The crash back to reality is often a harsh one for a team and for a fan base. These Cleveland Browns are not yet ready for prime time, a fact that was proven in the team's collapse against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Up 13-0 and with all of the momentum, the Browns were not only unable to close out a Bengals team that was on the ropes. Cleveland gifted Cincinnati with new life, and followed that up by giving the Bengals a free haymaker.
It's going to be a long week in northeast Ohio.
Browns fall apart, lose to Bengals: The game changed...
after two poor throws by Cleveland quarterback Jason Campbell. The downfall of the Browns began with under 5:00 left in the first quarter when Cleveland had possession at the Cincinnati one-yard line. Campbell dropped back and he had Greg Little wide open and ready to score, but the veteran QB failed to put any air under the ball, a pass that would have made Brandon Weeden proud. The ball was knocked harmlessly to the ground, and the Browns settled for three rather than be aggressive as the team has been numerous times over the past several weeks.
The second such pass thrown by Campbell, another that was deflected, was intercepted at the Cleveland 21-yard line near the end of the opening quarter. That turnover set into motion the events that ultimately resulted in the Bengals putting 31 unanswered points on the scoreboard. The Browns, minus one Josh Gordon touchdown, never recovered.
Browns fall apart, lose to Bengals: Not special
Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor may want to consider updating his resume after this game. Blocked punts happen, and you sometimes have to tip your cap to the opposition. That wasn't the case in Cincinnati. The Bengals clearly saw something on film over the past week, as they were responsible for one deflected punt, a blocked punt that ended with a Cincy touchdown, and a punt return that helped the Bengals produce three additional points on the final meaningful play of the first half.
No one thing cost Cleveland the game on Sunday. This was, as the cliché goes, a team loss. With that said, the punt game of the Browns put them in a massive hole in a pivotal contest. That should never happen. Ever.
Browns fall apart, lose to Bengals: A reminder
No team in the modern NFL is going far without having at least a very good quarterback. Who knows that better than the Browns? Sunday provided a reminder of something that could prove to haunt Cleveland in the final month and a half of the campaign.
You have to be able to run the football and do so well to win in the AFC North. Ignore the stats, which point out that the Browns rushed for over 100 total yards against the Bengals. Cleveland couldn't punch the ball into the end zone from within the two-yard line. The Browns were again unable to get a team to bite on play-action.
Chris Ogbonnaya and Fozzy Whittaker are fine options. Neither is the guy. The Browns need to find that impact player, not to mention a cold weather quarterback, in the upcoming offseason.
Browns fall apart, lose to Bengals: Looking ahead
The season isn't a lost cause for Cleveland after the 21-point defeat. There is still a lot of football to be played and a playoff spot there for the taking. The Browns have two very winnable games looming ahead, home match-ups against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars. This is the biggest week of the year for the club.
We're about to learn quite a bit about head coach Rob Chudzinski, his staff and his roster.