It’s Hard to be Optimistic About 0-2, But I’ll Try…

 Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward (43) breaks up a pass intended for Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster (22) during the first quarter of their NFL football game in Cleveland, Ohio September 19, 2010. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

If you’re one of the many Cleveland Browns fans discouraged by Sunday’s 16-14 loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s understandable.

It really is frustrating to think that the Browns basically shot themselves in the thigh for the second consecutive week and lost a game they could’ve – and should’ve –  won. There’s nothing too redeemable about this 0-2 start, especially when you consider that the first two weeks was basically just the calm before the storm. If you take a peek at the Browns upcoming schedule, it’s not at all unrealistic to think that the Browns could lose the next seven games and start the year off 0-9. It’s certainly discouraging to look at it this way, but let’s be real: it could easily happen.

The thing is, though, while it sucks to think that the Browns are out of it already, I’m not exactly disgusted JUST yet, and I’m not ready to call for any heads at this point. And maybe you shouldn’t be, either.

(1) For starters, the Browns very easily could be sitting at 2-0 heading into AFC North play. In fact, they should be, and they would be - if they could just take care of the damn ball.

In Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was the two costly turnovers by quarterback Jake Delhomme and running back Peyton Hillis that essentially got in the way of a Browns victory.

Against the Chiefs on Sunday, it was the same theme, just different faces as self-inflicted errors again spoiled another strong effort by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and the defense.

Once again, turnovers proved to be the kiss of death for the Browns as the Chiefs scored 10 points off two crucial turnovers. The first – a fumble by running back Jerome Harrison on the second drive of the game -  led to a Ryan Succop field goal. In Harrison’s defense, his elbow was clearly down and the call should’ve been overturned. I hate to sound like a crybaby, but the Steelers get that call overturned 11 out of 10 times.

That obviously hurt and cost the Browns 3 points, but the real dagger once again came from a Browns QB. Only this time it was Seneca Wallace serving up a game changing interception to Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers, who returned it 33 yards for a touchdown.

It also didn’t help that the Browns committed 9 penalties for 78 yards, old reliable Phil Dawson missed a 42 yard field goal, or that Tim Donaghy was apparently officiating the game, but the bottom line is two turnovers by the Browns led to 10 points for the Chiefs. That’s more than enough to keep a team like the Browns from winning football games.

If you want to spin some positive light on this, there’s a little bit of solace in the idea the Browns are two plays away from being  2-0 despite not having a legitimate #1 wide receiver, running back, or quarterback.

If anything, at least we’re not delusional with unrealistic optimism heading into this brutal stretch of games beginning with the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday.  

(2) Another positive that I can take away from this poor start has been the play of the defense and some of its’ younger talent.

For the most part, I thought the D did a pretty good job against the Chiefs offense as they held them to three field goals and intercepted quarterback Matt Cassell twice. Granted, the Chiefs don’t have the most dynamic offense, but they do have some playmakers in there.

Some individual defensive standouts against the Chiefs included rookie safety T.J. Ward and nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin. Ward again led the Browns in tackles (11 total – 10 solo) and appears to be the real deal at safety. He gets to the ball in a hurry and continues to make plays near  the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, The Tub also had a good day in the middle and was particulary stout against the Chiefs’ rushing attack. Rubin finished with 6 tackles (4 solo) and, surprisingly, an interception.

Something to smile about is that these two are good, and so is rookie cornerback Joe Haden and possibly even outside linebacker Marcus Bernard, who recorded a sack on Cassell to push his season total to 2.5. There’s some young talent on this Browns defense, and this group is looking like a solid core for the future. The Browns are maybe just a linebacker or two away from having a very good defense.

(3) And finally, the third and final reason to be optimistic about the Browns 0-2 start is because it means they have a leg up on next year’s  draft, already!

Sigh.

In short, the Browns don’t have a lot of playmakers on offense. They have some guys that can make plays if utilized correctly (i.e. Josh Cribbs), and then they have some guys that used to make plays (i.e. Jerome Harrison). The Browns need some talent on offense, and a good place to pick up some talent is the NFL Draft. Based on these first two games, the Browns are probably going to be in position to land almost anybody they want come next year’s draft.

So there’s a couple of reasons to not jump off the bridge ( I guess).

And coming soon: Some reasons to not push head coach Eric Mangini off the bridge – just yet.

