In a way, we probably should have seen this coming. Maybe not the fact that the Browns lost to the Buffalo Bills, 13-6, but that the team would play down to its competition. I have little doubt that the Browns are a better team overall than the Bills, and are surely capable of scoring a touchdown against them, but these Eric Mangini-led squads have the same issues that have plagued every single team since the Browns’ return in 1999.
The Browns get up for the good teams and seemingly take the week off against the bad ones.
A lot went wrong in this game for the Browns – including three fumbles by running back Peyton Hillis and overall poor play by the rest of the offense – and it brings a lot into question as the season hits the home stretch.
The biggest question, as it usually is with the Browns is this: what does this most recent game do to head coach Eric Mangini’s job security? I’m usually one of his biggest supporters, but the last three weeks have to shake any supporter’s resolve. How can anyone justify the play against the Saints, Patriots (who are looking like Super Bowl contenders once again), and Jets only to see the Browns struggle against the Jaguars, Panthers, Dolphins, and Bills.
Obviously, a lot more goes into a football game than just the play of the quarterback, but it is obvious that rookie Colt McCoy gives the Browns a completely different dynamic. Jake Delhomme finished Sunday’s game 12/20 for 86 yards and one interception. Those are Derek Anderson-like numbers against the Bills. The offense relies entirely on Peyton Hillis when McCoy isn’t playing, and defenses have caught on.
This unpredictable season has suddenly become far too predictable. The chance for the Browns to change this perception comes as soon as Sunday, as they travel to Cincinnati to take on the disappointing Bengals. No one – at least the realists among us – thought this team would make the playoffs, but once they show improvement, it’s reasonable to expect some of the older, undesirable habits to eventually wilt away.
So far, that hasn’t been the case. What this means for the team going forward remains to be seen.