The Browns started the Bengals’ streak, so I guess it was somewhat cosmically fitting that they would end it too. It was not fitting in any way for a Browns fan base that was elated to see Colt McCoy back under center and hopeful for a late-season explosion like the Browns did a year ago. The Browns just couldn’t seem to get anything consistently going on this day in Cincinnati. They lost the game in all three phases. The Bengals ran all over the Browns with Cedric Benson getting off for 150 yards and a touchdown. Carson Palmer wasn’t pressured into any mistakes. The Browns mustered offense in very rare spurts via Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis, but it wasn’t nearly enough except to make it look respectable on the scoreboard.
Of course this will lead us to another week of talking about Eric Mangini, Brian Daboll and the hot seat. Can we just decide to put a moratorium on that stuff until the end of the season already? Mangini has supporters and detractors. The decision probably won’t be made (and CERTAINLY won’t be announced) any single moment before the Browns finish their season against the Steelers on January 2nd. I agree that there are cases to be made for Mangini and against him. There are cases to be made and against pretty much every coach in the NFL that doesn’t make the playoffs, right? Marty Schottenheimer would argue that even making the playoffs doesn’t make you safe. I get all the arguments. They have been made ad nauseum. So let’s just talk about the action happening in front of us and save the conclusions for later. As for the action on the field, let’s talk about the Browns’ strategy to end the first half.
You guys probably know about me by this point in the year that I don’t like to second-guess coaching a lot. Still, there is no way to ignore what transpired to end the first half. The Browns had the ball at the Cincinnati 37 yard line after the two minute warning. McCoy went to Ben Watson on first and ten for six yards. 2nd and 4 from Cincy 31 and McCoy takes an ill-advised sack back to the 39. The Browns had about a minute left on the clock with 3rd and 12 to go and they decided to just pack it in and let the clock run. Finally Cincinnati called timeout with 23 seconds left after a short 5 yard pass to Brian Robiskie brought up 4th and 7. The Browns came out to go for it, then called their own time out. After throwing it deep and missing with offsetting penalties, the Browns committed a false start by John St. Clair that made it 4th and 12. Reggie Hodges came on to punt. Got all that?
The problem is that Mangini had time on the clock, all of his timeouts and a team across the way that probably would have been content giving up a game-tying field goal. The Browns played scared, except they didn’t. They let the clock run until the Bengals finally called timeout with 23 seconds left. Coming out of that timeout the Browns’ play was so bad that they had to call their own timeout. Two penalties later they are punting. Except they were going for it until that last penalty. If you are going to go for it, then why not save some clock with all your timeouts in enemy territory?
The Browns were losing the game and couldn’t figure out how to get into field goal range after being as close as the Cincy 31 yard line. They had so little confidence in their offense that they didn’t even use timeouts to play-action into a Peyton Hillis draw. The Browns have a lack of talent on their roster, but they still need to play to win the game in opposing territory. I was baffled by this sequence to say the least.
Just par for the course though from these Browns since looking so good in the middle of the year. The Browns have dealt with injuries. They have a lack of playmakers. Their coaching seems baffling at times lately. Don’t try to draw any conclusions from me, but right now this team is playing bad football all the way around. They have been getting dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Browns seemingly couldn’t even figure out how to stack the run in the second half this week. Disgusting all the way around.
There are no “must-win” games once you are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but everyone, from the coaches down to the players should be attempting to prove their worth for next season. Right now this entire team from top to bottom is playing unacceptable football. They know it too. Mangini, his staff and his players all know that they should be playing better. Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert know it too. This is a results-oriented league and nobody has anything to brag about right now.