Topics: Ahtyba Rubin, Brandon Flowers, Cleveland Browns, Eric Mangini, Jake Delhomme, Jerome Harrison, Joe Haden, Josh Cribbs, Kansas City Chiefs, Marcus Bernard, Matt Cassell, Peyton Hillis, Rob Ryan, Ryan Succop, Seneca Wallace, Steelers, T.J. Ward

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  • Terry

    Peyton Hillis averages 4.5 yards per carry, yet had only 8 carries Sunday. They have a running back, just do not know how to use him.The turnovers are not the problem. The vanilla offensive scheme is. Wallace”s pick 6 was in the first half. They had the lead going into the locker room. The game was lost in the second half by 3 and outs. You can not expect the defense to be on the field virtually the entire half, and still hold up. I am tired of hearing about a lack of talent. They get the same chances as the rest of the NFL to draft players,usually with a top 5 choice. They just seem to fuck it up every year. The main “lack of talent” is in the coaching. Good coaches get the best out of what they have to work with. Bad ones make excuses and blame everybody but themselves.

    • Bernie Dawkins

      I’m gonna have to disagree, Terry.

      Turnovers have been a huge problem for the Browns. They’re just not talented enough (offensively) to spot a team 10 points off two turnovers.

      As far as Hillis: I like him and I appreciate what he can bring to the Browns offense (i.e. toughness and versatility), but lets be real: that 4.5 yards per carry average is gonna drop in the coming weeks with the defenses we’re about to see.

      But I will give you this: we have f’d up an awful lot with the draft. No doubt about that.

      • Terry

        It doesn’t matter how many points they gave up off of turnovers. THEY STILL HAD THE LEAD AFTERWARD. The 3 and outs are what decided the game. As far as Hillis is concerned,he is the best runner on the team. Hits the hole nicely, tough to bring down, a force catching passes,and blocks. But he is white, so he is automatically counted as a non-factor. The 4.5 ypc avg. may drop , but he still had it last Sunday when he was given the ball 8 TIMES WHILE PLAYING ALMOST ALL OF THE SECOND HALF WITH THE LEAD!!! That is bad coaching no matter how you slice it.

        • Bernie Dawkins

          I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Peyton Hillis is a tough, versatile guy to have in the backfield and I appreciate what he can bring to the O.

          But…is he a legitimate #1 RB in the NFL? I’d have to say no. He may be our best option at RB, but he wouldn’t be any of the other 31 teams best option at RB.

          Still, I think we can all agree that we have a lot of problems on offense. Poor play calling and poor use of players are at the top of the list.

          • Bernie Dawkins

            On second thought…Hillis is looking every bit like the #1 RB I said that he wasn’t.

            Very, very impressive 1st half by Hillis against the Ravens D.

            My foot is in my mouth and I’m ok with it.

            Go Browns. And keep pounding that ball.

  • http://www.clevelandbrownsweblog.com Clayton

    Hey Bernie – one more reason to not jump off the top of the AT&T Tower – we are not Bills fans.

    • Bernie Dawkins

      So true, Clayton.

      As bad as we may be, they’re even worse. When things get bad, that’s something that always crosses my mind.

      I feel for all the Bills fans out there – except that KTown guy below because he’s obviously a moron.

  • Tom M.

    Great article. I love your optimism. I feel the very same way. It’s impossible for me to give up on them after 2 weeks, after having invested so much time in them in the off-season. I knew this season wouldn’t be easy. Those calling for Mangini’s head are crazy at this point (and can’t some figure out how to spell his last name correctly?!). Holmgren picked him as head coach, so lets run it through and see how it turns out. And maybe when D’Qwell gets back, we’ll have that linebacker you say is missing. Go Browns!

    • Bernie Dawkins

      Thanks, Tom.

      We just gotta stay positive and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

    • Terry

      Holmgren did not “pick him” as head coach, he inherited him, and with the contracts of the former coaches still being paid(At the time) he had no choice but to keep him.

  • KTown

    The Brown-stains suck. No one cares about the Brown-stains. To say you are better than the Bills is equivalent to saying at least the fat prostitute will smile at you for free. It’d all be so sad if it weren’t so funny. Next up . . . Colt McCoy.

  • Terry

    Thanks for the revised opinion on Hillis. Takes a big man to do that. The 3rd and 2 play call in the fourth quarter was terrible. Hillis up the gut twice when they haven’t stopped him all day, a slant, a screen, or a 5 yard hitch would have been acceptable, but the hail Mary to Cribbs, who was covered, that landed ten yards out of bounds was the worst play call I have seen since the Larry Csonka fumble that Herm Edwards returned for a touchdown when all Pisarcik had to do was take a knee.

    • Bernie Dawkins

      No prob, Terry. It’s not the first time I’ve been wrong, and it won’t be the last.

      Good to see that this site is gaining some intelligent commentators that know football.