Browns Can’t Close Again on Defense.

It is now official that the Cleveland Browns will lose 10 or more games again in 2013, losing their final home game to the Chicago Bears, 38-31 at First Energy Stadium.

It’s the sixth straight season with double-digit losses, and the tenth in 11 seasons.  Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have lost ten or more contests 12 times.

It’s a losing culture and it won’t change until the entire organization, which includes the front office, coaching staff, and players make a commitment that losing is not tolerable, and end the “next year” mentality that permeates the whole building in Berea.

Teams turn around every year in the NFL.  This year, it’s Kansas City that was gone from a 2-14 record a year ago to an 11-3 season to this point.  Last year, it was Indianapolis.

Here’s who it has never been:  The Cleveland Browns.  They have a tradition of being a doormat for 15 years.

To be fair, perhaps the Browns can be the Chiefs next season.  KC has several Pro Bowl players on their roster in 2012, more than a team that wins two games should have.  Rob Chudzinski’s team could have three or four players going to Hawaii in January.

But based on the last 15 years, forgive us for not holding our breath.

Today’s loss represented another collapse by what many people thought was the strength of the team going into the year, the defense.  In fact, there were a lot of people (us included) who felt defensive coordinator Ray Horton would be a prime candidate for a head coaching position this winter.

Now, it would be a long shot with the Browns’ defense allowing almost 26 points per game this season, a figure that ranks in the bottom part of the NFL.  Horton likes to recite statistics, but the only real stat that counts is how points you allow.

What is more disturbing is that 128 of those points have been allowed in the fourth quarter, including 21 today.  And while the Bears did score seven points on defense today, the three touchdowns if the final stanza came from Chicago carving up the Cleveland defense.

In the last five games, all defeats, the Browns have allowed 165 points, which averages 33 per game.  40% of those points have come in the fourth quarter, including 37 the past two weeks combined.

The defense isn’t exactly closing out games.

Horton’s crew has been effective against the run all season, but today the Bears ran it right down their collective throats gaining 179 yards on the ground.  The dagger came as a result of Michael Bush’s 40 yard TD burst which gave the Bears a 38-24 lead.

The third down efficiency was terrible too, allowing the Bears to convert on 9 of 14 situations.  And the Bears ran the same play three times, a fake reverse with a pitch out to Matt Forte, who gained 127 yards in 24 carries, for big yardage every time.  There were no adjustments by the defense.

The only bright spot were the two touchdowns scored by the unit, Tashaun Gipson’s 44 yard interception return and T.J. Ward’s 51 yard run with a fumble recovery.

Offensively, someone (either the offensive coaches or the Bears’ defense) took Josh Gordon out of the game, leaving Jason Campbell to his dink and dunk game.  Gordon did get in the end zone on a 43-yard pass play in the fourth quarter, but his 100-yard receiving streak ended with just 67 yards.

The bright spot for the offense was the newest member of the team, RB Edwin Baker who gained 38 yards in eight carries and caught four more passes for 46 yards.

The question is why wasn’t he brought in sooner?

After the optimism of last week’s near miss in New England, the reality set back in that this team can’t avoid losing, and the front office doesn’t seem to mind.

Until that ends, the losing cycle may never be escaped.

JD

 

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