Games like these are often more frustrating than blowouts. For the third game in a row, the Cleveland Browns held a lead in the fourth quarter, only to see it turn into a loss. On Sunday, the Browns played their best game yet, but it wasn’t enough to beat the division rival Baltimore Ravens. Unlike the past two weeks, there doesn’t seem to be an eternal amount of reasons as to why the Browns lost, but the difference this time around is that the mistakes that led to this loss were incredibly glaring.
So, that being said, here are five reasons the Browns lost to the Ravens:
1) Okay, I lied. I wanted to finally talk about something positive, and what could be more positive than talking about Peyton Hills? The rumbling running back was the the only reason the Browns were really in this game, as he ran the ball 22 times for 144 yards, second-most in the league for Week 3. He also had seven catches for 36 yards, bringing his total to 180 yards for the day. Hillis’ downhill, tackle-me-if-you-can style fits the Browns perfectly and it showed on Sunday.
2) Having said all that about Hillis’ production, there is just as much to say about the lack of involvement from the receivers. Josh Cribbs was the only wide receiver to make a catch in the game, and he caught five balls for 58 yards, which led the team. We all knew there would be growing pains with the young receivers, but this is a little ridiculous. How can they possibly be expected to develop if the ball isn’t thrown to them? I’m speaking specifically about the supposed #1 receiver, Mohamed Massaquoi, though Brian Robiskie also has only two catches on the year (he did not play against Baltimore due to an injury). Either these receivers are running the worst routes in the history of the NFL or the coaching is seriously flawed, and my money is on the coaching.
3) The coaching staff’s inability to call the right plays or make adjustments are a yearly gripe from fans, but it’s been especially bad so far this season. I will give them credit for sticking with Hillis in the second half, as I was ready to see him get two carries in garbage time. But Hillis can’t be expected to produce like that every game; at some point, a Browns quarterback is going to have to throw to a receiver other than Josh Cribbs or tight end Ben Watson. It’s up to the coaching staff to come up with something designed for Massaquoi or Robiskie. There will be those aforementioned growing pains, but it has to happen.
4) This one can’t be blamed on defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, because he threw everything he had at the Ravens, but the Ravens were able to stifle the Browns defense for the entire game. Quarterback Joe Flacco was able to think about what music he’d listen to on the ride home while in the pocket, and then still have time to throw it up for Anquan Boldin. Not having Marcus Benard or Shaun Rogers available definitely didn’t help, but this defense should have been capable of getting just enough pressure on Flacco.
5) Cornerback Eric Wright is normally dependable, but this just wasn’t his game. He was burned multiple times on Sunday, which happens to all cornerbacks, but his all his mistakes seemed to lead to touchdowns. Anquan Boldin made Wright look clueless, as Wright was faked into running into the wrong direction twice. The defense held its own again for the most part, even without any pressure on Flacco, so it’s hard not to dissect Wright’s game specifically. I’m not going to call for him to be benched or demoted, but he needed help on Sunday and once again, the coaching staff didn’t respond.