Browns Continue to Search For Identity

If you ask Browns’ coach Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer to tell you how they envisioned their team winning games this season, we are sure they would tell you victory could be accomplished with a strong defense and an offense that can run the ball effectively.

Three games into the season, they better improve that plan or come up with a new one because both were virtually non-existent in today’s 27-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders, which dropped the Browns to 1-2 on the season.

The Raiders gashed the Cleveland defense all day long, and as you can well imagine, if the Browns’ supposed best defender, CB Joe Haden, is having a bad day, the rest of the defense is struggling too.

Haden was assigned to rookie WR Amari Cooper to start the game, and the first year player out of Alabama had a huge first drive, catching three passes for 54 yards, and Jim O’Neil’s unit was off to a very long day.

And once again, Oakland’s running game, which had struggled for the first two contests, flourished today, as Latavius Murray ran for 139 yards on 26 attempts, and overall the Raiders hammered the Browns for 155 yards and a 5.2 average per carry.

This has now been a problem for two years under the Pettine/O’Neil coaching staff (really, it has been a problem since 1999), and our question is, when will it be fixed?  It’s a complete and utter joke right now, and it is time for the staff to come up with an answer.

The Browns’ defense allowed 469 yards of total offense, and created only one turnover.

We said it after the opening day loss to the Jets, and we will repeat it today.  If the Browns don’t play very good defense, it will be a long, long season for the team.

Their success is predicated on stopping the opposing offense.  It is where they have expended a great deal of money through free agency, and high draft picks.

As for the offense, once again, the inability to run the ball or even to commit to the run was left lacking.

Cleveland ran for just 39 yards against a team allowing 118 yards per games against the rush.

On the first drive for the Browns, they tried two runs and threw four passes.  The second drive?  The same, two running plays and four pass plays (one a sack).  The next possession was a three and out, consisting of two passes and a run.

If you are going to commit to the run, you have to stay with it.  Does Pettine and offensive coordinator John DiFillipo think they are going to open every game gaining five yards per carry?

Isaiah Crowell had just 10 carries for 36 yards, one a 17-yard jaunt just short of the end zone.  The Browns tried him twice from the one, but he could not get it in.

The turning point of the game came late in the second quarter after the Browns’ Travis Coons kicked a 24-yard field goal with 1:44 left in the first half.

The Raiders quickly went 65 yards in five plays to tack on a TD before halftime and give Oakland a confidence boost, and a 17-3 advantage.

Josh McCown was okay, completing 28 of 49 throws for 341 yards with two touchdowns and a pick.

However, three times by our count, he had Travis Benjamin behind the defense and couldn’t make a connection.  We guess the “luck” Johnny Manziel had a week ago in completing those throws wasn’t with the veteran today.

So, the supposed soft part of the Cleveland schedule is over, and it is off to San Diego next week to take on a Chargers team that was embarrassed by Minnesota today.  It won’t be any easier.

If Pettine and his staff cannot get this defense and running game to be any better.  Any hopes of building an identity this season could be out the window.

That’s very disconcerting for the football fans of northeast Ohio.

JD

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