo. I’m gonna kill the clock here and let you walk out with a moral victory loss of only 10”, and he sent 8th String Eckel up the gut 3 times for very little gain. But Romeo would have none of it, taking the last 2 Time Outs. “Fine! Mock my mercy!” seethed Billy B, and he went for it on 4th down.
Don’t you know where you are, fool? You’re inside the 5!
Brady got pressured and his little floater fell harmlessly incomplete in the End Zone. The Browns had the ball on their own 4, down by 10, with 52 seconds left.
“Just don’t don’t DON’T throw a pick six here,” I told Derek Anderson, and he promised he wouldn’t.
Instead, he threw a nice pass to Winslow for 15. Winslow caught it and had a solitary moment to think about heading for the sidelines when Randall Gay slapped the ball out of his hands. Gay recovered, ran in some circles, and brought the ball into the End Zone for the TD. Ugh. Patriots 34, Browns 17.
Billy B chortled evilly in his ratty sweatshirt.
With 42 seconds left, the Browns got the ball back again, and once again opted to practice their 2 minute drill, and impressively so, as they drove down to the Patriot 10 with 11 seconds left. But they got 3 straight incompletions from there, including the final play of the game, a catch by Winslow in the back of the End Zone that was ruled out.
People all over Vegas having taken New England at -16 breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Final: Patriots 34, Browns 17.
~~~Don’t hang your heads too much, Browns. You didn’t play very well against the best team in the NFL, and you still were in the game in the 4th Quarter. In the end, New England is still about 14 points better.
~~~Leon Williams, you get an F- for your effort on Sunday. We are shipping in Monks from Bangladesh for your caning.
~~~Leigh Bodden, you just get an F+. I’m sending you a signed copy of Tackling For Dummies.
~~~All Pro Jones, you get a D. D is the first letter of many words, including Dumb, Distracted, and Disappointing.
~~~You know what pisses me off? (Besides Light Beer)
Giving up that final TD gave everyone in the land the opportunity to disregard the presence of the Browns in the game. Losing by only 10 would’ve had people saying “The Browns were actually in this game, if it hadn’t been for the turnovers, who knows what might’ve happened” or “Finally someone gave the Patriots a challenge.”
But the Pats got that late garbage fumble return for the score, and suddenly the margin was 17, and all the supposed experts just had to glance at the score and start blathering about “The Patriots going undefeated” or “The Patriots roll to another easy victory.”
If you were living in Alaska and just caught the national highlight shows, you still might not even be aware who New England played yesterday.
Leave it to the Browns to lose even a moral victory.
~~~The Defensive Line will effectively prevent us from making a serious push to the playoffs this year.
Sure, we might – no, should – win our next two games. That puts us at 4-3 at almost the halfway point of the season, and that’s pretty damn exciting for this team.
But you can’t have a glaring weakness the size of Ted Washington’s boxers and hope to become an upper echelon team. Not in this league, baby.
The Offense has all the makings of becoming a dependable, effective force. But if you can’t pressure the QB and can’t consistently stop the run, then a lot of these games will be battles to the end, and you end up losing about half of those in the NFL. If the Browns aren’t fighting back and forth for the lead (as in the Cincy game), they’re struggling to maintain a lead (as in the Baltimore game), or desperately trying to scratch their way back from a deficit only to lose the momentum by allowing a long TD drive (Oakland and New England games).
It reeks of 8-8.
Which, I believe, is a record that many of us would’ve been ecstatic about prior to the season. But once you get a taste of winning, of potential, you want more. I’ve watched a number of games this season featuring teams with good Defenses and weak Offenses, and said to myself “That would be a really good team if they had the Browns O.”
Or, conversely, what would the Browns look like with, say, the Titans D? It would look a lot like a Super Bowl contender – that’s what.
I, for one, just cringe at the thought that the D Line can’t possibly be fixed until next season, because it means that it will be another long year from now before we perhaps have a playoff caliber team, and who knows if we will even then?
And who knows if we’ll even be alive?
~~~To that point: The Football Gods did Arizona a big favor on Sunday when they saw fit to break Matt Leinart’s collarbone.
Why would a team losing their starting QB be a favor, you ask?
Because now Kurt Warner will start.
That Offense runs much better under the veteran leadership of Warner than it does with Leinart. But Leinart is The Future – meaning the team spent a high draft pick on him, so they will keep playing him regardless of if he’s the best man for the job right now or not (see: Benson, Cedric).
