Lots to get to today . . .
Clearly in the nature of a second guess, but I wonder if it occurred to Eric Mangini Sunday to let Rashad Jennings score a touchdown quickly in the waning stages of the game in Jacksonville in order to have more time with which to attempt a comeback.
Maurice Jones-Drew was hauled down by Browns cornerback Joe Haden at the one-foot line after his 75-yard run and catch with a screen pass with about two minutes left in regulation. With no timeouts, why not allow the Jaguars to score easily and then get the ball back with about 1:50 left?
Jones-Drew was getting a breather on the sideline following his big run and Jennings lined up at tailback when play resumed. The Browns stuffed him for no gain as the clock wound down before Jones-Drew came back and scored what turned out to be the game-winner with 1:12 left. With no timeouts left, Mangini couldn't stop the clock.
So instead of about 1:50 left had Jennings been allowed to score, Mangini allowed roughly 40 precious seconds to burn off because he was bereft of timeouts. That's called not thinking on your feet.
I bring it up strictly as a second guess a day later, sure, but Mangini is getting paid handsomely to make such command decisions in the best interests of his club. That is part of his job. To think ahead of the curve.
Had Haden not caught Jones-Drew, the Browns would have had a full two minutes with which to work. But the rookie Cleveland corner reacted instinctively. Players are taught and coached to prevent scoring, not permit it. Can't blame the young man for that.
During the 72 seconds with which he had to work, Colt McCoy frittered away at least 20 seconds while trying to get his men lined up properly following a first-down conversion. He twice had ample opportunity to spike the ball to kill the clock, but chose not to. By the time he did spike the ball, there were roughly 15 seconds left and about 30 yards to the end zone.
With no timeouts to help, he wasted way too much time. Someone had to be screaming into his helmet from the sidelines to kill the clock with a spike. If they weren't, then something is definitely wrong with the coaching staff. McCoy played almost too casually for what was at stake.
Sure, he got the Browns close and had a crack at the end zone, but it would have been that much easier had he had a firmer grasp of the time constraints within which he worked. This is one you can chalk up to a rookie mistake. But given his performance thus far, it could turn out to be one of just a few. The fact he got them as close as he did as quickly as he did at the end can be looked on as a positive.
The Cleveland offensive line sure picked the wrong Sunday to have a bad game. Everyone on that line was culpable as the Jaguars absolutely manhandled them most of the afternoon. The Jags loaded the box all day, daring McCoy to throw, often rushing as many as seven.
They clogged just about all of Peyton Hillis' running lanes and made certain that at least two or three men greeted him every time he traveled beyond the line of scrimmage. Jags defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, in particular, severely tested Cleveland center Alex Mack.
It also became clear that the right side of the line operates better with Pork Chop Womack at either guard or tackle. Against the Jags, he was on the bench with an injury. John St. Clair and rookie Shaun Lauvao had a great deal of difficulty holding down the strong side of the formation and that's where most of the pressure on McCoy came from.
OK, let's try this one more time. With feeling. EVAN MOORE IS NOT A TIGHT END. HE'S A WIDE RECEIVER AND NEEDS TO PLAY MORE. What in the world will it take for the Browns' brain trust to recognize that Moore's size alone (6-6, 250) makes him an appealing target for McCoy. He's not a good blocker. Never has been. But he sure knows how to get open and catch a football.
Mo Massaquoi, Chansi Stuckey and Brian Robiskie have trouble getting open. Wait. Robiskie is still on the team? Why? He doesn't contribute anything. Oh, wait a minute. He's a very good blocker downfield. But the Browns don't get enough players with the ball downfield. So why is he on the field more than Moore?
Probably because the Browns regard Moore as a tight end. HE IS NOT A TIGHT END.
Wanna know how valuable Joshua Cribbs is to the Cleveland offense? One wonders how much of a difference he would have made had he been healthy enough to play in Jacksonville. Even though he's not the best wideout on the team, he has made numerous clutch catches this season to bail out his quarterbacks. That element was missing Sunday.
And, of course, his ability to give the offense a short field with his returns. That, too, was absent. But the defense made up for it by giving the offense the ball at the Jacksonville 48, Jacksonville 18, Cleveland 43 and Jacksonville 35 on successive turnovers in the second half and all it could muster was a field goal. One could only imagine what the final score would have been had the defense not been so opportunistic.
Having watched Jones-Drew only casually and appreciating his talents from afar, that appreciation grew sizably after watching him against the Browns. He is a midget version of Hillis in that he refuses to go down and piles up loads of yardage after contact. His low pad level makes him look even smaller and harder to find with his 5-7 (maybe) stature. He ducks behind his large offensive line and plays "where's MJD?" very well.
He slithers and slashes and when defenders do locate him, his ability to stay on his feet enables him to pile up the yards. The 75-yard play that helped seal the victory was the result of a very tired Cleveland defense. When players get tired, they have a tendency to arm tackle. Three Browns had a clear crack at him on the screen play, but could offer an obligatory arm tackle. And Jones-Drew is one guy you don't bring down with arm tackles.
Now come the sad-sack 1-9 Carolina Panthers, odds-on favorites to own the No. 1 pick in the college football draft. The Panthers play football more like kitty cats. They have scored just 117 points this season, far and away the worst offense in the National Football League. On the road, they are a slightly better team with 58 points in four games. At home, they have put just 59 points on the board in six games.
If the Browns' record is not 4-7 by around 4 p.m. this Sunday afternoon at CBS, the panic button will be a popular target for a large number of fans.