For most of Sunday’s game against the Redskins, the Browns’ offense had as much rhythm as a hippopotamus on a dance floor. Which, for those of you who have never seen a hippo do a tango or cha-cha, is zilch.
Quarterback Derek Anderson, who could thread a needle from 30 yards six days earlier against the Giants, couldn’t hit a truck tire from 10 yards against the Redskins. As a result, the Browns lost 14-11, thus pretty much wasting their fabulous victory over the defending Super Bowl Champions on Monday Night Football.
Now, instead of heading into Jacksonville next Sunday with a three-game winning streak and a legitimate chance of making the playoffs, the Browns are 2-4 and just a couple of losses away from being all but eliminated from the post-season party.
Far too often, quarterbacks get too much credit for victories and way too much blame for defeats. Anderson might very well be the exception to that rule.
In his 21 games as an NFL starter, the Browns have been pretty much invincible when he is on top of his game. The “good” Anderson not only can read defenses and pick out the open receivers, but also has the ability to beat double coverage.
But when he struggles, he can’t even hit wide open running backs coming out of the backfield, much less wide receivers streaking downfield. When he’s the “bad” DA, it seems his receivers also press, thus resulting in numerous dropped passes. Sunday against the Redskins, the Browns had at least five more dropped passes, including three from Braylon Edwards, who can be as equally hot and cold as his quarterback.
Anderson finished with 14-of-37 for 136 yards, with most of yardage coming in the final minutes as the Browns tried to pull off a fantastic finish, only to have Phil Dawson’s game-tying 54-yard field goal attempt with 27 seconds remaining sail wide right.
Inconsistency is what separates Anderson from being on the same level as Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar in their heyday, and it’s what keeps Edwards from ever being mentioned in the same breath with Jerry Rice and Paul Warfield. Or Dave Logan and Webster Slaughter, for that matter.
Inconsistency is also what separates the Browns from the elite teams in the NFL. A victory Sunday afternoon would have proven the Browns are capable of beating a good NFL team when coming off an emotional victory. It would have created a confidence on the team that could have carried on throughout the final 10 games.
Instead, there remains serious doubt as to whether this Browns team has the ability to finally reach the playoffs in the Romeo Crennel era.
On paper, when you look at the talent on this team, particularly on offense, there is absolutely no excuse for not being able to pick up a first down via the pass until late in the third quarter which was the case Sunday afternoon in Landover, Maryland.
Sunday marked the first time all season the entire complement of “skill” players was available. Kellen Winslow Jr., who was sidelined against the Giants with an undisclosed illness, was on the field, but was a non-factor until he caught a pass on the one yard line late in the fourth quarter. He finished with just two catches.
Steve Heiden, who did a tremendous job in Winslow’s absence against the Giants, didn’t seem to be part of the game plan, either. He caught his one and only pass in the fourth quarter. Could of there have been a correlation between those two guys catching the ball and the Browns getting on the scoreboard? I think so.
The offensive line, for the most part, did a solid job of protecting Anderson, but he failed to capitalize on his protection, often times missing wide open receivers.
Some people might cast blame on the defense for giving up 175 yards rushing to Clinton Portis. But by no means is it warranted.
For most of the game, Shaun Rogers was a one-man gang on the defense line. And he had to be. One by one the supporting cast he had expected to have around him this year has gone down with injuries. Shaun and Robaire Smith are definitely missed. The only other “survivor,” Corey Williams, missed considerable time Sunday after injuring his left shoulder in the first half.
Rogers did another solid job, but he, like many his defensive mates, wore out as the game wore on.
Portis, who scored one touchdown, nearly became the goat, thanks to a great play by Eric Wright. The Redskins, leading 14-3. were looking to put the game away late in the fourth quarter after holding the Browns on four straight plays from inside the 5 yard line.
Portis had broken free down the right sideline when Wright came from behind a sledge-hammered the ball out of Portis’ hands, with Brodney Pool recovering on the 29 to set up the Browns’ only touchdown, a one yard pass from Anderson to Joshua Cribbs with 2:44 remaining.
Wright, who was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his game-clinching 94-yard interception return against the Giants, would definitely have been a front-runner for that same award this week had the Browns been able to pull out a victory.
But after the defense forced the Redskins to a quick three-and-out and got the ball back in the offense’s hands with just under two minutes to play, the rally, and possibly the team’s playoff hopes, ended as Dawson’s kick, which had the distance, landed a couple of yards to the right of the upright.