Football overload; Browns miss again

By Zac Jackson
Fox Sports Ohio
September 27, 2010

1. I think I watched enough football this weekend that my eyes are slightly bleeding and it’s hard to keep everything straight. I think I saw Ohio State score half a million. I think I saw UC do everything but knock out Oklahoma. I think Nick Saban’s head was going to explode, then next thing I knew he was smiling ear-to-ear. I think I saw Peyton Hillis doing to the Ravens what nobody supposedly does to the Ravens. I think I saw Braylon Edwards dancing in the endzone like a fool despite the week he just had, and I think I saw Carson Palmer miss a bunch of receivers. But I’m pretty sure I saw the Bengals find a way to win in a game that didn’t require many style points, and I’m also pretty sure I saw the Browns find another way to lose. Matter of fact, I think I just saw Anquan Boldin score another touchdown.

2. The Browns played to their strengths. Yes, they do have a few. They have a power running game; a max-effort, multitalented guy who wears #16; a really good fullback in Lawrence Vickers, a pretty good offensive line and a throwback bruiser in Hillis who smacked the Ravens in the mouth and, unbelievably, temporarily shut them up. Temporarily. The Browns played well, fought and were in it ’til the end, but three times the Ravens just jogged down the field and found Boldin, and in scramble mode at the end the Browns let the Ravens convert what was a second and 23, used a timeout to punt then jumped offsides rather than give themselves a final shot at a stop and late drive. Whether or not you’re a person who believes in moral victories — or, maybe more appropriately, believes that this team is making progress — one thing I clear: 0-3 is no accident.

3. This loss was different because most thought the Browns were already left for dead and would get blown out. This loss was different because some of the things that doomed the Browns were the same — penalties, the wildcat working, then disappearing — but a lot was, well, at least a little different. They didn’t turn the ball over. They scored in the second half. They consistently moved the ball, picked up a couple third downs and were solid despite being shorthanded. That Marcus Benard is the pass-rusher the Browns rely on is an indictment of the team’s ability to find talent, but there’s no doubt they missed him. There’s no doubt the Ravens targeted Eric Wright and had all day to throw. There’s no doubt the Ravens were superior in many areas (even without their A-game) and the Browns inability to make big plays in the passing game keeps them from being dangerous enough to really threaten to win that game. There’s progress, just not enough. Is there enough to time to show enough progress to save Eric Mangini’s job? I can’t say that for sure. I do know the clock’s-a-tickin.

4. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I believe it: Bengals fans should actually be worried about next week’s game in Cleveland. The Browns are clearly playing hard and doing a few things right. The Bengals offense is clearly lacking, um, lots. It’s going to be a slugfest, the kind of close, low-scoring game the Browns need it to be to keep Cribbs and Company within shouting range. It’s a defining game. Can Palmer and the receivers get going against a defense that gets gashed? Can the Bengals defense win another tough road game against an inferior opponent and get to 3-1, even if it’s another case of style points be damned and only wins count? Maybe. If the Bengals are a championship team, they’ll win. Because only wins count. But it’s a quarterback’s league, and both Ohio teams right now have more questions than answers at that position.

5. Let’s keep talking (and watching) lots of football, but I’m off shortly to the Cavaliers media day. By tomorrow at this time, NBA training camps will officially be open. Goodbye, summer. Goodbye, September. Browns-Bengals on a crisp, early-fall day is a good way to get October started. Nothing wrong with a little basketball in the meantime.