The Coaching staff in Arizona knows full well that Warner gives them the best chance for immediate success, but the Front Office probably not-so-gently reminds them that they better not be benching The Future. Leinart spells out the Front Office line when he ranted, “I just want them to ride or die with me. If I'm the franchise quarterback, play me and let me stumble, because I'll fight through it, and that will help me and our team in the long run. I know coaches want to win now, and I guess they have their reasons. But I don't understand it, and this switching back and forth is almost worse than getting benched."
That’s all well and good – but Arizona has a legitimate playoff chance right now. Why do they have to wait a year or two just to hold your hand? Kurt Warner almost won the Cardinals the game against Baltimore, and, from there, the two QB system began, which was Ken Whisenhunt’s way of benching Leinart without truly benching him. Leinart starts, sucks around the field for a bit, gets nothing going, then in comes Warner, they march down the field, get back in the game, and Whisenhunt throws Leinart a series or two in the 3rd Quarter just to keep him happy.
That where the favor comes in: Now the coaching staff doesn’t have to worry about keeping Leinart and the Front Office happy. He’s done for the season. Gosh darn darn!, the Arizona coaches say. Guess we have to start Kurt now. Shucks.
Sure, you need to develop your players. But you also can’t sacrifice the present for an untold future. Everybody’s got a Plan For Tomorrow in the NFL. For most of them, Tomorrow never comes.
~~~With that in mind… I feel that it’s time for Brady Quinn to start.
But you just said play to win right now!, scream the hordes.
Yep. I did. I stand by that. Brady Quinn gives us the best opportunity to win right now.
Why? Let’s examine, shall we?
Brady Quinn advantages over Derek Anderson:
*Mobility – Now, I am not necessarily knocking on DA’s mobility, since he does just fine avoiding the rush; rather, I’m only saying that Quinn is more mobile and does add another dimension to the attack, even if it’s slight.
*Accuracy – This is DA’s biggest issue. There’s passes he throws that are just gorgeous. Then he throws a screen pass 4 feet over the RB’s head. He’s like my golf game. Just when I think my driver can do no wrong, I wail one into a field that is 3 fairways away. Now, I realize that Quinn’s knock coming into the draft was his downfield accuracy, but his short to mid range accuracy is far better than Anderson’s, and there’s a lot more of those kind of passes than the bombs.
*Decision Making/Consistency – The only data I have is from the preseason, which can certainly be misleading, but the mistakes that Anderson makes now are the mistakes that he made this preseason, not to mention last year. Quinn seemed to have a much higher football IQ; he went through his progressions quicker, and was much more willing to take what the Defense was giving him, rather than trying to force a laser into triple coverage.
Derek Anderson advantages over Brady Quinn:
*Arm Strength – Anderson can throw the ball 102 mph. Quinn can only throw it 98. Yes, that means that Quinn’s arm is plenty strong enough, so, uh, I guess this isn’t an advantage after all.
You know it’s going to happen. I know it’s going to happen. Romeo knows it’s going to happen. Hell, Derek Anderson knows it’s going to happen.
The unfortunate thing is that Anderson certainly hasn’t played badly enough to warrant the demotion. There’re probably 15 NFL teams out there right now just wishing they were getting the kind of production from their QB that Derek has provided the Browns.
Yes, I think that DA has done a decent job to date, but he still makes too many mistakes, and when we’re playing the level of competition that we’ve been playing, and getting the kind of Defensive support we’ve been getting, those are mistakes that can’t be made if you expect to win consistently. One could argue that Derek’s INT in the End Zone on the initial drive sealed the deal. They get a TD there, who knows how the game goes?
Anderson is in his third year, and he has started a grand total of 7 games, so he’s obviously no veteran. His level of experience is very comparable to Brady Quinn’s.
The mean, nasty defenses are over for a little while, so we have to worry less about “getting Quinn’s ego bruised.”
And no one is forgetting that we paid a high price to get Quinn. There’s a reason we did that – and I doubt it was to have him sit the whole year.
I’m sorry, Derek. You’ve played admirably and I really like a lot of what you’ve done. But you also make some terrible throws that kill drives. And you knew you were gonna be a seat-warmer coming into this campaign. I know - it’s not fair. It kind of sucks, actually. But that’s life, my friend. The Offense has been pretty good under your guidance. It’s just that it would probably be even better under the other guy.
The Browns have to move forward to the inevitable future. You can still be part of that.
But you’ll have to do it from the sidelines.
PS – Go Tribe. F those Boston-area pricks in their proverbial anal passages.