Let’s not sugar-coat it, the Cleveland Browns were certainly not good on Sunday. Heck, I would have even accepted the Browns being bad against New England. Nope, the Browns were just sickening.
Sunday’s 38-15 loss to the New England Patriots, the Browns’ third consecutive loss, was a failure in almost every facet of the game. About the only thing that wasn’t horrible was that rookie Cade York managed to hit all three of his field goal attempts with a long of 51 yards.
The Good, The Bad, The Sickening
This game was a Master’s level class in coaching by Bill Belichick. He took Kevin Stefanski to school for the second consecutive season. Once again, it appeared that the team just gave up and stopped trying.
The offense went away from what it does best and put the onus on Jacoby Brissett to lead the team to a victory. He is not equipped to do that. He attempted 45 passes. This is far too many for him to attempt if the Browns are going to win. He only completed 21 of those attempts, had one touchdown, and two interceptions.
The strength of the team, the running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt had a combined 16 carries for 68 yards. For whatever reason, perhaps Stefanski saw something on film, right out of the gate the Browns were throwing. On the second play from scrimmage, Brissett threw a pick. This set the tone for the remainder of the afternoon even though the Browns only surrendered a field goal to the Patriots after that turnover.
The offense needs to literally run through Chubb and Hunt. For the most part, Stefanski puts together good offensive game plans, but Sunday was not his best effort. It appeared that he outsmarted himself by going away from this team’s strength. While there may be things on film that show Brissett simply is missing opportunities downfield, you have to play to a player’s strengths and abilities.
The defense continues to be a catastrophe. It is a failure of epic proportions that this team that has so much talent on paper cannot manage to make tackles and cover receivers. Once again, the Browns made a quarterback with little game experience look like the MVP of the NFL. Sunday’s recipient of the Browns’ defensive generosity was Bailey Zappe, a rookie making just his second career start. He wasn’t even the backup quarterback to Mac Jones. He is the third-string quarterback behind Brian Hoyer.
The list of quarterbacks that the Browns have lost to this season are as follows: Joe Flacco, Marcus Mariota, Justin Herbert, and Bailey Zappe. Other than Herbert, none of these quarterbacks qualify as elite or even close to elite. Additionally, but for a 58 yard field goal by York, the Browns would also have added Baker Mayfield to that list.
You can frame this any way you want, but there are some major problems on this team, especially the defense. While it may not be ideal to fire a coordinator mid-season, keeping him suggests that nobody is being held accountable for the continued mistakes. Either the players aren’t good enough, or they have stopped listening to Woods. Whatever the case may be, a change must occur. The players need to hear a different voice in the headset and on the practice field because what’s happening now is not working.
Right behind Woods is special teams coach Mike Priefer. His special teams group failed the team yet again. With the score 24-15, the onside kick was executed well and there was an opportunity to recover the ball but A.J. Green inexplicably went out of bounds, came back in, and touched the ball as Ronnie Harrison was attempting to gain control of the football and get the Browns’ offense back on the field.
Then, after botching the onside kick recovery attempt, the Browns’ defense actually forced a three-and-out. The ‘un’special teams suffered another brain fart when Chester Rogers muffed the punt, resulting in New England recovering the loose ball. The Patriots gladly took advantage of the Browns’ miscue and put the game on ice with a touchdown to make the score 31-15.
Through the first four games of the season, Browns’ fans had hopes of a 3-1 or 4-0 mark based upon the opponents on the schedule, but it wasn’t meant to be. Then, even with a 2-2 mark, the Los Angeles Chargers weren’t looking so daunting with Herbert nursing a rib injury, a terrible rushing attack, and a suspect defense that got trounced by the Jacksonville Jaguars. And on Sunday, the Browns had to feel like they had a chance with an untested quarterback in Zappe at the helm.
Now, the Browns have lost to teams with far less talent and teams with injured quarterbacks or backup quarterbacks. Looking ahead, the schedule is not going to get much better. This week, the Browns will head to Baltimore to take on the Ravens. Even though the Ravens are having problems of their own, John Harbaugh will have his team ready for this all-important divisional matchup.
We can hope that by this time next weekend there will be a victory to discuss and a renewed sense of hope for the Browns, but right now it looks like we are going to be subjected to overtime with no extra pay at The Factory of Sadness.