The Browns will regret this loss desperately. They did everything the exact opposite of what Eric Mangini preaches. The Browns lost the turnover battle. They handily lost the time of possession battle. They were badly out-rushed in bad weather. The Browns’ defense played well enough to win only giving up 13 points, but even that won’t provide any comfort as the Browns lick their wounds heading into Cincy with a 500 record being the best possible scenario for the season.
Yes, this team has made improvements over last season. Forget that for a second though. The team defied its own improvement in out-stinking the Bills for 60 minutes this Sunday. Reggie Hodges punted four times and Brian Moorman matched him with four punts of his own. At the end of it all, though, the Browns lost because they didn’t control the ball, clock and field position. In Eric Mangini’s world that is absolutely unforgivable.
In my pre-game I warned mightily against getting greedy with rushing yards due to the weather and propensity for Hillis to fumble the ball. That was pretty prescient as the Browns put the ball on the ground five times (three for Hillis) losing two of them. Jake Delhomme also added an interception that was aided by a Bills hit as he released the ball. Is it time to talk about the workload that Hillis has endured this season? He and the Browns running attack have been wildly inconsistent in the second half of the year. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that Hillis is carrying a career-high workload between carries and receptions?
Jake Delhomme had a bad game. He didn’t do it alone, but make no mistake it was bad. I can’t point to any easy plays that were big losers necessarily, but he didn’t make anything happen either. There were also some really bad miscues between he and Peyton Hillis and Josh Cribbs on running plays and an end-around. The rest of the offense didn’t do anything to pick them up either. Massaquoi had a couple catches, Robiskie had two and Ben Watson had one, but that was it. The Bills out-matched the Browns’ offense all game long. You can spread that blame between Daboll, Delhomme, Hillis, the receivers and the offensive line pretty equally. Mangini can get some of the blame too if you are in the camp that he should have sat Delhomme.
I would have supported Mangini had he chosen to pull that trigger. Still, at this point, I truly believe these types of strategies are being discussed organizationally, so I expect these changes between games more than in-game. Jake Delhomme wasn’t producing, but he never had that one bone-headed play that triggered his removal.
The bottom line is that the Browns weren’t good enough today. Between the gameplan, the effort and the self-inflicted wounds, they failed miserably in what was a truly winnable game. They will not enjoy watching tape of this one this week. I am sure a lot of the beat reporters will start to ramp up the “hot seat” talk for Mangini too. The real target will probably be Mangini’s offensive underling. I think we are getting dangerously close to an absolute hatred for Brian Daboll in Browns fan circles despite an obvious talent deficiency. At some point the lack of talent isn’t enough of an excuse for a restless fan base that never wants to see even a half step back.
This team is still improved over the one a year ago, but it is increasingly tough to stave off the approaching pitchfork-wielding fan base after losses like this. The whole thing stinks of missed opportunities and playing down to the competition. The Browns never seem to quit under Mangini, but are they capable of dominating lesser opponents?