When the Browns fired Eric Mangini, I didn’t think they became an immediate Super Bowl contender, but I did think that the weeks of me witnessing the team getting blown out mostly thanks to self-inflicted were over. Apparently, that thinking was a bit premature. The Browns lost today 31-13 in a game that really wasn’t even that close. The loss knocks the Browns to 2-2 on the season, which if Baltimore loses to the Jets tonight, could be good for first place in the AFC North (alongside the three other teams in the division, but still).
Some thoughts from the game:
-Instead of ranking the worst teams in the league who may draft Andrew Luck this week, I may start ranking which college wide receiver the Browns should pick with their first round pick next year, because if there’s one glaring hole on this roster, it’s that the Browns lack playmakers. Greg Little is starting to come along, but it’s going to take someone better than Mohamed Massaquoi or Brian Robiskie alongside him if Colt McCoy‘s ever going to realize his potential.
-Having said that, McCoy just might be the problem. He attempted 61 passes today (a Browns record) and while his stats look fine, sans a pick-6 he shouldn’t have thrown, he has trouble moving the ball down field and too often dumps the ball off to running backs and tight ends who aren’t in a position to make a play. McCoy’s had a pretty shaky start to the season and already has people speculating about which quarterback the Browns will take with the first round pick that they don’t use on a receiver (the Browns have their pick and the Falcons pick next year).
-There has been speculation that the Browns were unhappy with Peyton Hillis for missing last week’s game with strep throat, with some saying that he only did so because of his unresolved contract situation. Those rumors only gained legitimacy with Pat Shurmur‘s insistence on evenly splitting the playing time between Hillis and Montario Hardesty at running back. Hardesty played a pretty terrible game, dropping four balls, and it’s still a wonder to me why the Browns don’t try to establish Hillis earlier in games as he’s running the ball every bit as well as he did early last year.
-The defense today was pretty atrocious and Sheldon Brown is slowing moving into Eric Wright territory as far as bad Browns cornerbacks are concerned. Giving up an 80-yard touchdown to a tight end is unacceptable, especially when it’s due to a safety like Usama Young failing to simply push him out of bounds. There are some bright spots on this D, but until the Browns get a safety that can make up for T.J. Ward‘s shortcomings in coverage and a cornerback who won’t be picked on all game long, games like today are going to happen.
-If you want to look on the bright side of today, the Browns lost by three scores today, with three flukey plays (Jared Cook‘s touchdown, McCoy’s thrown pick-6, and an illegal/uncalled pick play to set up another touchdown) determining the game. These things, however, happen over the course of a football game, and you have to be able to either prevent them or overcome them, and the Browns did neither of those things today.
The Browns now head into their bye week at 2-2 and will either be tied for the lead or tied for second place in the division at the end of tonight. In two weeks, the Browns will face the Terrelle Pryor-led (just kidding) Oakland Raiders in a game that should help continue to try to answer the question of just who the hell are the 2011 Browns?