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.

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Tags: 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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