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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