CLEVELAND – Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. Same old story, new script for long-suffering Cleveland Browns fans, who saw another painful sequel in a 23-21 loss to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday.
In a wildly entertaining up-and-down game between the former and current Browns, the Ravens—current at the center of the sports universe, aka ESPN—were without Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, and also loss starting tight end Dennis Pitta to a hip injury once again found a way to befuddle Cleveland, who would once again find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
To count, the Browns failed to stop the run, as they helped make a former fourth-round pick in Lorenzo Taliaferro look like Hershel Walker, in surrendering 91 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown. The much-hyped pass defense—notably Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert—was got smoked worse than a Cuban cigar by 35-year-old wideout Steve Smith, who should be planning his 401k and signing up for AARP benefits.
The fact that the Browns failed to execute and could not close out a game is not news to Cleveland fans, who have seen this movie one too many times, its just the fact and how and why it happened that stings the most for a team that is on the cusp of becoming both competitive and relevant again.
In a game that saw three lead changes in the third quarter, the Browns miraculous convert various long-yard downs on offense and score 20-plus points in three straight games for the first time since eternity, it was the Browns defense and special teams—most notably Billy Cundiff that doomed the Browns to their 12th loss in 13 games to Joe Flacco.
Make no mistake, the Browns have something special brewing on the shores of Lake Erie, as Brian Hoyer–now 4-2 in six starts–has all but solidified his spot as the starter going forward, a gem in Andrew Hawkins, a stud in Jordan Cameron and a promising 1-2 punch in “The Baby Back” duo of Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell.
To be able to go back and forth against a stout defense as Baltimore’s and a Super Bowl MVP in Flacco is one thing, but when the going got tough and things got real for Cleveland, they self-destructed in committing 12 penalties for 90-plus yards, couldn’t run the ball effectively to take time off the clock and once again had balls dropped by wide receivers down the stretch.
It also painfully showed the Browns how much they miss Josh Gordon on offense.
Clearly, Kyle Shanahan is an innovative and aggressive play caller, as his trick play with Manziel showed, but questionable play calls such as a reverse to Taylor Gabriel, which would get snuffed out by Terrell Suggs, proved to be a microcosm in how the Browns shot themselves in the foot on Sunday.
The Browns not only wasted a chance to beat Baltimore, but make a statement that these aren’t the same ol’ Browns, that always come close and fall short. Unfortunately, Sunday confirmed the Cleveland sports stereotype in full.
For once, Baltimore didn’t come into Cleveland and dominate, it was the Browns that were in the position to win, but once again fumbled away a golden opportunity to take the next step.
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