Congratulations are in order if you actually thought that was the way in which Sunday’s Browns-Cowboys game was going to play out.
The Browns started out strong, staking themselves to a 13-0 lead at halftime while also making the Cowboys offense look horrendous. The defensive line – rejuvenated with the return of lineman Ahtyba Rubin – was getting plenty of pressure on quarterback Tony Romo, which negated the supremely poor play of the secondary (which was missing cornerback Joe Haden). The offense was doing just enough, thanks in large part to some very impressive catches by the Browns’ receivers.
But, as things tend to go for the Browns, they were unable to put the Cowboys away, and would ultimately lose, 23-20, in overtime.
Brandon Weeden was again not at his best, finishing the day 20 of 35 for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Don’t let the stats fool you – he wasn’t throwing on target for most of the game. However, that let guys like Greg Little (three catches for 53 yards), Josh Gordon (five catches for 53 yards), Trent Richardson (six catches for 49 yards), and Benjamin Watson (four catches for 47 yards) really shine. If anything, this game proved that the Browns’ receiving corps does, in fact, contain some real talent.
But the big story in this game would end up being the penalties that doomed the Browns. With a secondary that couldn’t help itself when it came to illegal contact, ten penalties would ultimately result in Dallas first downs. Cornerback Buster Skrine, filling in for the injured Haden, was especially victimized, as he was routinely penalized.
It has been known for a while, but a game like this is the painful example needed to realize that the Browns need to find secondary help this offseason.
But that wasn’t helping the Browns on Sunday.
What will it take for the Browns to finally prove they’re a decent team? To put together a solid effort for a full game? When they took a 20-17 lead late in the fourth quarter on a gift horse-collar tackle penalty, it seemed this would finally be the time some luck sided with the Browns. But as the Cowboys drove to a game-tying field goal and, ultimately, the game-winning field goal in overtime, it was a scene all too familiar.
The Browns found yet another heartbreaking way to lose, despite an effort that was, for the most part, good enough to earn a victory.
The competitiveness of this team cannot be understated, and it certainly gives hope for the future, but getting there sure seems to be an especially painful ride.