I’m not making excuses for the Browns, but I honestly didn’t expect them to be competitive this past Sunday against the Broncos.1
This team was in trouble when T.J. Ward got hurt and when they decided to cut Dimitri Patterson. Add in all the extraneous chatter this week from the locker room about impending change, and no amount of “if” in those quotes could dissuade me from thinking this team was at least distracted and probably just finished with the year.
In a lot of ways, Shurmur might deserve some credit for at least one thing2 this season, and that is that his team played hard almost to the end. And they might have too if not for the injuries and frustration in how they saw their three game winning streak ended by Kirk Cousins and the Redskins a week ago.
Regardless of the reasoning, the Browns never should have cut off their nose to spite their face cutting Dimitri Patterson this week. Considering the experiment of Buster Skrine starting earlier in the season, it wasn’t worth cutting Patterson before the final two games unless I’m missing something business-related. So, unless he somehow indicated that he was going to refuse to play, I just can’t understand it. The Browns could have used Patterson in a major way both in the slot to start the game and also on the outside filling in for Sheldon Brown after he was injured. Whether it was a player insurrection or a shot across the bow of Tom Heckert by Joe Banner, it sure hurt the team and the fans yesterday against Peyton Manning.
Maybe it didn’t really matter anyway, but considering the 34-12 final score, it bears question whether any of it was worth it for a fanbase that certainly deserved a more competitive game. We are talking about a game that was 14-3 at halftime with the Browns getting the ball. It’s not like it was a blowout wire-to-wire. And yet, in the end the Browns got crushed by long touchdown drives and an inability to respond in kind.
And so the Browns will be limping into the final game of the season. Even before reports come out, we know that Trent Richardson is questionable along with starting QB Brandon Weeden who went down with an ankle and shoulder respectively. Sheldon Brown is going to be questionable, presumably with a concussion.
But the Browns are going up against a Steelers team with problems of their own. Heath Miller got hurt on Sunday along with Maurkice Pouncey and a couple other role players. Add in that Troy Polamalu has been banged up all year along with Ben Roethlisberger and sprinkle in the bitter dash of spice that the Steelers are now knocked out of playoff contention and they might just well pack it in a little bit too.
Of course, I shouldn’t say it too loudly lest this message sneak its way into the Browns locker room. I’d hate for these guys to get the wrong idea that they don’t have to try too hard against the Steelers next weekend. With very little chance3 that Pat Shurmur will be back, it isn’t like one more win will hurt anything for the Browns. And no, don’t talk to me about draft implications. This is a game against the Steelers. The Browns will earn whatever draft pick they’re supposed to get. And hopefully this rag-tag bunch of wounded warriors with nothing left to play for at least give the fans a reason to watch.