Browns Blow Early Lead, Lose To Pittsburgh
The Browns’ 3 game win streak was snapped today, as we once again fell to the Steelers 31-28. The Browns fall to 5-4 on the season while Pittsburgh takes a commanding lead in the AFC North with a 7-2 record. The Browns took a 21-9 lead into the locker room at halftime, but for some reason our offense never came back out, as we failed to get a single first down in the second half prior to the final drive of the game, and Pittsburgh was able to move the ball at will as they rallied for the 3 point victory. On Cleveland’s final drive, it appeared they were going to have the ball in Pittsburgh territory to start the drive after a nice punt return by Cribbs, but a holding call brought it all the way back to our own 33 yard line with just 1:04 to go. The team was able to finally move the ball a little bit, as they worked their way down the field, but a lack of time outs and the expiring game clocked forced Phil Dawson to try a tying 52 yard field goal which fell just short, sealing the win for Pittsburgh.
It’s tempting to look at this game as being somewhat positive. It’s tempted to be satisfied with how close the score was. It’s tempting to just be happy that this time we didn’t embarass ourselves. But the fact of the matter is, this game shouldn’t have been as close as it was. The numbers are staggering. Total yards, 401 to 163. Passing yards, 242 to 123. Rushing yards, 159 to 40. Time of possession, 38:17 to 21:43. First downs, 22 to 13. The Steelers completely dominated the Browns in all aspects of the game except for special teams. Josh Cribbs was really the only bright spot for the Browns in this game. Cribbs had 4 kick returns for 204 yards, 1 TD, and he almost broke another one for a touchdown, being brought down inside the 5 yard line. Sure, there were some other nice points to the game. Braylon’s touchdown catch was amazing. The Browns actually capitalizing on the great field position given to them from the turnover and from the kick return was nice. The Browns first half defense keeping Pittsburgh out of the end zone and forcing them to just kick field goals was good. The amount of pressure put on Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was a pleasant change of pace. The offensive line did a fantastic job of protecting DA, not giving up any sacks and giving him time to throw.
So with all those positives, it seems a little baffling to think about how we got so severely outplayed. The second half defense was atrocious. The second half offense was even worse than that. DA suddenly forgot how to throw the football. Romeo Crennel forgot the value of time outs. After the opening drive lasted 8:55, the offense only once had a drive go longer than 1:35, and that was a drive that resulted in a punt. We once again allowed a RB to run for over 100 yards. Don’t let the score fool you…Our team was flat out dominated by the Steelers today.
With that being said, we still had an excellent chance of winning this game. We were able to capitalize on Pool’s interception giving us a short field to work with. We got a TD on a Cribbs kick return. And we were able to capitalize on Cribb’s kick return to the Steeler’s 3 yard line. Other than those 3 scores, our only points came on that beautiful opening drive. After that, we never seemed to get the offense going again. I’m not sure what DA’s problem was, but in the second half he looked like he did in the preseason, throwing every pass into the ground nowhere near his WR’s hands. But by far the worst part of this game was Romeo Crennel’s INSANE decision to blow 2 timeouts to review a play that was questionable at best. From my seat on the couch, the replays showed me nothing that made me question the catch. But that’s not the part that angers me the most. Even if it did look like he dropped the TD pass, I still wouldn’t have reviewed it. I doubt many will agree me, but hear me out. Worst case scenario, the play is upheld and the team loses a time out for nothing (or in this case, 2 of them). BEST case scenario, the play gets overturned. But then what? The Steelers would still have 2 chances to pound the ball into the end zone, which, based on the way our defense was playing at that point, they probably would have. All it would have done was eat up more clock before we got the ball back. Had we just held on to our timeouts, we would have gotten the ball back with 3:13 left and all our timeouts, plus the 2 minute warning. To throw away 2 timeouts in that situation was just simply inexcusable, and in my opinion, it cost us the game as we could have moved the ball at least the extra 5 yards that Dawson’s kick was short by had we had the extra time from those 2 lost timeouts.
None the less, I realistically expected us to lose that game for all the reasons I mentioned in my preview, and in the end, most of that came true. We couldn’t stop their offense and their defense shut us down. There will be some things to build on, and like I said, there actually were some very positive things that happened in this game. We’re still in 2nd place in the division, we still have a winning record, and with a win at Baltimore next week, we will still be on track for the playoffs. Time to put this ugly effort behind us and get ready for the Ravens.