The 2010 NFL season has been no less cruel to Browns fans than nearly all of the 11 seasons since the team came back to the league in 1999. The Browns record stands at a unimpressive 1-3 but could have easily been 3-1 if not 4-0 considering they were leading all 4 of their games going into the 4th quarter of each game before finding a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in 3 of those contests. Jake Delhomme started week one at quarterback and Seneca Wallace started weeks 2 thru 4.
Week 1 the Browns were leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-3 with just minutes left in the 1st half. Rather than simply control the clock, and go into the half up by 11 with the ball due to be kicked off to them to start the 3rd quarter, the Browns and Jake Delhomme threw an ill advised pass that was intercepted and run back close to the goal line. This resulted in a Bucs TD allowing the score to be 14-10 to end the half. Starting in the 3rd quarter the Browns were on the Bucs side of the 50 yard line, when Peyton Hillis put the ball on the ground for the 2nd time in the game, anding the only real hope of a TD the Browns had in the 2nd half of this game, with the score ending up 14-17 in favor of the Bucs as the Browns failed to score again in the game. I should also add that despite the game being played in Tampa, the Browns were favored to win this game.
In week 2 the Browns took on a Chiefs team that they were favored to beat. Go figure the Browns were the favorites 2 weeks in a row and lose, and I forgot to put money against them both weeks. In a game in which the lead changed hands 4 time, the Browns again went into half time with a lead 14-10 and came out firing blanks in the 2nd half only to lose 14-16, and fell to 0-2.
In week 3 the Browns took on the hated Baltimore Ravens (who stole the team from the city of Cleveland in 1995 leaving Browns fans without a team for 4 years).On paper the Ravens were a more talented team, but Cleveland managed to head into half time down only 10-14 and took the lead 17-10 in the 4th quarter. However, as is often the case in Cleveland sports, the team was unable to shut the door on their opponent and lost 17-24 after allowing Joe Flacco (NutSacco) to get the go ahead TD with his 3rd TD pass of the day to Anquan Boldin who was apparently invisible to Browns DB's all day long. The Browns fell to a frustrating 0-3... is it getting warm or is that just head coach Eric Mangini's seat radiating heat?
In week 4 the Browns took on the divisional and state rival Cincinnati Bengals who were favored to beat the Browns. Cleveland got a solid rushing performance from Peyton Hillis who put up a 2nd straight 100 yard rushing day and a 4th straight game with a rushing TD. Cleveland went into the half with a 13-10 lead and led by as much as 23-10 late in the 3rd quarter, before Cinci made it interesting by battling back to within 3 points. Cleveland hung on to win by a score of 23-20.
Going into week 5 against the Atlanta Falcons, the Browns have a variety of issues to address:#1 QB Jake Delhomme is once again being inserted as the starting QB. Based on the preseason numbers Seneca Wallace was slightly better, but the coaching staff went with the more experience Delhomme as the starter anyway. Why hand the starting job back to Delhomme at this point? In the past 2 seasons prior to coming to the Browns, Delhomme has a 23-38 TD-Int ratio including his 5 Int performance in the playoffs. He managed those awful numbers playing on a team that has two 1,000 yard running backs in De Angelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart playing behind him, and a dynamic wide receiver in Steve Smith as a target for Delhomme. During the preseason, Delhomme was checking down with nearly all of his passes including a 20.25 passing performance in week 3 of the preseason which still amounted to only 152 yards on 20 completions. Seneca Wallace has been an efficient yet unspectacular back-up and spot starter during his NFL career, but he protects the ball. During his most significant time as a starter he threw for 11 TDs against just 3 Int's and 1500 yards during the 8 games in which he started. Wallace has played reasonably well, and unlike Delhomme's 2 Int's during the week 1 loss to Tampa, none of Wallace's miscues have cost the team the game. The team has been plying well with Wallace under center, and Wallace brings an added dimension of mobility that Delhomme lacks even if he wasn't 35 years old going on 100. Why make the change at this point? My bet is that Delhomme makes atleast one, if not more critical mistakes, which ultimately cost the Browns the game agaisnt Atlanta this week.#2 Peyton Hillis has played exceptionally well during the past 2 weeks, and clearly became a Mangini favorite with his hard nosed play during the preseason. Hillis is somewhat reminiscent of a more athletic Mike Alstott. This fact isn't a problem, but the question is why haven't the Browns been getting Jerome Harrison more involved in the offense. Last year Harrison finished with over 800 yards rushing, and all but carried the team to is 4 straight wins to end the season. While Harrison isn't big enough to withstand the kind of workload he got last year, for a 16 game season, week in and week out, he is one of the very few true dynamic play makers on the Browns offense. Even in Mike Alstott's prime, he was paired with Warrick Dunn. A sort of "thunder and lightning" combo with the larger back wearing down the defense, and the quicker back breaking off 1st down runs. Hillis has proven himself to be a capable back, but he is very unlikely to break off the 20+ yard runs that were common last year with Harrison. When given enough carries, Jerome Harrison responded by putting up the 3rd best single game rushing total in NFL history with his 286 yard effort against Kansas City. Whether it's catching passes out of the backfield, using Hillis and harrison in 2 back formations, or lining Harrison up in the slot, not giving a dynamic player like Harrison a chance to touch the ball is a big mistake.#3 The Browns seem to be a first half team. In each of their games they've come out and scored points in the 1st two quarters and kept the games competitive. In the 3rd and 4th quarter they have failed to respond to the opponents half time adjustments. The offense hasn't moved the ball well and the defense has given up points which have cost the team winnable games. The team has it's share of tough games this season, so it needs to capitalize on the games it's supposed to win. Mangini needs to keep the team focused at half time, and find a way to shut the door on opponents.
There are no points for style or effort in the NFL. The bottom line is... win games.