First Impressions: Game 4 (Tennessee)

1. Better than nothing… There are very few situations where it’s beneficial to lose. A loss can be a wakeup call for a sloppy or inconsistent team. It can prod them to take a step they’ve been hesitating about (changing players). But usually it sets off a chain of finger-pointing that serves no useful purpose.

Had the Browns lost, someone would have said or written stuff like:

Ben Tate set a career record today going 22-123; a whopping 5.6 yards a carry. So why did the Browns refuse to ride their horse? The team wasted 7 carries on Terrance West (31 yards, 4.4 per carry) and 6 on Isaiah Crowell (19;  3.2).?

“What’s wrong with Mike Pettine and Kyle Shanahan? They cost us the game!!!”

Which is a really stupid statement, because (a) Tate gets hurt when he gets too much work and (b) one or both of those guys might have outperformed him. But when a team loses, people say stuff like “How could the Browns have blocked the punt and let the ball get out of the end zone? Bad kicking teams play cost us a touchdown!!!”

It was actually 5 points– plus, the Titans had to kick to the Browns, who scored on that possession. Had they scored a TD, the Browns would have kicked off, and not had the extra 2 points.

But that’s the sort of nonsense people write if you lose. Hence it is better not to lose 2-2 isn’t materially better than 1-3, but they seem worlds apart.

2. Some wins are better than others. Other than the following four bullets, there is virtually nothing positive you can say about his game.

  • It’s nice they didn’t give up when they got down 28-3.
  • Having won this game and come back from 27-3 in the Pittsburgh game, they won’t panic if the first quarter starts badly in some upcoming game.
  • Wins — even wins like this– build confidence. The players and coaches trust each other, and the media and fans trust the team
  • This is certainly more exciting than watching Shurmurball, or either Belichick reject (Romeo Crennel or Eric Mangini).

3. It was a terrible performance. The Browns were playing a 1-3 team. Tennessee had scored 60 points and allowed 132; the only positive thing you could say was “they’ve had a pretty tough schedule;”

  • They beat Kansas City (who is 2-2 and made the playoffs last year ) 26-10 in week 1.
  • Cincinnati (who beat them 33-7) was 3-0, Dallas (who beat them 26-10) was 3-1 and Indianapolis (41-17) was 2-2.

This was the sort of game that a good team should have been ready for and would have won handily. Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Joe Flacco have all won Super Bowls– and the first two guys have been to multiple Pro Bowls. After them, Jake Locker (79.5 rating; 25-17 TD-INT ratio) should have been easy to handle.

Instead the Browns made him look like Steve Young– 8-11, 7.2 yards a pass, a TD and no INTs. After a couple of cheap shots, the Browns got him out of the game. But he left with a 122.2 rating– the second highest rating of his career— and went 4-34-1 running the ball. Disgraceful.

And Charlie Whitehurst? A 32-year-old stiff. A player so terrible that he has only been allowed to play 16 games in his career— and only tried to throw a pass in 9 of them. Facing the Browns 3 years ago, he went 12-30 for 97 yards, no TDs and an INT. A week ago he goes 12-23 for 177 yards, a TD and an INT… not a whole lot better.

Today he’s 13-21 for 194 yards, with 2 TDs and no picks– a 123.1 rating; the best day of his career.

When they ran the ball, they went 30-149; a  yard short of being exactly 5.0 a carry. And a touchdown.

Tennessee’s play-calling was genuinely bizarre. When the fourth quarter began, the Titans were leading leading 28-13. But after running the ball on the first two plays, they called 7 consecutive passes. They got sacked once and went 3-6 for 26 yards.

Then they run four straight times– the fourth being a quarterback sneak:

  • On 4th and 1:
  • From their own 42
  • With a 6-point lead
  • And only 3:09 left

Total carries in the fourth quarter: 5. Total passes– from Charlie freaking Whaitehurst– 6 (and s sack). Counting the 6 passes (and another sack) he threw after they got behind, that’s a 1-2 pass-run ratio… in a fourth quarter where they had the lead until 1:09 remaining.

Thrown by Charlie Whitehurst.

If you’re wondering, the Titans ran 6 times for 24 yards in the third quarter and went 4-5 passing for 39 yards in the third quarter. So that’s 11 runs and 17 passes (and 2 sacks) in the second half of a game where the Titans led 28-3

Explain that to me. The Titans’ lead beat writer certainly can’t. He believes Whisenhunt has gone insane.

4. Hold the Kardiac Kids mataphors, please. Before you start vaporing about this gutty overachieving comeback team, let me remind you of five words: It was Ray Horton’s defense. 

We all remember Ray Horton’s defense from 2013. It looked good at times, but it could blow any lead– and on the infrequent occasions that Brandon Weeden, et al got one, it usually did. Jacksonville, New England, Chicago, the Jets– remember how those bands of gritty overachievers clawed their way back?

So hold the recordings of The 12 Days of a Cleveland Browns Christmas, OK?

5. To repeat the obvious. It is better to win than it is to lose. And, given that this is a new coaching staff, they are running new schemes and 27 of the 53 players were not on the roster last year, we should cut them some slack.

I am willing to stay with my established mantra: “This is a developing team that is making progress and learning how to win, so we should cut them some slack.”

But that isn’t a game that a good team plays. And while the Browns might be able to get away with performances like this against Tampa, Oakland and Jacksonville, they won’t do better than 5-11:

  • Buffalo, Carolina and Atlanta (all 2-2 at the start of today) will require better.
  • Texas (3-1)  will require a lot better.
  • And it won’t be nearly enough in the two games against the Bengals, or the rematches against Baltimore and Pittsburgh,

One thought on “First Impressions: Game 4 (Tennessee)

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