Dec 8, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; A Cleveland Browns helmet sits on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of New England

Cleveland Browns: Fight, Failure, and Football

Dec 15, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson (39) intercepts a pass during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 15, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson (39) intercepts a pass during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The saying may go: “you can’t win them all” and the Cleveland Browns have struggled with most.  Still, you cannot deny the fight within the hearts and minds of our players.  There certainly are many improvements to be made, but for a team that most had written off altogether, we have played well enough to win.  We have known mostly failure this season and there are many reasons for it, but “fight” is not among them.

The game against Chicago was disappointing to say the least.  Our curse, or blessing, or whatever you consider it to be, has left us in better shape for next year’s draft.  That said, the most important thing that we should take away from this game is a confidence in the direction of the Browns and the fight that they have shown.

Many say that we cannot finish a game, or that we don’t know how to win.  I don’t entirely disagree, but I will stick with my own interpretation instead.  I did not see a lack of effort or anything of the sort.  Instead, I saw Fight, Failure and Football.

We fought and we failed, but sometimes the simplest answer is the one that we don’t want to hear.  In the words of Bob Dylan, “The answer my friend, is Blowin’ in the Wind”.  Sometimes it truly is just a matter of which way the ball bounces, or blows, as the case in our last two defeats.

That deep pass that drifted over Tashaun Gipson’s head was a fluke play.  Such plays make football the game that it is.  Had it happened to our benefit, we would have loved it.  It was not a bad play by Gipson, rather a great one by our opponent, with an unbelievable amount of help from the blustering wind.  The onside kick against the Patriots was also a fluke play and the same can be said for it.  Football will be football, and sometimes, only the lucky succeed.

I would like to acknowledge Tashaun Gipson and TJ Ward for the heart, the fire, and the fight that they bring to Cleveland.  I also cannot mention “fight” without mentioning Buster Skrine.  Buster is a true soldier.  I have seen him miss a tackle here, or have a penalty there, but the kid is pure fight.

I can talk all I want about the “fight” and the fire that has sparked in our locker room, but the fact remains that the last five games have ended in failure.  The last few weeks have certainly been a rollercoaster of emotions and our defense did allow 21 fourth quarter points to Chicago.  From onside kicks, to horrible officiating, to freak plays and frustrating finishes, the last several weeks have indeed been a journey.  I offer a few lingering questions that remain on our minds following the loss to the Bears, as well as my own response to them.

Edwin Who?

Edwin Baker, that is.  I wish we had seen more of him, but a solid debut nonetheless.  My early analysis is also, a kid with fight.

How did we lose those games?

A question we have asked repeatedly over the past weeks, but not one that we should dwell on.  This is football, folks.  Love it or hate it, it is what it is.  The ball does not seem to bounce in our favor very often, but we should not rely on it to do so either.  We can blame bad calls, onside kicks, a fluke pass, our defense, our offense, the coaches, a phantom curse or countless other things.  In the end, football will be football.  We must acknowledge and verify our mistakes, improve on them, and move on.

How do we win the close ones?  We will, be patient.  We need depth, we need to fill a few more positions and we need to heal from a multitude of injuries.  We need a quarterback to study under the injured Brian Hoyer.  We need a big, hard-nosed running back to accompany the newfound speed of Baker and the injured Dion Lewis.  We need to find another receiver to catch said quarterback’s passes and take some of the pressure off Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, especially over the middle.  Most importantly, we need to improve the offensive line in order to make holes for said running back and allow the said quarterback to throw it to said receiver.

Jason Campbell is not the answer at quarterback.  He has played well at times and proven capable, but he has also proven inconsistent.  I am eager to see what Hoyer can bring upon his return, but we need to bring in a “franchise” QB to take the reins in a year or two.  If we could blend the downfield rocket of Brandon Weeden with the superb dink and dunk play of Campbell and the charisma and leadership of Hoyer, we would all be very happy.

Does 21 fourth-quarter points mean our defense is not as good as we all thought?

Let me ask you this in reply.  Why was our defense on the field enough to allow 21 points to begin with?  We need offensive help.  We need a running back that can pound away the final minutes of a game and an offensive line that enables him to.  They did struggle, but we cannot blame it all on the defense.

As for the defense and their faults, the back-to-back fourth-quarter pass interference calls hurt, a lot.  Leon McFadden did earn this one, as did Buster Skrine, but keep in mind that Joe Haden left with an injury.  Chicago’s receivers are a feat to cover even with one of the league’s top cover guys on the field.

Our defense is solid, but they cannot win by themselves.  Let us not ignore offense’s contributions of turnovers-for-points, dropped passes, bad passes and lack of a running game against the league’s worst rushing defense.  Let us not forget the points that our defense provided and the fluke burst of wind that gave Chicago a touchdown instead of Gipson a hat trick.  We do have many areas that need improvement, but our defense is well on the way.

Dawg Poo!  A few topics that simply stink.

-A pass interference penalty was negated due to an “uncatchable pass” with ten seconds remaining in the third quarter.  Josh Gordon was all but hugged while in route.  Perhaps the officials should watch the highlights and see how fast he really is.  No pass is catchable if the wide receiver is not permitted to run toward it.

-The next wide receiver to drop a decent pass should find a spot on the bench.  Most of us are all too familiar with the cold weather, but that is no excuse.  If you fear the routes in the middle, I do understand, but I do not care.  A wide receiver has to catch the ball.  That is the job.  Catch the ball, or get off the field!

-Many feel that the play calling was the reason we did not target the league’s best receiver for nearly half of the game.  I place that blame on Jason Campbell, and perhaps the play calling designed for him.  Consider this: In the two games in which Josh Gordon recorded his record-setting 498 receiving yards, Campbell threw for 124 total yards.  Most of Gordon’s yardage came from some guy named Brandon Weeden, who by the way, threw for 579 yards in those two games, in one of which he played just over a quarter and a half.

