Monday, December 24, 2007

The Curse is Back!

Appalling doesn't begin to describe today's loss. I watched the game at Big Daddy's in Phoenix, a total dive, but the home of the Browns Backers of Arizona. Great crowd, great setup. I had the game on about 20 TV's with sound. Props to the good folks there for making the MTAC crew feel welcome. Solid Pizza, decent wings, and a lot of good Browns fans. Nothing better than when you see someone in a Zastudil #15 jersey. Now that is something that you don't see every day. It was the perfect setting. Too bad the team couldn't provide the game we were all looking to see.

It took me a long time to get to the computer to discuss this terrible season changing performance by QB Derek Anderson. There is no doubting this one folks, the bad DA resurfaced at the worst possible time for the Browns. In the pantheon of bad losses this season, this has to rank #1. The Browns dominated the game between the 20's, but when it came down to it, Anderson's four interceptions were just too much to overcome.

And what about those interceptions? If I could, I would put up the highlights and analysis for NBC's Football Night in America. They showed all four picks from the endzone angle. The first three were as bad as they get. Each one, you had no idea where DA was throwing the ball and it seemed as though he had no idea either. Chris Collinsworth pointed out that each of the first three, Kellen Winslow was wide open and the throws were nowhere near him. On the fourth, he tried to force the ball to K2 in the endzone and badly under-threw him. Making a cardinal mistake of throwing a pick in the endzone just cannot happen in a game of this magnitude.

There were several things I was upset about:

1. Anderson's overall decision making - We can talk all day about his four picks. All four were horrific. His passes were forced all day long. He was high on 75% of his throws, even the ones that were completed. I know he got away with it, but do you believe he actually ran with the ball with 5 seconds left, almost losing all of the clock on the process and not leaving himself with at least one shot at the end zone. Worst of all, on the final drive, he continued to throw short passes over the middle, costing the Browns valuable seconds and not gaining the kind of yards needed.

2. Abandoning the run too early - Jamal Lewis was money all game long, but the Browns seemingly went into all pass mode when they didn't have to. He only had 21 carries, netting 92 yards. The Browns really could have used him more in their numerous empty trips to the red zone. Anderson threw a season high 48 passes.

3. The Run defense is still awful - In the end, the undoing of the Browns defensively is their pathetic attempts to stop the run. 32nd in the NFL against the run for a reason. The front seven of the Browns needs a serious makeover in the offseason. When a makeshift line and backup RB Kenny Watson shreds you for 130 yards, there is a serious problem. Had Watson not fumbled on the last drive, the Bengals clearly would have just ran the clock out and not given Anderson a final chance.

4. Stats that will eat at the Browns all week - They gained 380 yards of total offense to the Bengals 270. They were 8-14 on third downs. They held the ball for over 12 minutes of the third quarter, yet only managed seven points. They had 25 first downs to the Bengals 15. Yet somehow, they trailed the entire game and eventually lost.

This is a sickening loss that reeks of the Cleveland Curse. The Browns did everything they could to lose this game to a team that was clearly inferior, yet had every chance to win the game. Let us not forget Bengals kicker Shayne Graham hitting the uprights on a field goal attempt, but caroming in. Meanwhile, Browns holder Dave Zastudil fumbled a field goal attempt snap on a very makeable attempt. That three points was the difference the Browns being able to attempt a game winning field goal at the end of the game, rather than try a pass play that wasn't going to work.

Now of course, the Browns no longer control their own destiny. The Titans hold the tiebreaker and get a Colts team next week who will no doubt rest their starters. Peyton Manning will play a half at the most. Joseph Addai sat most of the game today since the game was already in hand and the Colts are locked into the two hole in the AFC. The Browns have to win at home against the 49ers and will have to stop RB Frank Gore.

Does anyone else have a bad feeling about this?

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