I understand that this whole thing is a process, and no fan that I spoke with throughout the summer months believed that the Cleveland Browns would even flirt with a .500 record in 2012. Today's home game against the Buffalo Bills was always believed to be one of Cleveland's "winnable" contests on their schedule, though, but the Browns were downed for the third time this season and the ninth straight time overall. My immediate reaction following this game upon reexamining Cleveland's schedule was not a happy thought:
I'm not so sure the Browns aren't currently the worst team in the NFL.
Bills beat Browns 24-14: "No duh" statement
Looking ahead, I don't see the Browns winning a single game until Joe Haden returns from suspension. The biggest problem for the Cleveland defense in 2011, an inability to stop the run, hasn't gone anywhere this fall, and the team's secondary is half the unit it is with Joe Haden on the field. The Bills put the Browns away in the fourth quarter by revisiting an offensive game plan that put them up by 14 points in the game's first ten minutes, and they did so without C.J. Spiller (injured shoulder) on the field. Tashard Choice, Buffalo's third-choice running back who nearly didn't have a job at the end of preseason play, finished the game with 91 yards on 20 carries; 24 of those yards came during Buffalo's final scoring drive of the afternoon.
Bills beat Browns 24-14: Still learning
Quarterback Brandon Weeden again very much so looked like a rookie in his third professional start. There were some good moments, including touchdown drives during the middle half-hour of play and also a perfectly thrown ball to Travis Benjamin in the corner of the end zone, a pass that was actually caught (more on that later). Weeden was also guilty of several mistakes that undeniably affected the outcome of the game. He twice missed WRs who probably would have scored had Weeden thrown the ball on the money, and he threw two interceptions in the final five minutes of the game that ensured there would be no Cleveland rally. It's obviously far too early to judge Weeden. It's not at all a stretch, however, to say that there are going to be plenty of growing pains along the way.
Bills beat Browns 24-14: A question
There are several arguments for head coach Pat Shurmur electing to punt the ball when down by ten points and the Browns at their own 36 yard-line with over six minutes left on the clock. Cleveland needed nine yards to get a first down, their wide receivers had suffered from the "dropsies" throughout the afternoon, and the Browns still had three timeouts. With all of that said, the team isn't going anywhere this season, and Shurmur is going to be out of job, perhaps before January, if the losing streak continues past Halloween (a very real possibility).
So why not go for it there?
The Browns have nothing to lose but football games, and they're going to lose plenty of them in 2012. They could at least make things fun for fans, and also show some real fight up until the clock reads 00:00. Shurmur instead played it safe and chose to punt, a decision that was booed by many of the fans who remained in Cleveland Browns Stadium up to that point of the game.
Bills beat Browns 24-14: A plea
I couldn't care less what Greg Little or any Browns player posts on his Facebook or Twitter account. If Little is going to insist upon posing after every first down catch, though, I'd prefer that he finish games with more catches than drops. Little isn't alone when it comes to struggling to grab and hold onto the football, as just about every Cleveland WR had me yelling "how do you not catch that?" at my TV at least once on Sunday. Little need only read up about this guy's Cleveland career to understand why Browns fans don't want to see dancing from a WR who was guilty of back-to-back drops this afternoon, especially not while the team is down by ten points with half of a quarter left to play.
Truth be told, I'd like it if nobody on this team danced while out on the football field until the Browns, you know, actually win a game.
Bills beat Browns 24-14: Conclusion
With Jimmy Haslam set to become the new owner of the franchise next month, the 2012 Browns are quickly starting to feel like a "lame duck" football team. It's easy to try to take things one game at a time, until you remember that the Browns will take on the Ravens in Baltimore this coming Thursday night. Not a part of me believes Cleveland is winning that game, and that's a pretty awful feeling to have this early into a season.