There are no moral victories in the NFL, and as Bill Parcells once said, you are what your record says you are.
The Cleveland Browns are 0-4 on the season, and need a win in the worst way because they have to be frustrated with having a chance to win a football game and not being able to do so.
Last night in Baltimore, the Browns made one huge mistake, an interception by Brandon Weeden that Cary Williams returned 63 yards for a touchdown, and it cost them in a 23-16 loss.
That makes 10 consecutive losses for Pat Shurmur’s crew, accumulated over two seasons.
However, the area that stood out in the contest was the play of the Ravens’ wide receivers, particularly Anquan Boldin, who hauled in 9 passes for 131 yards, many of them contorting his body in different shapes to catch the ball.
Browns’ receivers? Not so much.
The same problem that haunted Colt McCoy last season, is plaguing Weeden as well. He isn’t able to throw the football and catch it downfield as well.
Trailing 23-13 in the fourth quarter, Weeden fired a pass down the middle to Greg Little in the end zone, a play that would have cut the Baltimore advantage to just three points with more than 12 minutes to play. Little had it go through his hands.
It wasn’t a routine play, but it was one that Ravens’ passer Joe Flacco’s receivers were making all night long. But, Little couldn’t come up with it.
It wasn’t the only ball dropped by Cleveland receivers during the game, simply the biggest.
Jordan Norwood, inactive for the first three games, saw his first action last night and dropped at least two passes. Not a good way to make sure you’ll get more playing time.
Despite all the drops, Weeden wound up 25 of 52 for 320 yards (his second 300 yard passing game in four weeks, Colt McCoy has one). He stood in the pocket and made strong throws most of the night. Even though he’s becoming a lightning rod like all Cleveland quarterbacks, he’s developing nicely.
Trent Richardson was impressive too, even though he had just 14 carries for 47 yards. He caught four more balls for 57 more yards.
Richardson is definitely a player defensive coordinators are planning for. Baltimore made its first priority to account for the rookie. When was the last time the Browns had a player like that.
The difference in the game was the Ravens’ wide receivers. They caught the ball and made plays, while the Browns’ pass catchers didn’t.
Defensively, Dick Jauron’s crew played valiantly. LB Craig Robertson, an undrafted free agent, continues to impress, intercepting a Flacco throw in the end zone, and making open field tackles on Ray Rice a couple of times.
The defense also put a lot of pressure on Flacco, sacking him four times. The line play was thought to be a question mark coming into the year, but they are getting to the quarterback frequently, and most of the time with four rushers.
And what can you say about Phil Dawson, who kicked three field goals of over 50 yards. If the Browns were contending for the playoffs, Dawson would most certainly get the Pro Bowl nod he richly deserves.
It hasn’t showed up in the standings yet, but this is definitely a better football team than last year’s squad.
Still, Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress need to put more points on the board. They’ve only scored more than 20 points once this season, and that doesn’t get it done in today’s NFL.
In fact, in the 52 games Shurmur has been the offensive coordinator (with the Rams) or head coach, his teams have scored more than 20 points just six times. It’s a disturbing trend.
Perhaps they could score more with receivers that hold on to the ball.