I have a tough time explaining why my frustration levels fluctuate so much throughout a Browns season. Some weeks as the Browns lose, it barely registers on the imaginary frustrate-o-meter in my house. I kind of shrug my shoulders, write about the Browns game on Sunday and just move along with my week. Then other weeks I’m dropping the ugliest of linguistic bombs on the WFNY email thread because I’m so beside myself trying to deal with my favorite football team wetting the bed. This week, it felt like they wet the bed after I just removed the water proof mattress liner. This was a two-win football team heading into the game against Dallas. What exactly is it that I expected that would give me this level of frustration? On the WFNY podcast this week, I said flat-out that the Browns could win, but that we were probably talking about a 30% chance of taking it home. Based on those expectations, shouldn’t I have almost been pleasantly surprised that the Browns had leads and forced a superior team into an overtime at home? Logic might dictate that, but this game still frustrated me beyond belief.
Was it the refereeing? I’m sure that had something to do with it. I think the referees got the call right on T.J. Ward’s hit, even though I don’t love the rule. Other than that though, Ed Hochuli’s crew was abysmal. There was a brutal uncalled false start, a pretty questionable pass interference on Buster Skrine when he legitimately located the ball and was working his way back to it just like the receiver. Skrine maybe had earned opposite of the benefit of the doubt by this point in the game after numerous other legitimate penalties, but I still think they got it wrong. On one of the kickoff return holding penalties the ref who threw the flag was laughing while telling Ed Hochuli about it. Might have meant nothing, but as the Browns were trying to not blow a 13-0 halftime lead it rubbed me the wrong way. Then of course is the fumble-ruled-incomplete-pass that would have been a pretty compelling review despite the animated cheering of Dan Dierdorf that it was incomplete.
Speaking of Dan Dierdorf, I tried as hard as I could to not assume he was rooting against the Browns, but by the end of the game I just couldn’t handle it anymore. Dierdorf isn’t expected to sugar-coat that the Browns aren’t a bad team, but when the Browns were holding a slight lead (maybe when it was 13-10?) Dierdorf spoke of the driving Cowboys like they’d already won the game. Sure, it felt somewhat inevitable to Browns fans that the team was going to lose, but even those fears were unfounded as the game ended up going to overtime. Maybe it isn’t an anti-Cleveland bias as much as a bias against bad football teams, but it sure felt like bias just the same.
None of this is designed to excuse the bad play of the Browns for my frustration. As I said though, the Browns playing badly is nothing new and yesterday felt different. This week felt like the Giants game all over again, but instead of Eli Manning the Browns let Tony Romo and his ragtag bunch of offensive linemen embarrass them. That’s a serious step down in my book. Plus, this was a Browns team nine games into their season and coming off of a bye week with the defensive line at full strength for the first time all year. They were supposed to be better and more prepared than they were against the Giants.
For all that opportunity the Browns got exposed at cornerback courtesy of Buster Skrine. The Browns were woeful on the goal line whether it was ill-advised fade throws1 or telegraphed runs up the middle of the offensive line. It was the Browns dominating a half of football and yet only putting up thirteen points. It was a Browns team with a two-score lead and getting the ball back first to start the third quarter that was out-coached and out-schemed in the second half. Take that plus the obnoxious announcing and the pitiful referreeing and it culminates into probably the most frustrating week of Browns football so far this season.
Maybe I’m speaking too soon though. The Steelers are coming to town this weekend and the Browns have a chance to let Byron Leftwich (errr Charlie Batch) get the Steelers back on track after losing to Baltimore last night.
- bad throw, but credit to Cameron Jordan for catching it even if it was out of bounds [↩]