We have already shunned Weeden, to which I don’t necessarily disagree, but many are ready to shun the owner, CEO, GM, president, head coach, offensive coordinator, defense, our injured players and anyone else who hasn’t brought us to a Super Bowl overnight.  Perhaps we should take a deep breath and consider what they are actually doing and what they have had to work with.  I encourage you to read my article Cleveland Browns: Front Office Review for my own  interpretation.

Thank you for reading.

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  • randon

    I agree man we on the way up might b a year or 2 but we’re in the right direction if the FO hits on it’s picks

    • Backwoods

      I certainly agree, thank you for reading!

  • Letterman007

    I still want to know why our defense is so bad on third down and in the Red Zone ?? This good defense have not contributed to a better record than the defense we had last year ?! You can’t blame the offense for the Red Zone and the third down trouble?! Yet we used most of our resources to get defensive help in free agency and the draft. The one offensive help they got was Bess and how’s that working out ?!!

    • Backwoods

      Hello Letterman, glad to hear from you. I do feel that the offensive improvements were not a large part of the plan in the first year. I also don’t believe that they are finished with the defensive improvements. As far as an improved record, do you truly consider our defense to not be improved? The record is what it is, but I can’t put that all on the defense. In this league, you need an offense to win games and a running game to close them out. I will not try to make excuses for the D, they have much to improve on, but they have taken a lot of added strain from the inferior offense. I think next year we should see a remarkable improvement in all areas. To answer your first question, every defense allows some third down conversions and red zone scores. I do agree that there were way too many, but they also scored 14 points and assisted with three more. I do not put the loss on our defense, but yes, they have to improve on both third down and in the Red Zone. I do wonder how much the absence of Desmond Bryant factors in as well. Thank you, ~Backwoods~

      • Letterman007

        Bryant was there for most of the year and had his hand in the goal line and third down mess!! That stuff is an accumulation of the full year. Statistically this defense is better in some things and not in others. But our record shows NO improvement!!! Yes the offense stinks, but we need so much on offense that where will we get defensive help from. They will either have to sign free agents or get through the draft, which was supposed to happen last year!! You also need players to step right in, we have enough players that need development, we can’t afford to many more!!! They better hit on a lot of draft choices or , did you see the stands at the Bears game, a lot of empty seats!!

        • Backwoods

          This season has certainly been a tough one for all involved, as reflected by those empty seats. Of course the weather was also a factor. It is true that our record has not improved, but our roster has.

          I simply do not agree that we should avoid players that need improvement. We must build through the draft and it will take time. Three or four years from now, these young players will provide the solid core that we need. If we try to load the roster with hopes of immediate success, we will fail. We must build, we must build wisely,and we must continue to build even after we find success in order to sustain success down the road. The free agents will help and I am confident they will consider all the options available, but if we load up on only experienced players, we will be rebuilding again in three or four years.

          Also, let me ask you this. If our front office had intended to make a solid run this year, why make the draft-day trades that sent our picks into next year? This has been their plan all along and I think they have put us in position to do very well in the upcoming draft.

          As for Bryant, I like what he has brought and I look forward to seeing him back out on the field. Much like soldiers in battle, they must grow to trust one another (as was the case early on). Once that trust is gained, a loss within the group echoes far beyond the empty position.

          As for the third downs and goal line situations throughout the year, I could not pretend to give an honest analysis without reviewing each situation, but they did not seem that bad to me. I won’t say they didn’t struggle at times, but they have been much improved in my view. I certainly don’t credit the defense for our record.

          I truly enjoy your comments. Hopefully my views can change yours, if not this time, then perhaps the next. It is always a pleasure, thank you for reading.

          • Letterman007

            OK I agree we need some and I mean SOME players to develop. But that should be draft choices from ,say, the forth round on! If you draft someone who is not ready to step in and play somewhere’ and I don’t mean kick return team, almost immediately. That sounds tough but they should be able to contribute something. I know a quarterback may need some time to get his feet wet to the faster NFL. But if he is chosen HIGH first round he better be able to pick it up fast.
            Well to answer your question, I think the draft they had hoped for is slipping away as the position of most need is loosing available players, yes I mean quarterbacks, to draft!! Yes there are some good players still there. But the one that puts this team over the top is QB and they are dropping like flies. As I have said before, I have great respect for Hoyer, but I don’t think he’s the one to lead this team to a Super Bowl!!! Now if we don’t get that player in this draft and we do improve the record next year, then what do they do to get that player as they will move up the draft board and draft 15th to 20th . Now are we talking mortgage the draft and this team as the Redskins did? I don’t know, but if we don’t get that QB in this draft It will cost this team either loads of money or draft picks to get him. Unless you want another 4 &12 year!

  • Leo Dougherty

    Good article! Love reading your stuff! Sometimes it seems to me as if after our 3rd win in a row, someone in charge said, “WHOA!! Were getting good, too fast! We are trying to get picks here. We need to settle down! Mingo! Stop till next year! Next year, we strike. Then, NEW uni’s! (Which I am stoked for) Next year we take 2nd, in the Dirty North, finishing strong @ the end. Then 2015. We take 1st place!” Naive, stupid, dumb arse, whatever. I love my team, and it’s fun to dream. :-) Thanks for letting me waste your time. :-) :-) & GO BROOOWNS!!!

    • Backwoods

      It is certainly not naive, I think there is good reason to be optimistic. I do doubt that Mingo, or any of the players, would listen even if they had been told that. I think Hoyer was both a tremendous spark when playing, and a significant blow when injured. Thank you very much for your comments. Next year we improve, 2015 we go for glory! Thank you, ~Backwoods~

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