Week 7 - Cleveland at Jacksonville
Don't do it.
Don't you do it.
Don't you let that optimism creep back into your heart.
I can sense you out there, thinking Oh, the Browns are 3-4, only 1 game out of the Wild Card!
Oh, the Browns have won 3 of 4, including wins over the Mighty Giants and in Jacksonville!
Oh, the Browns are starting to become a complete team!
Don't think it! Don't be fooled!
Certainly, the Browns ARE only one game out of the Wild Card. And, on their best days, they can play with any team in this league. Any. Damn. Team.
But they don't always have their best day. You never ever know what kind of day they're gonna have. They're up and down so often that if they were a ride at Cedar Point, patrons would have to sign a whiplash waiver.
Yes, Cleveland is 3-4. Yes, the Playoff line is right now drawn at 4-3. But let's think for a moment about the upcoming schedule.
If the season ended today, the 6 AFC teams to qualify for the postseason would be Tennesee (7-0), Pittsburgh (5-2), New England (5-2), Buffalo (5-2), Denver (4-3), and Baltimore (4-3).
The only one of those teams that the Browns do not yet have to play is New England.
So, out of the remaining 9 games, that's 5 playoff-caliber teams. Not to mention Philly (4-3), Indy (3-4), and Houston (3-4). The only schlub left is Cincy.
Assuming that the Browns can beat any of those teams on their best day, but also assuming their best day is intermittent, let's say they split the 8 games against the playoff contenders and win against the sad Bengals. That's a 5-4 record over their last 9 games, good enough for an 8-8 record. Do you think 8-8 is good enough to get into the Postseason?
Unless Cleveland becomes miraculously dependable, which is nigh impossible with the present starting QB, an 8-8 record will actually be admirable.
Time to accept reality - this ain't the year.
Just as we Browns fans have done year after year, decade after decade, we will show up and root our team on and celebrate any win the team can eke out. But a win against a very beatable Jacksonville team should not give you false hope.
I know - I'm an asshole for saying this. Sorry. If you want sunshine blown up your hoo-ha, go talk to Romeo.
The Browns should stay in the Playoff picture long enough to make it interesting. Try to enjoy each game for what it is.
Sunday afternoon was Halloween time in the greater North Canton area, and I found myself roped into taking my fair daughters to a Trick-Or-Treat/Birthday party just in time for Kickoff. No worries - I was taping the game. So I walked around in my costume (I was Braveheart, complete with kilt), drinking adult beverages from a plastic cup, nodding appreciatively at my girls' haul.
I got back to the house of the Birthday party portion of the event in time to start the 2nd Quarter. The host had a bar in his basement (complete with 2 kegs and plenty o' liquor) with a large flat screen, so I told the girls to go torture children smaller than themselves and planted myself behind the bar, happily serving the other males that stole away from their significant others, reverting to my bartending days while pointing out play-calling inconsistencies to the uninitiated.
The second I turned on the TV, Jacksonville scored to make it 7-7. After that, the only time the Browns had a good play was when I left the room for a cigarette. It didn't take the other gents at the event long to realize that, yes, I was the curse.
I could've told you that a long time ago.
The Browns got the ball first and responded by going 3 and Out. On 3rd and Short, the Browns tried their standard Quick-Handoff-To-Vickers play, but he ran into Derek Anderson, and it didn't quite work.
Cleveland gave David Garrard too much time on 3rd and 9, and threw the ball to Dennis Northcutt, who somehow managed to catch it for a 1st. He soon got another 1st Down on a great catch for 11 yards. 2 catches, no drops. Up was down. Water was dry.
But a Holding call set JAX back, and Garrard had to throw away the 3rd and 11 pass, despite minimal pressure again. The coverage was good - props to our boys on the Corner (not you, Terry Cousin).
DA got it going with a short pass for 13 to Lawrence Vickers. Then Jamal Lewis had a long run (thanks to a nice block by Steve Heiden), and the Browns were in business. They faked the Flash, but DA ran back under Center and handed it to Vickers for another 10, then Anderson hit Braylon Edwards for 21 to the JAX 17, and maybe we had Good DA on this day.
