In hindsight, it’s a wonder that the Browns were favored to win against Indianapolis. The Browns were banged up before the week began and as it progressed, the news only got worse when we found out Jamie Collins would miss the game with his concussion symptoms lingering. The Browns were trying to come up with enough wide receivers to field an offense as they re-signed Jordan Leslie, who despite making one of the greatest catches we’ve ever seen, wasn’t able to make the Browns a winner. The Browns just weren’t worthy of being considered a road favorite.
The Colts still had the best player on the field. Football is the ultimate team game, but if you have the best player, you’ve always got a shot of winning. T.Y. Hilton was rendered mostly useless in his first two games this season against the Rams and Cardinals. The Browns were able to let him get his mojo back. Jacoby Brissett isn’t the next coming of Tom Brady, but it stands to reason that the 6-foot 4-inch QB would need more than 14 days after his trade on September 3 to become acquainted with his new surroundings and phenomenal new receiver, T.Y. Hilton. Hilton caught seven balls on nine targets for 153 yards and a touchdown.
That’s an incendiary talent that the Browns just don’t have. Corey Coleman missed the game, and we all hope he can do that at some point, but his career best is 104 yards on five receptions. Plus, he’s only been healthy for 12 games out of his 19 career opportunities.
There’s plenty to complain about with the Browns’ performance, and I’m not trying to say it’s alright that they lost. It’s not. The Browns could have won that game with the talent they do have. Their coaches have to take some responsibility for this loss. 10 penalties for 113 yards is on the coaches. Converting just five of 13 third downs is on the coaches in a variety of ways. The Browns average third down for the day was 3rd and 8.4 yards. Three third down plays resulted in penalties that took the team to 3rd and 13, 3rd and 17, and 3rd and 13. So even when the Browns had some of their more manageable third downs, they penalized themselves and made them next-to-impossible.
The coaching issues don’t stop there. Hue Jackson once again abandoned the run far too quickly. One of DeShone Kizer’s interceptions – the one in the red zone – occurred on Kizer’s fifth straight pass. The Browns rushed the ball 21 times and threw it 47 times. I know they were down, but putting your rookie quarterback in a position where he can throw three interceptions is a recipe for disaster. Hue Jackson appears to only have one way of coaching and that’s as if Aaron Rodgers was his quarterback.
I think we all believe DeShone Kizer has much more upside than Colt McCoy, but remember McCoy’s two wins as a rookie? He completed nine of 16 passes in New Orleans and 14 of 19 at home against New England. The Browns relied on a steady diet of Peyton Hillis. Remember Hillis went for 184 yards against New England on 29 carries. Mike Bell, Josh Cribbs, and Lawrence Vickers had another 11 carries between them. That’s extreme, but it’s how you limit the risk of overexposure with your rookie QB.
None of this is to say that Hue Jackson can’t be the long-term solution for the Browns or that he really should Mike Fratello the Browns to try and win games in scrappy unentertaining ways. Maybe that’s not the best long-term approach for developing a quarterback like DeShone Kizer. I’m just pretty sure there’s a balance between conscripting your guy to less than game manager and pretending like he’s Drew Brees.
So, I wasn’t particularly shocked that the Browns lost on Sunday. As a result, I’m also not particularly outraged about it. The Browns are probably better than a year ago, but they need to get healthy on that defense and win the way we thought they would before the season started. They need to win by running the ball, playing good defense and closing games out. Hopefully the returns of Jamie Collins and Myles Garrett make that possible in the coming weeks.
If not, I’m sure we’ll be talking about Jimmy Haslam’s patience and Hue Jackson’s future.