On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a very bizarre game; bizarre because the Browns looked like two different teams: A first-half team that couldn’t move the football and couldn’t stop the other team and a second half team that moved the ball at will and played some terrific defense. (Well, until each team’s final possession, that is.)
They weren’t little variations of each other. They were polar opposites.
After the game, I wrote an article with my immediate reaction. I was perplexed by it. I didn’t know what to think of it. But now with a little time to reflect, I would like to go back just briefly to that game and talk about it again.
My question after the game was the same as everyone’s: Which of those two teams is the real Browns? My answer to that question now is, “The same team I thought they were before that game.”
That offense still has personnel issues. I’m not going to start reevaluating everyone because of two quarters of football. I am happy that the team came back, but I’m not suddenly going to start anointing everyone. Running back Isaiah Crowell had a wonderful game, but let’s not assume that means he can do it every game.
The defense still doesn’t know how to tackle. The secondary is frightening. What’s going on with cornerback Justin Gilbert? Is this really a rookie thing? Is he pressing too much? Head Coach Mike Pettine made mention after film on Monday that Gilbert needs to play in the game like he does in practice. I sure hope so. This team has enough problems without missing on its first round draft picks.
I did like the postgame attitude by Pettine and quarterback Brian Hoyer. Nobody was slapping anybody else on the back and saying, “Great job.” They talked about how losing is unacceptable. They spoke of how they need to do a lot of work to clean up their play.
Talk is cheap, but I would rather hear that than something about them fighting their guts out. My quote of the week was Pettine’s, “There’s a word for almost winning. It’s called ‘losing’.” Classic.
I did like the comeback, but what I liked even more so is that the team came out of the locker room with urgency. You may say, “Duh. They were down 24 points,” but how many times in the past have we seen a Browns team move like there’s not a care in the world while getting the doors blown off of them.
These guys didn’t wait until the fourth quarter to turn it on. They turned it on to start the half. At least the coaches get that much. Does anyone think Pat Shurmur would have come out like that?
This is one game. And it was a loss. I am happy that they fought back, happy they made it a game, and happy that they were at the very least entertaining, (I was running out of coffee) but it was still a loss, which is what I expected it to be. It doesn’t get any easier next week when they take on the New Orleans Saints.
I said before that the first three weeks of the NFL season are weird ones. We can look at this team in the bye week (Week 4) and talk about what we had right and what we had wrong in our preseason expectations. But for now, I’m sticking to my original conclusions.
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