A couple plays later, the Browns went 4 wide, then hit Heiden up the middle for a 1st and Goal at the 5. However, Goal to go has been the nemesis of the Cleveland Browns as of recent, and they showed it again, going 2 yards in 2 plays. But DA hit a wide open Donte Stallworth for a TD on 3rd (welcome to the team, Mr. Stallworth), and things were sunny in Florida. Browns 7, Jaguars 0.
Jacksonville ended the Quarter with 3rd and 10 at their own 37.
End of 1st: Browns 7, Jaguars 0.
D'Qwell Jackson shot the gap and had Garrard dead to rights, but somehow whiffed. You don't go high on a running QB. Garrard rolled right, then ran. 3 Browns players were in great position to tackle him along the sidelines well short of the 1st Down, but they - Corey Williams, Willie McGinest, and Eric Wright - all seemed to feel he would run out of bounds and forgot to tackle him. So he merely cut back and ran for 24 - possibly the worst Defensive play of the season. Terry Cousin and Kam Wimbley also got in on the action by whiffing in their own right. Only Sean Jones felt the need to tackle him.
This play enabled the Jaguars to drive. Garrard hit Matt Jones on a perfect throw 3rd and 6 (despite good coverage by Brandon McDonald), and Bizarro-Northcutt caught another one on 3rd and 2 to the CLE 5. From there, Eric Wright got absolutely fried for an easy 5 yard TD to previously suck-tacular Reggie Williams. Browns 7, Jaguars 7.
Josh Cribbs finally looked poised to break a long one, but got thrown down by the Kicker. Let's say that again - HE GOT THROWN DOWN BY THE KICKER. For shame, Josh, for shame. He must now whip himself 30 times with a wet lasagna noodle in penance.
After a crappy pitch to Jason Wright on 3rd and Short, the Browns faced 4th and Short at their own 47. Romeo Crennel showed swollen testicles by going for it. The play looked like yet another dreadful Quick-Handoff-To-The-Fullback, and the Jaguars totally bit. However, it was what the experts like to call "Play Action" (something we don't see enough of), and DA rolled right and hit a wide open Heiden, who trucked it all the way to the 1. Another 1st and Goal disaster? Well, the 1st Down run was stymied, but instead of panicking and going to a miserable Fullback screen, the Browns just ran him again, and, this time, Lewis pounded in from the 1 yard TD. Take Note, Mr. Chudzinski. Browns 14, Jaguars 7.
Garrard hit Jones again on a beautiful pass for 24, and then pump faked poor Corey Williams out of his bloomers on a run, bringing up 2nd and 2 at the CLE 38. However, pressure by Wright and Alex Hall forced a throw away, a run stuff, and Greg Jones getting submarined by a great D-Line push on 4th Down gave the Browns the ball back.
Cleveland started the next drive off by hitting Edwards on a pretty 43 yard pass down the sidelines. But then a poorly thrown ball to Braylon was dropped (that's 10)... and... well... when you combine a bad throw by DA with a botched catch by BE, yes, it activates Super Villain Bad DA! Form of an Incompletion! Shape of Suck!
Realizing his own sudden ineptitude, Anderson threw a hopeless 5 yard slant to Stallworth on 3rd and 9. Field Goal time. Browns 17, Jaguars 7.
The Jaguars did little with their next possession, and Shaun Rogers got a great sack on 3rd Down to snuff it.
The Browns had 1:09 left and were sitting at their own 34. A nice effort by Jason Wright on a screen pass got them to midfield with 39 seconds left. Then DA overthrew Cribbs, almost got picked, and threw the ball to the Umpire on 3rd Down. I can't believe the Ump dropped it - he was Wide Open! Stupid Ump.
Cleveland had to punt - a completely wasted drive. JAX got the ball on their own 1 and wisely ran out the clock.
Halftime: Browns 17, Jaguars 7.
The 2nd Half started off with a gorgeous 32 yard throw over the middle from Garrard to Reggie Williams. JAX TE Marcedes Lewis caught a pass on 3rd and 3, prolonging the Browns' struggle against Tight Ends. On 4th and 1 from the CLE 10, Andra Davis missed a tackled in the backfield, and Jones-Drew managed to bounce it outside for a 1st on an inhuman effort. Matt Jones beat McDonald on a slant for an 8 yard TD on the next play - Jones haunted McD all day. Browns 17, Jaguars 14.
