And the beat goes on
Catching up with the Browns’ latest embarrassment . . .
As I watched Saturday night’s exhibition against the St. Louis Rams unfold, I found myself saying to no one in particular, “Why does this team look just like last year’s team? And the year before’s team? And the year before that?”
But didn’t that new video board at the stadium formerly known as Cleveland Browns Stadium sure look nice?
It seems the only things that change with this football team are the names and faces. The lethargy, the inability to play representative football, the sleep-inducing offense . . . they are still there.
The 33-14 loss to the Rams was just an exhibition, I know. I’m trying to convince myself that what we saw against the Rams in no way is indicative of what we’ll see once the Browns start playing meaningful games.
Somehow, some way, Browns coaches will sprinkle magic dust over those fortunate enough to make the final roster and the team we see against the Steelers in Pittsburgh a week from Sunday will play a different brand of football.
It was evident from the opening kickoff that the Rams were prepared to play a game of football, while the Browns were prepared to go through the motions. At least it seemed that way.
The Rams were quicker, faster, hit harder and played smarter than the Browns, who controlled the ball for a whopping 20 minutes. If Mike Pettine isn’t at least looking for the panic button, then something is terribly wrong.
That was an embarrassing display in front of the home folks, who had to be muttering “same old, same old” all the way home.
To rattle off the statistics in this one would be adding fuel to the blaze. Suffice it to say, with maybe one exception (rookie linebacker Chris Kirksey), the Cleveland defense was a step and a half, maybe two full steps, slow all evening.
And the tackling – what tackling, you ask? Well, so do I. The tackling, especially in the secondary, was abysmal. Let’s not forget the so-called strength of the defense, the guys up front. The Rams gained 142 of their 472 yards on the ground.
They put points on the board seven times in their first nine possessions. It was an unfair fight because they came to play. The Browns arrived disinterested.
They got beat by two quarterbacks – Shaun Hill and Austin Davis – who are second and third on the depth chart. After starter Sam Bradford left with what later was diagnosed as a torn ACL, Hill and David picked apart the Cleveland defense.
This was supposed to be the dress rehearsal for the regular season. Brian Hoyer, anointed the starter for the opener, played listlessly and carelessly, and was inept and ineffective.
And he will not get much of a chance to hone his craft in the final exhibition Thursday night in Cleveland against the Chicago Bears. That’s the game where the starters play one, maybe two series and then take off the rest of the evening.
What Pettine should – but won’t – do is punish the starters and play them well into the third quarter against the Bears. This offense is not nearly ready to open the season. Its mind-set is decidedly out of whack.
After the game, the coach took the high road and sort of pronounced himself satisfied with his quarterback. “I think there are some plays (Hoyer) would want back,” Pettine said. “He missed a few reads, but overall, I think he’s been solid.”
Which makes me wonder? Were we watching the same game? Missed a few reads? Solid? Really? If that’s solid, perhaps consideration should be given to changing the meaning of the word.
Overall, the Browns are in disappointingly miserable shape. They have no decent receivers to speak of, an offensive line that is vastly overrated and a quarterback whose confidence level cannot be anywhere near what it was when he took over for Brandon Weeden last season.
The defense, thought to be the team’s strong point, was a rumor all evening against the Rams. The Rams converted one third and long after another. Third and 25? No problem. The Rams had the Browns right where they wanted them. Third and 11, third and 19? No sweat. The Rams converted every one of them, 12 of 19 overall.
The loss was truly a team effort. The offense was awful. The defense was two beats slow all evening.
With the final exhibition just a few days away and roster cutdown around the corner, there’s not much “back to the drawing board” time left.
But, hey, didn’t that new video board at the stadium sure look nice? The Browns stunk out the joint in high definition.
No truth to the rumor that the stadium had to fumigated minutes after the last fan left.