Before the Baltimore Ravens game on November 3, Head Coach Rob Chudzinski compared the lack of success that the Browns have had with the other teams in the AFC North to a little brother/big brother relationship. With the Browns playing the role of the little brother, he mentioned that there comes a time when he will rise up and take a shot at the bullying older brother.
The Browns were able to do just that against the Ravens. Despite the lop-sided score, they hung in the fight against the Bengals.
Sunday’s loss to the Steelers showed us all that despite some positive strides, and as much as I hate to say this, we’re still the little brother when it comes to Pittsburgh.
My initial reaction to the Browns–Steelers game is that we just can’t compete with them yet. That’s really painful to say, but I think it’s true. There’s a lot of fight in the team, but the skill level or amount of experience at some key positions is just not there.
Quarterback play is a big part of it. With nine seasons in the league, Jason Campbell brings steadiness, calmness, and confidence in certain situations. He has shown the ability to rally the team at times. But his recent injuries, and even perhaps his age, are beginning to catch up with him. After leaving the game injured, Brandon Weeden came in and was not able to get the already sputtering offense going.
Weeden, for all his desire to be a NFL quarterback, can’t seem to put it together here in Cleveland. His passing was terribly off-target again, forcing receivers to reach behind them, or to dive in front of them. This completely eliminated the opportunity for any yards after the catch, since receivers had to fall down to get the ball.
When he was on target, receivers couldn’t catch the ball because Weeden throws too hard. He was, after all, a baseball pitcher. Throwing hard is prized in baseball, but in football a pass sometimes needs some touch. Throughout this season, when Weeden has hit receivers in the hands, they couldn’t catch it. I think it’s coming at the receivers with such force that they are not able to adjust to it in time, or it simply shoots through their hands.
So, without Campbell’s touch our passing game was challenged. Without a consistent running game, the offense stood little chance.
With Campbell’s injuries and Weeden’s play, it seems clear that this team needs another option at quarterback. If the front office doesn’t make a move to get a quarterback into town for the Jacksonville game, then it seems pretty obvious that they’ve punted away this season in the hopes of a higher draft pick.
I think the defense did what it could to keep the Browns in the game, but even it didn’t perform well. Our vaunted run defense allowed Le’Veon Bell to rush for 80 yards.
Joe Haden didn’t have a good game against Antonio Brown, either. Brown had six receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
One bright spot was Josh Gordon catching 14 passes for 237 yards. That feat matched Ozzie Newsome’s single-game reception record, and set a new high for receiving yards. “If we don’t win,” Gordon commented later, “I don’t really care about it.”
The Pittsburgh win is their third straight, and it seems clear the Steelers are rallying and in the Wild Card hunt. The loss for the Browns makes them 1-5 in their last six games, and moves the Wild Card nearly out of reach.
At the end of the day, Pittsburgh came into town fired up and ready to play. Whatever our game plan was, it wasn’t enough. The Steelers flat out beat us. They were the better team.
For Browns fans, it was another test of our loyalty. How many more of these type of games can we take? How many more times must this fan base sit in freezing weather trying to rally around a team that can’t rise to the occasion. I’m a fan. I have been since 1976. I hate writing this, but the Browns haven’t matured since their return in 1999.
They’re still the little brother, and on Sunday the big brother won again.