Jamal Lewis accounted for 23 yards in 3 plays, but DA missed a pass intended for Edwards WAY long. However, Heiden made an excellent catch on 3rd Down to prolong the drive. It was for naught, sadly, as the following screen to Jason Wright on 3rd and 6 from the JAX 41 had no chance whatsoever.
D'Qwell Jackson, Kam Wimbley, and Willie McG converged on Garrard for a sack to bring up 3rd and 6, but the Jaguar QB hit his TE in front of - Spit! - Cousin to extend the drive. Then Matt Jones beat McD again for 6 on 3rd and 2, and given too much time, Garrard scrambled for another 1st Down to the CLE 27 to end the Quarter.
End of 3rd: Browns 17, Jaguars 14.
Facing a 3rd and 3 at the CLE 20, JAX decided to run for it. It was KILLED by Shaun Rogers, who knifed through and tossed poor Jones-Drew to the turf. The Jaguars went for the 38 yard FG, but the big boy (Rogers, that is) drove through again, swatting the attempt away with his left hand (the 12th Kick block of his career), then recovering the loose ball himself. In the height of his super powers, Rogers stomped off the field like Godzilla.
The Browns Offense came on the field again, and DA promptly missed an easy screen to Vickers. On 3rd and Long, he threw another pick, but, in his defense, he knew it was a free play as a JAX Defender jumped Offsides. To our mass frustration, the ensuing 3rd and 3 was foiled when Anderson held the ball far too long and had it swatted out of his oversized mitts. Fortunately, Joe Thomas was there to recover.
Cleveland forced the Jags to 3rd and 10, but Garrard hit Jones yet again, burning Wright this time. The play was aided by a Roughing the Passer penalty on Rogers, which, in my unbiased assessment, was complete bullshit. Wright made up for his error on the following 3rd and 6, keeping great coverage on Jones and knocking the ball down. JAX had to try another FG - this time from 53 yards - but this time it went through the uprights unmolested. Browns 17, Jaguars 17.
Three Jamal runs netted two 1st Downs, and DA made his 1st good throw since the 1st Half on a strike over the middle to Syndric Steptoe on 3rd and 7 that was caught at the 34 and taken to the 1 - a 53 yard gain. So... 1st and Goal at the 1. Sound familiar? Jamal ran the ball for no gain. Instead of insisting on pounding the ball in (which I referred to earlier), DA rolled right, avoided the rush nicely, and missed wide open Charles Ali in the End Zone. His 3rd Down pass over the middle to Edwards would've been an easy TD - had it been 3 feet lower. Form of an Incompletion! Shape of Suck! Browns 20, Jaguars 17.
The disappointment of wasted opportunity was soon forgotten as little seen Beau Bell knocked the ball out of the hands of JAX Kick Returner Witherspoon, and Cribbs recovered at the JAX 25 with just 4:27 left. They had a chance to not only kill clock, but also deliver the knock out head butt. The 1st Down run netted little, and then Lewis dropped the screen on 2nd Down. On 3rd and 10, I mentally screamed for a run or short screen to deplete the clock, but the Browns would have none of it, and DA threw a ball incomplete at Heiden's shoes. On the sidelines, cameras clearly caught Romeo expressing his view of the play by yelling a healthy expletive about copulation. Browns 23, Jaguars 17.
The Jaguars took over with just 4:06 left, but there was incompletion, then Garrard avoided nasty pressure, but was taken down for just 6 by Rogers (could've been so much more), and more pressure on 3rd Down brought another incomplete pass. With time waning, JAX was forced to punt.
Cleveland got the ball at their own 33 with 2:57 left. The Jaguars had only 2 Time Outs left. The Browns ran the ball 3 straight times, but failed to get the 1st. However, they stole away JAX's last Time Outs and the 2 Minute Warning.
Starting at their 30 with 1:51 left, Northcutt made another nice catch. "Where's the DROPS?" I screamed at the TV. It didn't listen. But the Jaguar momentum was stifled by a Brodney Pool sack, and a couple plays later, that bastage Northcutt had to make yet another catch on 4th and 3. Tony Pashos, a JAX O-Lineman, was nailed for a Personal Foul, though, so JAX had the ball on their own 39 with 27 seconds left and no Time Outs.
That would've been a good situation, had Garrard not found Jones open in the middle at the 42, and had Jones not weaved his way through Defenders down to the 25 AND managed to get out of bounds, stopping the clock. I ripped off a huge ball of tinfoil and started chewing.
