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Browns have offensive woes worse than OSU

October 3, 2011
By ED PUSKAS - Tribune Chronicle Sports Editor (epuskas@tribtoday.com) , Tribune Chronicle | TribToday.com

CLEVELAND

YOU can almost understand Ohio State's problems on offense in a 10-7 loss to Michigan State on Saturday.

The Buckeyes have been hurt by suspensions and injuries, combined with having to decide between one quarterback who has experience, but isn't all that talented and another who is talented, but hasn't played enough to be able to read defenses and adjust to the speed of the game.

But what about the Browns, who may have been even worse than the Buckeyes in a 31-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday?

The Browns had everyone currently considered key to their success in uniform against the Titans, but still played their worst game of the season.

It isn't even close.

And don't let the euphoria of last week's come-from-behind victory over the Miami Dolphins fool you. This makes back-to-back poor efforts, save for the final drive against Miami, for the Browns' offense, so this isn't a one-shot deal of a problem.

Colt McCoy threw the ball 61 times - more than any Cleveland quarterback ever has in a game - but the Browns went more than three quarters without a touchdown. They finally reached the end zone on a fourth-down play when McCoy hit Ben Watson for 10 yards early in the final period.

McCoy could have had 65 or 66 completions. Running back Montario Hardesty dropped at least three passes. There were other drops, too.

The Browns didn't block well. McCoy took several hard hits and appeared jittery at times. He made a terrible decision to throw on the run in Tennessee territory late in the third quarter. Strong safety Jordan Babineaux picked off perhaps the worst pass of McCoy's career and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown.

But Shurmur's penchant for calling dump-off passes and making strange personnel decisions also played a large role in the loss.

McCoy not only threw more passes than any other Cleveland quarterback, he probably attempted more 4-yard passes than any of his predecessors ever did.

Shurmur never really challenged the Titans downfield, aside from the interception McCoy threw and later admitted was "a dumb play."

And then there was Shurmur's fourth-down call - the play that will be talked about for a while.

On fourth-and-1 from their own 41-yard line, the Browns decided to go for it. But not with Peyton Hillis. Not even with Hardesty. Shurmur had McCoy flip the ball on an odd-looking sweep to - wait for it, wait for it - Armond Smith.

"He's a fast guy. He's the fastest guy we have," Shurmur said.

But not fast enough. Before Smith could get around left end, he was dropped for no gain. He has now rushed three times for 2 yards this season.

Shurmur's Browns don't seem to want to commit to Hillis the way Eric Mangini did last season. Yes, the Browns need depth behind their feature back and Hardesty getting carries also seems like a good way to keep Hillis fresh. But Hardesty got just as many opportunities when you factor in the passes that were thrown his way.

Now ESPN is reporting that someone in the Browns' locker room suggested the Madden cover boy sat out last week not because he was sick, but because he was upset about his contract status. That comes in the wake of former Browns players Hanford Dixon and Bob Golic criticizing Hillis for not playing with strep throat.

This situation has the potential to spin out of control and create just the sort of off-the-field problems the Browns don't need.

And don't forget, the Browns' defense was awful Sunday, too. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 220 yards on just 10 completions, including an 80-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown by tight end Jared Cook.

Yes, Hasselbeck went to Jared, but it was not a love connection for the Browns.

Linebacker Scott Fujita was in no position to stop Cook after biting on a fake. Neither was safety Usama Young, who barely got a hand on Cook after taking a path to the tight end that first took him down to Edgewater Park.

Hasselbeck also threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Craig Stevens and a 4-yarder to Damian Williams. Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown even interfered with Williams in the end zone on the latter touchdown and still couldn't prevent Williams from catching the ball.

It was that kind of day for the Browns, who played much of the fourth quarter in front of an ever-growing sea of empty orange seats.

It was just another rainy day in Ohio.

And just another dreary performance by one of its football teams.

 
 

 

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