COMMENTARY | It's very rare that a football team that lost by 21 points can have several "what if" moments in that particular game. That's exactly where the Cleveland Browns are following the team's 41-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns were their own worst enemy on what was, for them, the most important game to date of their campaign. Cleveland left points on the field, and the Browns then gifted Cincy with 28 points in the second quarter.
Oh, what could have been.
Browns own worst enemy against Bengals: From the start
An Unnecessary Roughness penalty landed the Browns at the Cincinnati four-yard line on what was ultimately Cleveland's first scoring drive of the game. Willis McGahee was unable to punch it in on first down, and, rather than give the veteran or Chris Ogbonnaya a chance to rush into the end zone, head coach Rob Chudzinski put the ball in the hands of quarterback Jason Campbell. Campbell went on to miss a wide open Greg Little on third down when he failed to put enough air under the ball and his pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Look at the Green Bay Packers at New York Giants game as an example of the importance of having a RB who can get you two yards in such situations. Both Brandon Jacobs and Eddie Lacy plowed their way into the end zone when inside the five-yard line. You have to be able to run the football to consistently win in the AFC North. Ask the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers about that.
Browns own worst enemy against Bengals: Nothing learned
Cincinnati delivered a warning shot to the Browns when the Bengals deflected a Spencer Lanning punt in the second quarter. Cleveland picked nothing up from that play, as the Bengals flat out blocked out a punt and then returned it for a touchdown later on in that same quarter. It's clear that the Cincinnati coaching staff saw something, either on film during the week or on Sunday, that gave them confidence that plays could be made whenever the Browns set up to boot the ball down the field.
Coaches don't get fired for one game. Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor should, however, be feeling at least a little uneasy. He was thoroughly outdone on Sunday, and the Cleveland punt game failed the team in a massive game. That is unacceptable.
Browns own worst enemy against Bengals: Go to the ball
Cleveland had a chance to get right back into the game on the opening drive of the second half. Campbell looked to Josh Gordon, his best target, when he was flushed out of the pocket on a fourth-and-five at the Cincinnati 34-yard line. Rather than adjust his run in order to beat a defender to what was a floated pass, Gordon instead continued on his merry way, a decision that resulted in an incomplete pass.
This was hardly the first instance of a Cleveland WR not being aggressive enough in pursuing a football that we've seen this season. That comes down to a coaching failure as much as it does players not doing enough on the field. The right staff could absolutely make Gordon and Greg Little stars in the NFL.
Get to work, Browns.
Zac has been following Cleveland sports since a little before his birth, and thus his heart breaks a little more with every year. He has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the NFL for Yahoo Sports since 2010.
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