D'Qwell almost got a sack on 1st Down, and Garrard threw the ball out of the End Zone. On 2nd Down, he had time and found Jones open past the Goal Line, but McD had just enough coverage to cause Jones to bobble the ball, and, after maybe 6-10 minutes of the ball just hanging in the air, just floating in slow motion, Nick Sorensen came over and knocked it to the ground. I aged 4-5 years during that play. My eyebrows fell out.
With 1 second left, Garrard heaved another desperate attempt at a TD, and it went out of the End Zone again. Game.
Final: Browns 23, Jaguars 17.
Offensive MVP: The Offensive Line. This is my de facto winner when no one really stands out on Offense, yet they are effective enough to win the game. DA had time to throw, and there were holes to run through, save in obvious running situations.
Defensive MVP: Shaun Rogers. Mr. Rogers has quickly entrenched himself as the Most Important Player on the Defense. I cannot imagine how different the D would look without him. Well, I can, but I don't want to.
~~~Anyone else notice how good Matt Jones was in that game? He seems to have focused since getting nabbed this Summer in the backseat of a car with a buttload of coke.
It's probably the fact that he's off the blow that he's suddenly, finally, coming into his own.
Either that or the Meth.
~~~As it has become apparent that the Browns will not make a QB change while they are still in the Playoff hunt, and that mirage could last some time, and that Derek Anderson has shown the propensity to do just enough at the right time to retain his position, I am resigned to having to watch DA fling the ball around the yard for the remainder of the season.
Seeing as this is the current reality, a reality I am not overly happy with accepting, I must concentrate on - as Al Davis so eloquently put it - getting over it.
So this will be the last time that I rail on DA. I think.
Many claimed that Mr. Anderson had an "excellent" game against Jacksonville. I think they're higher than Matt Jones. He was good for a while, then went downhill fast. His 1st Half stats were 9-15, 168 yds, 1 TD, 121 QB rating. His 2nd Half stats were 5-12, 78 yds, 0 TD, 70.2 QB rating. He went Jekyll & Hyde all in one game.
He is not good because he is not consistent and his confidence is more fragile than a Hollywood marriage. He will never be a great NFL QB, and his continued existence as starting QB is just prolonging the inevitable. He is holding this team back.
If Phil Savage pays the roster bonus to retain him next season, I will personally see to it that both of those gentlemen wake up one morning tied to a pole in a cave in Antarctica with nothing but a solitary jelly bean to sustain them on their trek back to civilization.
But since this year's situation is one I cannot personally rectify, I must ask myself which is more important to me: To have the Browns lose so DA can get yanked, or to have the Browns win despite DA?
I know others are asking the same question, and many of them are siding with the best thing for the long run being losses now.
I cannot bring myself to that conclusion. I've seen too much shitty Browns football to wish to see it again, no matter whom the QB is.
Thus, I must root for the Browns and, concurrently, Derek Anderson to do well.
In order to do this without constant consternation, I must forget that Anderson is the QB. I must see him as a faceless entity. I must see him as nothing more than The Browns QB, a position, not an individual.
Therefore, Derek Anderson no longer exists for me. When The Browns QB throws a pick or the ball way over someone's head, I will view it as momentarily unfortunate, because The Browns QB is a constant. He is DA. He is Brady Quinn. He is Ken Dorsey. And yet, he is none of them.
Should The Browns QB be hurt on one play, he will come back in on the next. He is indestructible. He is like James Bond - no matter which actor plays him, he cannot be killed.
Good luck, The Browns QB. I hope you stop sucking as much as you have been.
~~~Speaking of Phil Savage and jelly beans, he is acting like a child. Due to his initial silence, then ambiguous explanation, then petulant tirade, he has actually managed to make Kellen Winslow look like the mature one.
In my mind, both sides in the little spat look bad. But who knew that Savage could look as bad as a notorious prima donna? Is that how a GM behaves?
He let Romeo cover Kellen's initial suspension instead of facing the media himself. When he did speak to the media on the weekend, he said the following:
"Due to the nature of this particular situation, it seemed that the people involved wouldn't want it out there."
"If there's going to be disclosure, there's got to be full disclosure. We were trying to do the right thing by him and his family."
