I was all set to just keep this whole situation positive. The Cleveland Browns have been a pleasant surprise all season.
They started horrendously. They ran Charlie Frye out of town after the first week of the season against Pittsburgh.
And then things started happening. Derek Anderson emerged as a legit starter at QB. The offensive line proved to be a positive after being a negative since the Browns returned to NFL action in 1999. Jamal Lewis ran for over 1,000 yards despite critics saying he was finished. Braylon Edwards showed up with a renewed sense of maturity that translated to success on the field while not providing newspaper fodder off the field. Same with Kellen Winslow. He continued his maturation despite reported soreness that would prove to be catastrophic for most other human beings.
All that will have to wait for a little bit as I deal with the horrible taste in my mouth after watching the Tennessee Titans squeak into the playoffs against an Indianapolis Colts team that was playing their second string. In case you didn’t know, the Browns needed the Colts to beat the Titans last night to secure a spot in the playoffs.
I knew going into this weekend exactly what I should expect. The Colts had nothing to play for, so they weren’t going to play their starters too long. I knew this for a long time. I knew this before the previous week’s action had finished and the Browns had lost control of their own destiny in a tough game against the Bengals. I know the Browns had a chance to keep the story in their own hands. I know this.
And then I watched the Giants take the Patriots to the brink. The Giants, who technically had nothing to play for put it all on the line against the 15-0 Patriots just to make sure that they kept the Pats honest. And boy, did they keep the Pats honest. The Giants tugged on Superman’s cape for more than three quarters before the Pats finally put the Giants away to put their historical season in the books.
Contrast that with the horrendous game I watched last night between the Titans and Colts. The Colts played their starters for only a quarter and the Titans still only eked out a 6 point win. I watched as Lendale White put the ball on the ground twice. I watched as Vince Young went down with some kind of leg injury. The problem was that the Titans defensive line wasn’t playing against a single starter on the Colts offensive line. They just pinned their ears back and ran at Jim Sorgi, who never had a chance to fulfill the dreams of all those Browns fans who emailed him all week. And even if he could have dumped the ball off fast enough, he wasn’t throwing to Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark, Marvin Harrison, or even Bryan Fletcher. Those guys were all on the bench. He wasn’t handing the ball or dumping screens to Joseph Addai. He was attempting to turn a man named Craphonso into a player.
Now, I don’t really blame the Colts. I don’t want you to think that I am trashing them or their coach, Tony Dungy. That would be a cop out too. I don’t know what I want. I don’t have a solution. The Colts would have looked really stupid if they had played all those starters and one of them had gotten hurt. But still, they did manage to work out Reggie Wayne long enough to make sure he was the league’s leading receiver before the first half was over. That included him taking some earth shattering hits on quick passes. Why is it that the Colts were willing to risk injury for that, but not to try and win the game? I don’t have the answer to that question.
What I do know is that the Browns earned every single win and loss on their schedule. The Browns earned the win in Baltimore just like they earned the loss in Oakland and the loss in Cincinnati that put their fate in the Colts’ hands. And while I am still not blaming the Colts, I do know that the Titans didn’t earn that victory last night. It was sloppy, the universe was seemingly against them as they lost the turnover battle and as injury seemingly caught up with them. The unwillingness of the Colts on the other side was too much for the Titans’ ineptitude to overcome.
That, my friends, is a bitter pill to swallow.
So, we can wait a little while longer before we look to the future of this surprising Browns team. Right now, I just need a bit more time to curse into space.Powered by Sidelines