My disdain for Cincinnati has been well-documented (if you're a new reader, click here to see why). Sunday, my hatred will rekindle, as the Browns battle the Bungles in the Queen City.
I hate to label this a must-win game for the Browns for several reasons, such as:
1.) Every team tries to win every game (except, perhaps, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays or Atlanta Hawks). I think it's a stupid expression.
2.) It's only the second game of 16 - in other words, there's a lot more time for Cleveland fans to hurl obscenities and sharp objects at the TV.
3.) Deep down, I still can't take Cincinnati as a legitimate, playoff caliber team.
Still, another Browns loss this week might put me in a state of catatonia. Heck, the only reason I'm functioning now is due to Ohio State's victory over Texas. Saturday and Sunday, I'm praying for my "Football Trifecta Over Southwest Ohio" - Ohio State plays the Bearcats, Capital faces the Quakers of Wilmington College, and of course the Brownies-Bungles.
I'm fairly confident about Ohio State taking care of business, and Capital should beat Wilmington by roughly 50 points or so. But the Browns...
What frustrates me so much about the opening loss against New Orleans is the repeated on-field mistakes that have plagued the franchise since its return in 1999. Penalties bringing back big plays? Check. (Great article about that on the Browns website). Shoddy offensive line play? I'd say five sacks and 85 yards rushing, half coming off Charlie Frye scrambles, would qualify. Failure to convert third downs? The Browns were five-for-12 in those situations. A defense that can't stop the run and can't get off the field? The Saints carved the Browns front line for 156 yards on the ground and converted nine-of-18 third downs. Losing the turnover battle? Two-one edge for the Saints there. No pass rush? No sacks, no pressure on Drew Brees.
So did we learn any positives about the Browns? Well, Kellen Winslow certainly impressed - he brings a fire and tenacity that I've yet to see from any Cleveland athlete, ever. If I'm a cornerback matched up against him, I'm making sure my next of kin have been notified.
(My god, did you see the play where he collided with a DB running downfield, and instead of continuing to run his route, Winslow stopped to throw the hapless corner back to the ground. The ref had thrown his flag to call defensive pass interference, but he picked it up after Winslow destroyed the cornerback. Probably felt sorry for the guy.)
Some other things I liked, in no particular order...Charlie Frye's scrambling ability, though he needs to show more decisiveness in the pocket...The defense holding New Orleans to four field goals, when it could easily have been two or three touchdowns...The play of Ted Washington around the goal line, as well as some nice plays by D'Qwell Jackson at LB.
Will it be enough to beat the Bungles, who manhandled Kansas City Sunday? Like most football games, it comes down to the line play. Our offensive line couldn't open any holes for Reuben Droughns or protect Charlie Frye. Our defensive line put so little pressure on Drew Brees, he had enough time to read War and Peace while sitting back in the pocket before even looking downfield.
It may not be a must-win game, but it's time for the Browns to make a statement that they won't give up on this season.