"I think it's all in a gray area right now. You can ask him."
To me, that seems like Phil was saying that there was more to Kellen's hospitalization than staph. Passing the buck back to Winslow.
When it was perceived thus by the media, Savage broke into a Monday press conference to angrily state:
"Once and for all, Kellen's illness was determined to be a staph infection... That's the end of the story. It's over with. There's no secondary illness -- staph infection. Everybody's got it, right?"
After which, of course, he took no questions.
It is now obvious to me, for one, that the full duties of being a GM do not suit Phil Savage. I think his best qualities lie with talent evaluation and team building. He is not good with public relations. He's not even very good with player relations. It's stuff he'd never done before getting this job, and stuff that I cannot believe that he relishes. He probably sees it as a necessary evil, something that has to be done, but something for which he holds disdain.
So... why not hire a President to do those things which he so clearly does not enjoy and is not cut out for?
He had a President here before in the form of John Collins back in 2005, but, after a silly power struggle, Collins was let go. In actuality, the Cleveland Browns DO have a President - Mike Keenan. Most of us didn't even know this. Why? Because we've never seen or heard the guy. For a President, he's as inconspicuous as Liechtenstein.
What Phil needs is a PR guy to handle the press for him. Romeo shouldn't have to do it for him - he's got enough to do. And Phil clearly doesn't want the burden. But he needs someone with an official sounding title that is a smooth talker that can hold these press conferences and explain Phil's/the team's position and walk us out of these embarrassing episodes.
The advantage is twofold: The media and fans can be properly informed and handled, and Phil is freed to do what he does best - scout.
Sadly, I am of the belief that, after his power struggle with Collins, Savage is loath to relinquish any of his powers or duties to anyone. He doesn't want to delegate for the fear of being replaced.
His insecurity in this arena is to the detriment of the team.
~~~Speaking of Kellen Winslow and jelly beans, many have suggested that the Browns are better off without him. The concept is that Steve Heiden is a much better blocker, noticeably helping in both rushing and pass protection, while still being highly effective in short to intermediate pass routes.
While there is merit to this concept, I still must say that there is no way in Hades that this team is "better off" without Winslow.
Perhaps better off without Winslow at Tight End, but not better off without him at all.
Romeo has been slow to warm to the idea of mainly playing Kellen as a Wideout, but I think the time has come to explore it further. Sure, Winslow had more of an advantage being covered by a Linebacker than a Cornerback, but Linebackers also tend to knock him off his routes. His speed and hands are still high enough quality to be very effective in the slot, going against the opponent's # 3 Corner. With Joe Jurevicius likely out for the year, that possession Receiver with good size is still in demand.
Winslow could fill that role well.
It was also suggested that Winslow would not want to be relegated to such a role, to which I respond, "Who give a Flying Farg what he wants?"
He's already going to be sharing lots of snaps with Heiden at this point. He'll get just as many as slot Receiver. If the rumors are true that the Browns were trying to trade him, it's apparent that he's already expendable.
While ya got him, use him in the way that will best help the team. Most of us get paid a lot less than $4 million a year to be dissatisfied with our jobs.
~~~The potent RB combo of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for a total of 53 yards on 20 carries, which simple math tells us comes to 2.65 yards per carry. Bravo, Run D. Quite an improvement.
~~~David Garrard is really a good QB. He's got really nice touch on his passes, and rarely makes a bad mental error. Plus he can run.
Imagine how good he would be if he had a Receiver worth a quart of piss on his team.
While you're at it, imagine how good he would look if he were The Browns QB.
Ahhhhhh... I say with a grin on my face, eyes closed.
OK, stop imagining. Reality is depressing enough.
~~~Now I shall give props to someone I don't give a lot of props to.
His name is D'Qwell Jackson. He is one of the much-maligned Inside Linebackers for the Browns. He is undersized for a player in that position in a 3-4 Defense, and he has been largely ineffective in many a contest.
However, he was very aggressive in this game. Aside from his QB whiff, he had a stellar game. He was all over the field. He had 8 tackles, 1 Assist, 1 Sack, and 1 QB Knockdown. And he was a big part holding down that Jaguar Running game.
Keep it up, DQ. It would be fab if we didn't have to draft TWO Middle Linebackers on the 1st Day.
