Browns beating themselves
Browns coach Eric Mangini must have felt like he was at home in
his living room scolding his three young sons.
For the second straight Monday, Cleveland’s coach stood in front
of his players and lectured them about their Sunday sins.
Too many penalties. Too many turnovers. Too many mistakes.
Too this. Too that.
”They’re tired of me saying it, and I’m tired of saying it,”
an exasperated Mangini said. ”We can’t have penalties. We can’t.
We can’t turn the ball over. We can’t do it. We’ll drill it, we’ll
talk about it, we’ll review it, we’ll analyze it. … You can’t
expect to win close games.
”Two games decided by five points with big swings in momentum,
you can’t do it.”
The Browns (0-2) dropped their second straight winnable game, a
16-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in a game that was almost
identical to their 17-14 loss at Tampa Bay a week earlier.
For the second straight game, Cleveland’s starting quarterback –
this time, it was backup Seneca Wallace filling in for injured
starter Jake Delhomme – threw a costly interception. For the second
straight game, the Browns failed to score in the second half as
their offense disappeared. For the second straight game,
Cleveland’s defense played good enough to win.
And, for the second straight game, the Browns came up short.
”We were leading both games,” wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi
said, slightly shaking his head. ”We turned the ball over. We had
too many penalties in the second half. We just didn’t finish the
way we’re supposed to.”
See, the Browns are listening to Mangini. They’re just not doing
what they’re told.
This is not the start the Browns wanted – nor the one Mangini
may need to keep his job.
While there’s no evidence team president Mike Holmgren is ready
to make any drastic moves, the Browns have no breaks in their
schedule over the next seven weeks, and without a win or two or any
significant improvement, the cries for Mangini’s dismissal already
filling the air on sports talk shows will get louder.
The Browns, though, still have optimism despite losing to two
teams they felt they should have beaten.
”We know we’re a better team and we just handed out
victories,” cornerback Eric Wright said. ”We were in situations
where we should have won two games and we lost them.”
Mangini’s post-mortem on Cleveland’s latest loss, which dropped
the Browns to 1-11 in home openers since 1999, focused on the
team’s self-inflicted wounds (nine penalties for 78 yards) and the
offense’s inability to move the ball in the second half.
With Wallace under center in his 15th career start, Cleveland
gained only 55 yards and three first downs – one came on a penalty
– after halftime. The Browns were predictable and unable to find
any holes in Kansas City’s defense, which ended last season as the
NFL’s 30th-ranked unit and had a short week after playing on Monday
After reviewing tape, Mangini said he wished he had used more of
the ”Wildcat” package with wide receiver Joshua Cribbs at
quarterback and Wallace lined up on the edge. The Browns used it
only once, with Cribbs picking up 1 yard on a 3rd-and-3.
”Looking back, it’s something I would have done more in
retrospect,” said Mangini, adding offensive coordinator Brian
Daboll concurred with his assessment. ”We talked about it this
morning. Both of us agreed, we should’ve run it more – to get Josh
more touches. He’s got a chance on any play.”
The Browns don’t have many playmakers. Cribbs, who returned two
kickoffs for touchdowns against the Chiefs last season, is the
club’s best home-run hitter – and maybe even their best runner.
Mangini isn’t the only one who would like to see Cribbs get the
”Everybody knows that Josh can do once he has the ball in his
hands,” Massaquoi said. ”Special things happen when he has the
Mangini did not have any update on Delhomme, who injured his
right ankle while throwing an interception in last week’s game at
Tampa Bay. Delhomme was in a walking boot on the sideline Sunday.
Mangini promised he would have further information on Wednesday,
when the Browns begin preparing for this week’s game in
Mangini did not promise any wholesale lineup changes, but made
it clear that he won’t tolerate mistakes from those currently on
”I don’t really see it as me benching anybody,” he said. ”I
see it as either hold onto ball and get carries or you don’t hold
onto the ball and you don’t get carries. The same thing with
penalties. Either you stay onsides or you don’t. If you jump
offsides on third down, then we’re not going to play you on third
down. That’s it. We’ll put somebody else in and if they beat us on
the play, they beat us on the play.
”If that person’s maybe not exactly who we would want on that
play, it’s going to be better than giving away a first down. We’ve
got to do it. There’s no alternative.”