Oct 25, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Cleveland Browns inside linebacker Chris Kirksey (58) tackles St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Browns dropped a game on Sunday to the St. Louis Rams in a disappointing and dispiriting fashion.
It’s not so much that the Browns lost – that is what they do, after all – but the way they went about doing it.
Even though Cleveland came into the game having lost three of their past four games, all those games were close, giving fans the illusion that the Browns could walk off the field on the right side of the scoreboard.
That wasn’t the case on Sunday against the Rams, as the Browns fell into an early 10-0 hole and, even though the score was only 10-6 in the third quarter, it never felt as if the Browns were going to be able to pull this one out.
“Continuing to do what we have done would be foolish because it has gotten us these results so far.” – Head coach Mike Pettine
“In the team meeting today, we talked about where we are and we talked about adversity and what adversity does for you – the benefit of facing adversity,” head coach Mike Pettine said on Monday. “You find out a lot about yourself. It is easy to exist in this profession when things are going well. When things aren’t, you truly find out who you are – who is mentally tough, who cares about this team, who is willing to step up.
“Continuing to do what we have done would be foolish because it has gotten us these results so far. We are not going to do anything radically different, but it has to be incremental. The challenge to each man in the room, coaches and players, was: What am I going to do different? What am I going to do extra? Is it in the weight room? Is it in the meeting room? Is it on the practice field?
“Everybody was challenged to take a personal inventory – where they are, what are they doing well and what are they not doing well and how do we change it?”
The result was one of the more disappointing losses in a while for the club and leaves the Browns at 2-5 on a season that is quickly slipping away. Things were so bad that we were left struggling to think of anyone who played well on the day.
On offense, you could probably throw a bone to tight end Gary Barnidge and running back Duke Johnson, who earned positive grades from Pro Football Focus:
"With the Browns’ passing attack struggling to push the ball down the field, rookie RB Duke Johnson (+2.6) had room to work out of the backfield. Johnson averaged 10 yards after the catch, working well to find creases in the Rams’ defense. The only other player who had any success in the passing game was Gary Barnidge (+2.4). Barnidge gained 101 yards on six receptions. Seemingly the norm now with Barnidge, the tight end was able to come down with another great catch. On a pass that was overthrown, he was able to tip the ball up to himself to gain 20+ yards."
It was Barnidge’s third 100-yard receiving game on the year, and he joins Ozzie Newsome (three in 1982), Kellen Winslow (three in 2007) and Milt Morin (four in 1968) as the only Cleveland tight ends to accomplish that feat, according to the team’s website.
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Other than that, it was a day of turnovers (four), injuries (wide receiver Andrew Hawkins went out with a concussion, while quarterback Josh McCown and safety Jordan Poyer both suffered shoulder injuries) and poor run defense (158 yards and 6.1 yards per carry).
In other words, just another Sunday for the Browns.
“We always preach that as individuals get better, the team gets better. I think if everybody accepts that challenge of being introspective – this is for me; this is for the coaches; this isn’t just for the players – it is on an individual level first,” Pettine explained on Monday. “When the coaches look at their particular side of the ball, ‘What are we doing well? What are we not doing well? Where do we need to improve?’ Those are things that get looked at.
“Each week, we are tasked with that challenge of who are the best 11 we can put out there to maximize our chances for a successful play. Personnel is always a part of it. That is changing week to week anyways, whether that is performance issues or whether it is injury related.”