Imagine that? The Browns were 9.5 point underdogs and they lost by 10 points to the San Francisco 49ers. The Browns were their own worst enemy all game long fumbling the ball and generally not having any kind of tempo on offense. So the Browns fall to 3-4 and will need to lick their wounds quickly before heading to Houston to face the 5-3 Texans.
Injuries were again a big part of the story for the Browns. Peyton Hillis didn’t play as pretty much everyone expected by the end of last week. That would have been bad enough, except Montario Hardesty went down with a calf injury after just two carries. The Browns were forced to overload Chris Ogbonnaya for the rest of the game as he was the only active runner left on the active roster for the Browns. How far we’ve come since we thought the Browns were coming into this season with Peyton Hillis, Brandon Jackson and the oft-injured prospect, Montario Hardesty.
On the (not all that) bright side, the offense finally found receiver Jordan Norwood. For a Browns team that has struggled this much on offense, 5 catches for 32 yards is an absolute revelation for Colt McCoy. Norwood was quick in and out of his routes and seemed to provide the safety valve that McCoy hasn’t been able to find all season long. In the end though the Browns walk out of another game wondering what they can possibly do to get the offense to play well enough to win.
Despite some early struggles, that was again not a question for the Browns’ defense. The Browns’ defense only really gave up 13 points on their own. The offense gift-wrapped the first seven with a Colt McCoy fumble thanks to Tony Pashos whiffing on his “block.” The 49ers started from the Cleveland 20 a mere 0:50 into the game.
Admittedly, the Browns’ defense got gashed early and scarily by the 49ers and Frank Gore. Gore finished the game with 134 yards and a TD. That isn’t a great stat for the Browns’ defense, but they held pretty tightly in a bend-don’t-break fashion. The Browns defense held the 49ers to 6-15 on third down.
The goal line stand that the Browns defense executed on Frank Gore and company was inspirational in the second quarter. The 49ers thought they scored, but it was called back when it was realized that Frank Gore’s elbow was down before he crossed the plane. On 2nd and 1, D’Qwell jackson blew the play up for a one yard loss behind the push of the defensive line. On 3rd and 2 to goal, the Browns held again thanks to DQ and Jabaal Sheard. Finally, the Browns stopped Gore on 4th down with inches before Gore would have crossed the goal line.
The Browns’ defense deserved better even though they couldn’t keep the 49ers from kicking a field goal when the Browns offense got the game within one touchdown at 17-10. It is very hard to blame them yet again.
This is the NFL and there are no excuses, so I don’t expect anyone to forgive a losing effort. That being said, it is hard to not look honestly at a Browns offense that had the goal of finding themselves this season when they can’t seem to keep any consistent personnel on the field week to week. Colt McCoy is still not playing as we would like him to, and Pat Shurmur still looks a bit overwhelmed at times, but it is really hard to figure out what kind of gameplan you can call that would put a brand new crew of players into the right positions to succeed.
This is certainly not the progress we hope to see, but the problems are obvious at least. There are no reinforcements coming through that door, so we’ll just have to watch and hope a few lights turn on for Pat Shurmur, his offensive staff and players. Hopefully next week the Browns will also do battle with a full complement of running backs and receivers. They’re bad enough when they aren’t playing short-handed.