With the Browns there is very little question if the glass is half empty or half full. Since 1999 it has been totally empty. Yesterday the Browns staged one of the best comebacks we have seen since the Cardiac Kids. That was fun to watch. Browns fans have not had much fun since the rebirth of the team.
But the comeback would not have been necessary if the team had been mentally ready to play in the first half. As they have so often before, the team came out flatter than fallen Soufflé. The Browns are not good enough to spot an NFL team a couple of touchdowns and come back. The coaching staffs have changed. The roster changes but the flat start of the game seems to be endemic to the franchise. This can not continue. Getting the team ready mentally is a culture issue. If the players can not get their minds ready to compete then the coaches have to try to do it for them. If that does not work, the wrong guys are on the roster.
In the first half QB Brian Hoyer was erratic and under pressure way too often. The O line was leaking and struggled to get the run going in the first half. The receivers were not as big an issue as they could have been despite losing TE Jordan Cameron for the game. But the offense was not the only group that was not mentally into the game from the opening kickoff. The good first drive was halted by penalties, a wasted timeout and Hoyer being hit on a D line game by the Steelers. After that drive the Browns O seemed to crawl into its all to familiar shell.
The defense was equally guilty of not being ready to play. The D line got some pressure on Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger but seldom got him down. Pass coverage was soft and the receivers were running through the defense at will. All Pro CB Joe Haden was burned regularly by the Steeler receivers. The Browns never did figure out the screen pass. The Browns struggled to stop the running game as well particularly at the edge. The late 1st half drive by the Steelers for the field goal ended up providing the margine of victory for the Steelers.
However, at half time something changed. I would love to write that it was a great half time speech by the coaches but that was not the case. It could have been the vets on the team demanding better play from themselves and everyone else on the team. But I doubt that is the case.
The Steeler defense is a young group. They clearly were not as ready to play in the second half. That was the largest single reason the Browns offense suddenly came to life. The Steelers took their foot of the gas on both sides of the ball figuring they could coast to an easy victory. Yes, Hoyer was much sharper and the O line did a better job of keeping the pocket clean in the second stanza. The running game seemed to be improved with the runs of Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. The D played much better as well. They shut down the Steelers except for the final drive.
But make no mistake, the Steelers came out in the second half thinking the Browns “are who we thought they were” to quote coach Denny Green. They took the Browns for granted figuring that they would roll over, stick their feet in the air and play road kill as they have so many times before. At least this team had the guts to make a comeback.
In the NFL and particularly in Cleveland there are no “moral victories.” Browns fans have had WAY too many coaches tell us after a loss that the team is making progress. We have heard that “winning is a process” enough. It is time for the team to win. The one piece of good news about the loss to the Steelers is this—If the Browns can put two halves together like the second half they played in Pittsburgh they can win several more games this year than they have in the past. That would be a good thing. But at this point that is a BIG IF.
That is what I think. Tell us what you think by commenting here or tweeting me @NNRonDSN.
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Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and a non-fiction work at http://www.merriam-press.com/. Follow him on twitter @NNRonDSN to get the schedule of Special News, Notes and Rumors broadcasts. You can hear the previous shows on https://fryingpansports.com/radio-show/ and the live show Mondays at 6 PM Eastern time on .
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To keep up with the News, Notes & Rumors podcasts, follow me on twitter @NNRonDSN.
The Secret behind the Browns 24 point comeback. by Bill Smith