Last week, after the Browns lost to the Bengals, I was furious. The Browns defense played a spectacular game. In the first quarter, Dalton and the rest of the Bengals offense failed to secure a single first down. The rest of the half didn’t go much better for the Bungles, and at halftime, they had only three first downs. Plus, Joe Haden made A.J. Green irrelevant for the second time this year, with the added bonus of grabbing his first pick six ever! Yet, somehow, the Browns managed to blow a 13-0 lead and get obliterated 41 to 20. But let’s be clear. It was definitely not the fault of the Browns defense.
Many Browns fans, surprisingly (if surprising actually means totally expected), decided the Browns’ loss was all Campbell’s fault. Blame the quarterback! He’s a witch! He’s a witch! Burn him! But that wasn’t the real story either. Was the offense beautiful? No. Campbell was dumping off a lot of short passes, and the Browns struggled to get downfield and put the ball in the endzone. But that was not entirely Campbell’s fault. Downfield receivers were not doing all that they could to create separation and get away from their coverage. Plus, the Bengals defense played beautifully. Also, it became clear over the past week that Campbell’s ribs weren’t really “fine” going into the game in Cincinnati.
But even with lackluster offense, the Browns probably could’ve hung in there and squeaked out a win. So who do I blame? Special teams. They were atrocious!!! Two, I repeat, TWO blocked punts led to points for the Bengals. And special teams is usually the one place where the Browns excel when all else fails. Special teams has gotten me through the past 13 years. But not last week. It was inexplicable and infuriating. Yep, I was pissed.
But no more.
Yes, we lost today. Yes, it was to that team that I hate more than any other. But, I am no longer livid. I can no longer summon the ferocious anger that left me jumping up and down and screaming at the TV last week. You see, the Pittsburgh Steelers have reminded me what it means to truly be a Browns fan. The Browns are back in last place in the AFC North, and I am right where I am used to being at Week 12. I am comfortably numb. (Maybe I should send them a Thank Yinz card.)
Yep, the Browns played the kind of game the Browns play today. Which means it started out totally mediocre, became pretty much unwatchable, and then, when it didn’t matter even a little bit, we scored a touchdown. And yet… right now… nothing. No fury. Just numbness.
And, since I’m pretty numb, I’m going to go ahead and throw out some comments that the rest of you Browns fans might not agree with. So, yell all you want. I feel nothing.
1. I want to see Josh Gordon put more effort into the game. Now, you might think that sounds crazy after the game he had today. And, I’ll admit, it was a good one. He broke one Browns’ record today–for receiving yards in a single game–and tied another–for receptions in a single game. But, Browns Babe is not [that] impressed. And here’s why: He could be even better.
Josh Gordon is phenomenally talented. He could be extraordinary. Not Browns extraordinary… Probowl extraordinary… Dez Bryant/Larry Fitzgerald/even Calvin Johnson extraordinary. But he doesn’t seem to approach the game that way, yet. I want to see him separate from corners more regularly. I want to see him come back to the ball when his QB needs help. And, I want to see him fight for extra yardage on the sideline instead of running out of bounds. Josh Gordon could be lead-the-Browns-to-the-Super-Bowl extraordinary, and I want to see it.
2. Our offensive line really needs some help. Now, shhh. Resist the urge to tell me that it just looked bad again today because Weeden was back and his release is too slow. Because the Browns really do have O-line problems. And it’s time to be honest about them. There is a reason we have started three quarterbacks this year, and all of them have suffered at least game-ending and at worst season-ending injuries. Joe Thomas is still a beast, but he can’t cover the entire left side by himself. Campbell left the game today after a huge hit to his blind side. And the right side is a mess. (Mostly, as I have said ad nauseam all season, because Mitchell Schwartz is terrible.)
And this is how it has played out: Weeden breaks his thumb in the first game against the Ravens. Hoyer tears his ACL against the Bills. Campbell bruises his ribs in the second game against the Ravens, and then he suffers a concussion today against the Steelers. So let’s ease up a little on the “Weeden holds onto the ball too long” whine-fest that we’ve been reveling in. Because Hoyer had a lightening fast release, and he still tore his ACL on a scramble caused by an O-line that couldn’t hold the pocket. And yeah, Weeden does hold the ball for awhile. Because his arm is best in a pass offense that utilizes big downfield plays. But guess what? A quarterback trying to launch the ball 40-plus yards downfield has to give his receivers some time to run their routes. Which means his line has to give him that time. And the Browns O-line doesn’t. Not even close. So stop whining about Weeden. Yeah, he’s supremely mediocre. But our O-line is worse.
And since Browns fans might have taken exception to my last two points, I am going to go ahead and throw you guys a bone. (Dawg Pound pun anyone? No? Okay.) So, here:
3. The refs today sucked. That’s right. I said it. And, I’m not that woman. I don’t usually blame losses on refs. (Minus that ridiculous Wisconsin-ASU game this year which caused Wisconsin to drop in the rankings and had the domino effect of hurting my beloved Buckeyes because “they haven’t beaten a sufficient number of highly ranked teams to be ranked in the top two in the BCS standings”…. blah, blah, blah… anyway, I digress.) I was saying that I don’t like to blame losses on refs. In fact, I usually judge people who do because it usually means they can’t face their team’s shortcomings.
But, today, I’m making an exception. The only emotional, somewhat less numb moment I had during the game today was when Jason Campbell went down. Partly because I knew it meant we were going to have to watch Weeden try to run the offense for the rest of the game, but mostly because the refs totally screwed it up. There should have been a flag on that play. Campbell got hit in the head. How can I be so sure? Because he has a freaking concussion.
Oh, and this:
Sooooooo, yeah, there should have been a flag. And the resulting touchdown shouldn’t have happened. And the Browns should’ve gotten a first down. Because Campbell didn’t fumble the ball. HE GOT PUNCHED IN THE FACE! And, I’m going to go ahead and say it… If he was Peyton Manning, or Tom Brady, or… I don’t know… DREW BREES… there would have been a flag. I mean, c’mon! A defender can’t even come within the vicinity of Drew Brees’ neck because it’s the body part attached to his head, but Jason Campbell can get punched in the face, suffer a concussion, and nothing? Bullshit!
So, now I’m all worked up! And angry again! And not numb! And you know what? We’re totally going to beat Jacksonville next week! So, yeah! GO BROWNIES!
(Dammit. I hate being a Browns fan.)