In a battle of teams basically playing for relevance to their seasons, the Cleveland Browns prevailed, beating the Baltimore Ravens in overtime, 33-30 to raise their record to 2-3 on the year.
Although the subject of sports talkers regarding the Browns this year (and really, the last umpteen years) has revolved around the lack of a franchise quarterback and a big time wide receiver, the Cleveland offense continues to click, scoring 108 points over the last four games, an average of 27 per contest.
That will win you a lot of games in the NFL, but unfortunately, and not to be a “Debbie Downer” after a victory, the Cleveland defense needs to get better, because it almost cost the team a win once again.
Josh McCown may be a journeyman QB, and he may have piloted some bad football teams during his career, but he guided Cleveland to 505 total yards today, and the aforementioned 33 points.
He completed 36 passes in 51 attempts for 457 yards, two touchdowns, and a two point conversion with gave Mike Pettine’s team a three point lead with a little over three minutes to go.
The running game struggled, but gained tough yardage down the stretch, with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson getting enough yards to put the offense in very makeable third down situations.
And TE Gary Barnidge continues to be a huge factor, grabbing eight passes for 139 yards and another spectacular catch for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Johnson and Crowell were big factors in the passing game too, with the latter putting Cleveland ahead 30-27 with a 22-yard catch and run with three minutes left.
However, the defense struggled once again, and almost cost the team a victory.
Pettine can stand at the podium and tell everyone that unit is not a problem, but all he is doing is looking like a man who’s head is firmly entrenched in the sand.
The Ravens ran for 181 more yards against a unit that already ranked 2nd last in the NFL. And the Cleveland defense allowed four more plays of more than 20 yards, including a 32-yard gain on a short pass to Justin Forsett with around a minute and a half to go, which set the Ravens up for a possible go ahead touchdown.
Fortunately, the defense stiffened, and Baltimore could only tie the game and force overtime.
Let’s repeat this again, with the caps intentional…YOU CANNOT WIN IN THE NFL WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO RUN THE BALL AND HAVE THE ABILITY TO STOP THE RUN!!!
Until Pettine and his staff put a priority on stopping the opposition’s ground game, the Browns will not be a good football team. Period.
Other thoughts from today…
The officiating is ruining the NFL product. There were 21 penalties accepted today, with the worst one almost costing the Browns in the 4th quarter. The unnecessary roughness call on K’Waun Williams was simply horrible. He made a football play.
Another weakness of the Browns’ defense is they aren’t forcing turnovers. None today, none last week, and one recovered fumble vs. Oakland.
Travis Coons looks like the next Phil Dawson. The rookie made four field goals today including the game winner. He hasn’t missed at all this season (knock on wood).
The safeties led the Browns in tackles today (Jordan Poyer and Donte Whitner). Where are the linebackers in the run game? Nate Orchard and Tank Carder had four stops each. Maybe more playing time for both of them?
Next on the slate is Denver at First Energy Stadium next week. Peyton Manning is one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, but the Broncos would be crazy to not run the ball next Sunday.
Maybe as crazy as Pettine if he doesn’t realize the defense needs some changes.