~~~Ever since Roy Williams - the WR - got traded from Detroit to Dallas, coupling him with Roy Williams - the Safety, the media has begun to refer to Roy Williams - the WR - as Roy E. Williams. Roy L. Williams is the Safety. It's all very confusing.
I suggest that, in order to eliminate the middle initial, one of them change their name. Preferably, Roy E. Williams - the WR - because, well, that's what Wide Receivers do.
My advice is that E. modifies his name to match his number, 11. There is precedence for this action. If he changes his name to something like Roy Once (Spanish pronunciation of 11 - others have suggested to disregard accuracy for Ray Uno Uno), all will be happy.
Or, if you prefer German, perhaps Roy Elf.
~~~Donte Stallworth strained his quad again. Geez. Insert snide comment here.
E-mail me your "Donte Stallworth is more fragile than..." one-liners. I'll publish the best ones next week.
~~~1 Penalty? The Browns only had 1 Penalty?
What, did Braylon Edwards strain his quad too?
~~~Now that the Phillies have won a title for Philadelphia - the city's first since 1983 - it moves Oakland to 2nd place in the race of Cities With 3 Or More Professional Teams That Have Gone Longest Without A Championship. It was 1989 when the A's won the World Series, bringing joy to a city that houses the A's, Raiders, and Golden State Warriors.
There's one other city with 3 or more Pro teams that has gone longer without a championship. That poor metropolis is by far the "winner", having gone without a title for 44 years.
Can you guess it? I'll give you a hint: It is located in Northeast Ohio. And it starts with a C.
~~~Cue Phil Savage with his whole "Woe is me" speech. I love hearing it.
A shiny nickel says he'll be saying it too before he's out the door.
~~~The Baltimore Ravens.
Rarely in sports has such a detestable franchise existed. Yet, somehow, they have fallen behind the Pittsburgh Steelers on my "Most Hated" List.
How could the bastard spawn of the Old Browns get off the Top?, you ask. How could the evil perpetrated by Art Modell's treacherous move be allowed demi-clemency? Well, I'll give you a couple reasons:
•1. Art Modell no longer owns the team. He's dying somewhere in suburban Maryland, completely disconnected from the team in any way, shape, or form. When he finally does perish - Satan rest his soul - the city of Baltimore and the Ravens franchise will barely notice. (Or so I imagine, for if they make a big to-do about his passing, they go back to the Top).
•2. They haven't been very good of late. Even when they went 13-3 a couple years ago, I didn't believe they were that good a team, and they rewarded my faith by losing in the 1st Round of the Playoffs to the Colts. Every year, they are a carbon copy of the previous. Good D. Atrocious O. Beating the Raiders last week with some trick plays doesn't change that.•3. Their fans are far less annoying than Steelers fans. Certainly, this is probably due to the location of the two cities in proximity to Cleveland, but I rarely hear any Ravens talk, and NEVER see a Ravens flag or coat or hat or... well, you get the picture. Yet I am accosted daily by the presence of lice-ridden vermin from Western PA. If looks could kill, NE Ohio would be littered with the corpses of Terrible Towel Toters.
Now, don't get me wrong; I still loathe the Ravens of Baltimore. I hate their purple souls. I just hate them slightly less than the team from Pittsburgh.
The Browns QB had better have his A game this week, because the Ravens Defense is excellent against the Run. And if the Run isn't there to protect The Browns QB, then the team will need him to actually perform.
And I don't see the Ravens Offense moving the ball prolifically on the Cleveland D. The Browns are starting to get their confidence on that side of the ball, Joe Flacco is still a Rook, and Willis McGahee is still overrated.
I still believe that Cleveland has the superior team, and, in a contest where all the players performed to their capabilities, it would be an easy Browns victory. But, given the zig-zag pattern the team's fortunes have taken, I do not/will not/cannot expect the players - especially certain players - to perform to their capabilities. The Offense goes as does The Browns QB, and I sense that he will have his typical putrid-week-following-a-job-saving-week. The Boos will rain down like Judgment Day heavenly fire, and the hope that was so briefly ignited for some of you shall be quenched yet again.
I am loath to say this, but I must. The only consistency this team has shown this year is to win when everyone gives them up for dead, then lose when everyone thinks they've come back to life.
Besides, I've mis-predicted the last 3 games, so maybe my voodoo will help.