Before I get to my keys to victory for the Browns in their week 3 matchup, I wanted to do my belated notes on the last 2 weeks of Browns football. I know that thoughts on both are quite late, but I have been struggling to keep my internet running as my provider fails seriously. Now that the interweb is back up and running consistently, I can rant on the Browns for a few minutes on my day off. While many, including myself, seriously thought that the opening 2 games on this years schedule were a gift from the NFL gods and would see the Browns continue to show improvement and start the season off with 2 wins, at least 1, instead we have seen the team come out strong in the first halves of both games, only to fall depressingly short in both games. The Browns have not scored a point in the 2nd half of a game this season. The final scores of games against the Buccaneers and the Chiefs are almost mirror images, 17-14 and 16-14. So what is there to talk about in Browns town.
– Marcus Bernard is basically a beast. This guy is playing better than just about anyone on the defensive side of the ball in the first 2 games, and he will need to continue to play that way to help the defense stay consistent. He is among the leaders in the NFL in sacks, with 3, and is showing that his impressive and impactful play from the end of last season is not a fluke. While he may only have 4 tackles, he is a impact player on the defense with 3 sacks and pass deflected thus far.
– TJ Ward is the real deal. 18 solo tackles through 2 games, 4 tackle assists for 22 tackles in 2 games. He is all over the field, making hits and breaking up plays. He is showing us why the Browns drafted him, what many say to be too early, as he has been a big part of the team’s somewhat surprisingly good defense.
– Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace both played somewhat well in their starts. Delhomme is still listed as doubtful for this Sunday’s game against the Ravens, which might mean that Wallace gets a 2nd shot at being the starter. Wallace, you could argue, actually played better than Delhomme, throwing for 229 yards while throwing 16-31 with a TD and an Interception. Delhomme was 20-37 in his start with a TD and 2 interceptions. Wallace was sacked 1 time while Delhomme was not sacked at all, which speaks to the improvements on the offensive line, and the continued solid play of Joe Thomas, Steinbach and Alex Mack. If Wallace does start on Sunday and can limit turnovers, maybe the Browns have a chance to shock the Ravens, but this is unlikely.
– Where has Jerome Harrison been? He hasn’t been bad but he hasn’t been good either. 25 carries for 85 yards, a low 3.4 yard per carry average. He had a costly, and controversial fumble that played a role in the Browns loss versus the Chiefs. He really hasn’t been given the ball nearly enough to give him a chance to bust out a big run, but with Peyton Hillis running the ball more effectively on the same amount of carries (roughly) it appears that he might be on the verge of losing even more carries to the larger, more powerful, Hillis. His 4 catches for 42 yards has been nice and helped out in the passing game, but ultimately the Browns need to get Harrison going on the ground to have a chance at winning.
– Peyton Hillis has 2 of the Browns 4 touchdowns so far this season, he is the redzone man, almost like a modern version of Mike Alstot, a big powerful fullback who is good enough to warrant almost #1 running back touches. He has 17 rushes for 76 yards, with 7 catches for 50 yards. Combined with what Harrison has been able to do, you get pretty solid running back output. I still stand by my belief that the team has not been running the ball enough, as they have been up at half time in close games 2 times now, and then been shut out in the 2nd half and lost both games…
– So clearly the Browns are a 1st half team, and not a very good one at that. I don’t know what it is about 2nd half football that the Browns really can’t figure out, but I think it has something to do with offensive play calling. They have lost the time of possession battle badly in both games. It is an overlooked detail of winning football games, but being able to control the tempo of the game is crucial. The Browns lost to the Chiefs without allowing an offensive touchdown, a pick-6 and 3 field goals did the Browns in on Sunday.
– Turnovers. The Browns, somewhat uncharacteristically have been able to make the opposing teams turn the ball over, picking off the Chief’s Matt Cassel twice last week, and had 1 interception in week 1 as well. 5 sacks and 3 interceptions does not sound like the Browns defense of last season, they have really turned over a new leaf on that front, but the offensive woes continue. They are still losing the turnover battle despite having a defense that can create them, with 3 interceptions from the 2 QB’s and 2 fumbles lost on the ground.
– They do have the capability for big plays. Week 1 saw MoMass score a 41 yard TD on a pass from Jake Delhomme, only to be one upped by Wallace and Josh Cribbs who connected on a 65 yard bomb against the Chiefs. But this is where I find trouble brewing in the Brown’s offense. They are falling in love with that play, while they are great plays to have the ability to produce and can be back breaking for the opposition, I feel like the Browns are only looking to hit home runs and not control the game with a running game that should be much better than it is. Ben Watson, Evan Moore, Mo-Mass each have catches of 40+ yards and Cribbs has one of 60+, but look at what little that has actually produced… 4 offensive touchdowns is already as many, it seems, as the team has scored the last 2 seasons, so I am not going to complain about that, but they can’t expect to win by just hitting one big play a game and then trying to keep producing them, while not moving the ball and getting beat because the offense can’t move the football. With how well the Browns defense has played, they really should be sitting at 2-0.
– Can they turn it around? Simple answer… no. Not with the upcoming schedule, unless they really play well and get the offense turned around. The defense looks like it is there, ready to compete, but the offense is lagging behind. I, of course, continue to blame the offensive coordinator, and if this kind of paltry offense continues then both him and Eric Mangini are in for a long year of scrutiny from the fans, media and the big boss, Mike Holmgren.