When it comes to finding new ways to lose, the Cleveland Browns are the best in the NFL. This time, it came in the form of a missed field goal late in the fourth quarter that likely would have won the game for the Browns. Up to that point, kicker Phil Dawson had made four field goals in the game, and the fifth was a 22-yard chip shot.
Browns fans will want to point to head coach Pat Shurmur’s play calling as the reason for this loss, but it’s unfair to pin it on him this time. The Browns were aggressive throughout the game, integrating creative plays that were more effective than almost anything else they tried. While that doesn’t completely let Shurmur off the hook, as one-yard passes on third-and-two situations are inexcusable, it’s not fair to say that Shurmur didn’t at least try to put the Browns in a position to win.
And despite the outcome, there were signs of progress in this game. Was it ugly? Sure, but Colt McCoy was as efficient as he could be in a mostly conservative offense. Greg Little showed that he has plenty of promise. The defense didn’t implode.
But that’s not what people will remember about this game. They’ll remember Ryan Pontbriand’s botched snap and Dawson’s missed field goal. With losses so common in Cleveland, it’s hard to focus on anything else sometimes.
Here are some more notes following the Browns’ loss to the St. Louis Rams:
- Consider this the coming-out party for wide receiver Greg Little. While he’s likely not going to develop into a No. 1 receiver, his rookie season has shown that he is already a playmaker, which is something the Browns desperately need. On Sunday, he had six catches for 84 yards, including a 52-yard catch late in the first half.
- Running back Chris Ogbonnaya was able to rush for 90 yards on 19 carries, breaking off a 32-yard run in the second half. So far, it seems there could be far worse fill-ins for the injured Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty.
- The defense obviously played well enough to win, even when you consider that Rams running back Steven Jackson rushed for 128 yards. It was a textbook bend-but-don’t-break strategy and it worked, as the defense held the Rams to just 13 points. The run defense continues to get torched by opposing running backs, which is a big concern, but it can, at times, be offset by an effective secondary. Next week’s match-up against running back Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jacksonville Jaguars should be a big concern, though.
- The Browns simply don’t have the firepower right now to score touchdowns. They were able to put themselves in a position to score a touchdown multiple times, but simply couldn’t punch it in. The strategy for next April’s draft should be easy: playmakers, playmakers, playmakers.
- You might be asking yourself, “Why would Pat Shurmur allow tight end Alex Smith to carry the ball inside the five at the end of the game?” You’re not alone in that thinking. It was a blunder, that’s for sure. They should have also taken a shot at the end zone in the waning minutes, just to see if they could, you know, score. Nevertheless, they were still in a position to win the game, despite their numerous shortcomings, and just couldn’t make it happen. It’s frustrating, but it’s as important as ever for Browns fans to their faith in this team. Believe it or not, they appear to be on the right track.