After the Cleveland Browns’ convincing victory last Thursday night in Cincinnati, many people started convincing themselves that Mike Pettine’s team was one of the better teams in the AFC.
The reality is that yes, the Browns are a good team, an up and coming squad, but they are like most NFL teams in that if they make a bunch of mistakes, they could lose to anybody as well.
That’s what happened against Jacksonville, and it happened today in a 23-7 loss to the Houston Texans at First Energy Stadium.
If there is a recipe for losing in the NFL, what happened today could be considered as the formula.
First, lose the turnover battle. Cleveland has been very stingy in turning the football over today, but the Browns lost this category today, 2 to 1, and the game probably turned on Isaiah Crowell’s fumble on the Texans’ 19-yard line with 3:11 left in the second quarter in a tie game.
Instead of taking a 10-7 or 14-7 lead late in the half with the Browns getting the ball to start the second half, the defense let Houston go 78 yards in ten plays for a TD and a 14-7 halftime advantage.
That was huge.
Second, you have to be able to stop the running game. Houston didn’t feel the effect of not having Arian Foster today, as his back up, rookie Alfred Blue gained 156 yards in 36 carries, and in total, the Texans ran for 213 yards for the game. It is doubtful many teams win in the NFL allowing 200 yards rushing.
This has been a problem all year, and with DL Phil Taylor done for the season with a knee injury, it isn’t going to get any better. GM Ray Farmer, Pettine, and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil have to fix this and they have to fix this before next Sunday’s game against the Falcons.
And lastly, you have to do well on third down. The Browns converted just 3 out of 15 third downs on the day. They simply couldn’t stay on the field.
These were the most glaring problems.
The Browns’ can’t have Brian Hoyer throwing the football 50 times a game and hope to win, and today’s game bears that out. Hoyer had his accuracy problems again, completing only 20 of those throws for 330 yards.
The special teams were bad too. Billy Cundiff shanked a 38-yard field goal. Christian Yount snapped a ball over Spencer Lanning’s head on a punt, Marlon Moore fumbled a kickoff return, but was ruled down, and there was a holding penalty on another kickoff return by Moore that he took to the house.
Defensively, besides not being able to stop the run, there was little to no pressure on Ryan Mallet, who was making his first NFL start. He wasn’t sacked at all, and there were few plays where he was forced to throw before he wanted to.
The coaching staff isn’t immune today either. One of our pet peeves is coaches trying to show off, and Kyle Shanahan was guilty of that today.
How? In the win against Cincinnati, Terrance West played very well, gaining 94 yards in 26 hard carries. Today, he toted the rock just five times for 12 yards as Crowell was the featured back.
We like Crowell, but we don’t understand the change from West, who has played well for most of the season.
Regardless, the Browns are now 6-4 for the season and still in the thick of the playoff race, although they aren’t the good position they were to start the day.
And they get All Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon back for next week’s game against the Falcons.
Still, the winning formula for this team is to play error free football. They didn’t today and they paid a stiff price.