As the Browns approach record territory with regard to losing streaks, more information as to just how bad they can be has surfaced.
Since 1962, a year after the National Football League expanded to a 14-game schedule, seven teams entered week 14 winless. After the Browns’ loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, make that eight.
Two of those teams lost them all – the expansion 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (in a 14-game season) and 2008 Detroit Lions (in a 16-game season). All the others (the 1962 Oakland Raiders, 1980 New Orleans Saints, 1986 Indianapolis Colts, 2007 Minnesota Vikings and 2011 Colts) escaped infamy.
The 1986 Colts finished 3-13, the 2011 Colts wound up 2-14, while the Raiders, Vikings and Saints all won just one game.
The Bucs eventually went on to lose their next 12 games in 1977 before winning their first-ever game. Their 26 straight losses stand as the NFL record. In case you are wondering, the 2008 and 2009 Detroit Lions combined for 2-30 record.
The Browns are just three Sundays away from joining the 2008 Lions as the only teams ever to lose every game in a 16-game season. And the manner in which they are currently playing strongly indicates that eventuality is more likely than previously thought.
This severely under talented team keeps plumbing new depths as the season slogs mercifully to a close. There are no areas at which to point indicating progress is being made. It’s the same-old, same-old every Sunday.
The offense operates in fits and starts. There is no rhyme or reason to coach Hue Jackson’s play calling. The defense, meanwhile, has trouble getting off the field because it has problems making plays at critical times. The opposition’s 48% conversion rate on third down is ample evidence. And it has created only 11 turnovers.
The special teams are dreadful. The longest punt return has been just 18 yards; the longest kickoff return only 24 yards. There isn’t one dangerous threat on the roster who can break a long return and give the offense decent, if not good, field position.
And the seemingly constant flow of penalty flags on punt and kickoff returns buries the weak offense deep in its territory more often than not at the start of a drive.
There hasn’t been a shred of evidence that indicates progress has been achieved on a consistent level from the very first series in the season opener in Philadelphia to the final series Sunday against the Bengals.
The only consistency is the inconsistency on both sides of the football. One good play is rewarded with three or four that make you shake your head in wonderment. It has been like that all season.
Jackson says all this losing eats at him. But he’s fooling only himself if he thinks his team is better than its record because it isn’t even close. And if his bosses believe it is better, then the coach has a bigger problem on his hands besides his team.
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What a strange season Isaiah Crowell is putting together. The running back has three 100-yard games, including the 113-yarder he produced Sunday against the Bengals. At one point, he was among the league leaders in running the ball with 394 yards in his first four games.
And then he disappeared. Not literally. Figuratively.
In the five games preceding the Cincinnati game, Crowell ran for 110 yards. Total. That’s three fewer yards than he crafted Sunday in just 10 carries (why only 10?). And in the eight games since his big start, he piled up just 211 yards before Sunday.
For whatever reason, Jackson does not want to lean on Crowell as his main masher. He has never carried more than 18 times in any one game, which is strange for a coach whose offensive beliefs favor evenly balancing his offense between the run game and passing game.
Granted the offensive line behind which Crowell operates is vastly overrated and has been hit with numerous injuries throughout the season. But the one he ran behind against the Bengals might be the worst of the season talent-wise. And yet he banged out 113.
It’s a puzzle no one, including Jackson, has been able to solve. But it does seem Crowell picks up most of his yards on quick hitters up the gut such as the 42-yarder he ripped off Sunday behind right guard Jonathan Cooper, who was making his starting debut.
Once he is in the open field, Crowell is a hard man to bring down and his surprising speed and strength enable him to break tackles along the way. But it’s his inconsistency that is a conundrum for the personnel people, especially with a number of good running backs expected for the next college draft.
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Outside linebacker Jamie Collins has been with the Browns for just five games now after being obtained in a trade with the New England Patriots in early November. In those five games, the 6-3, 250-pounder has racked up 49 tackles, 32 of the solo variety, and a pair of sacks.
Those tackles numbers are more associated with an inside linebacker, whose primary job is to stop the run and thus is in the middle of the action more than the outside backer, whose job is to cover the flank.
So when Collins, a free agent after this season, was credited with 15 tackles against the Bengals, 13 of those by himself, one had to take notice and wonder whether the front office noticed as well.
Right now, the current roster aches for playmakers and Collins more than qualifies. While the defense continues to struggle as a whole, the newcomer continues to shine despite playing for the worst NFL team in this decade. If he is allowed to escape, the front office’s priorities are all screwed up.
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Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah also had a strong game with six tackles, 1½ sacks, three hits on Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton and several hurries. He also seems to enjoy playing against the Bengals with all but one of 4½ season sacks against them.
The rookie’s only problem is he seemed to have hit a wall or two several games ago. He was sackless in his first five professional games before recording one against Tennessee and two in the first Bengals games in October. He had gone five games without a sack before Sunday.
Assuming he eventually achieves consistency and can be counted on every Sunday, the 6-4, 275-pounder should be a load now that he has settled in at defensive end after starting out the season as an outside linebacker.
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One of the reasons the Cleveland offense had problems against the Bengals, especially in the first half, was where they started drives. They never crossed midfield in the first 30 minutes because they began drives at their 7, 12, 31, 2 and 6. The closest they got was their 42-yard line on the third possession.
The second half was much better, relatively speaking, with starts at their 25, 20, 19, 26 and 20, putting points on the board with possessions seven (touchdown) and eight (field goal). Lack of a solid return man is definitely a large contributing factor.
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Terrelle Pryor, object of a belittling post-game rant by Cincinnati cornerback Adam Jones who called the big Cleveland receiver “garbage”, was totally ineffective against his former team in the two games this season.
He was targeted only seven times, catching three passes for 21 yards with Jones his main adversary. His longest gain was a 13-yarder in the first game. If not for a late third-quarter grab for three yards Sunday, he would have been shut out.
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And finally . . . Think Bengals middle linebacker Karlos Dansby didn’t want to show the Browns they made a mistake by releasing him after last season? Check out these Dansby stats from the two games: 23 tackles, 20 solo, leading his team in both categories in each game. . . . Bengals running back Jeremy Hill also loves playing against the Browns. After running over, around and through that defense for 168 yards (on only nine carries) in the first meeting, he added 111 more Sunday. . . . Even without favorite receiver A. J. Green, Cincy quarterback Andy Dalton was solid in raising his personal winning streak against the Browns to five games. . . . How bad was the Cleveland offense against the Bengals? It registered only three first downs in the first half and one was on fourth down deep in their territory . It also ran only 53 plays and owned the ball for just 25 minutes. . . . In their last 16 games, the Browns have held a fourth-quarter lead just once – against Washington in game four this season. . . . Two more miserable stats and then we're done: The Browns have lost 23 of the last 24 games and are 3-31 in their last 34.