The biggest difference between a good football team and a not-so-good football team, other than talent, is that good teams find ways to win when presented with opportunities to do so. Critics can say whatever they want about the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles and all of the mistakes they've made in their three regular season games. It's not an accident that they're currently 2-1, just like it's not merely bad luck or misfortune that the Browns are 0-4 after their loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the Browns is that they realistically could be 4-0. They were a dropped interception away from knocking off the previously mentioned Eagles in the season opener. Several missed tackles cost them dearly against the Cincinnati Bengals. A handful of plays and blown chances made all the difference in contests featuring the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore as opponents. The Browns just aren't a very good team right now, and it's the main reason they remain winless one-fourth into the season.
Ravens beat Browns 23-16: Price of an education
First year quarterback Brandon Weeden had yet another up-and-down game on Thursday, taking the Browns down the field on several occasions while also offering many reminders that he is still far from a finished product. Perhaps the most "rookie moment" of his young career came late in the third quarter of last night's game, one that Weeden needs to review time and time again to ensure it's not repeated. The Browns were at their own 43-yard line with a chance to take the lead when Weeden dropped back to pass. He immediately zeroed in and locked onto wide receiver Travis Benjamin as Benjamin started his route toward the sideline. Weeden then, as he has done far too often this season, floated a delicate pass toward Benjamin.
I could almost see the eyes of Baltimore cornerback Cary Williams light up from hundreds of miles away. Williams jumped the route, easily grabbed the interception as if the pass was for him all along, and then started a 63-yard journey that finished in the end zone, a seven-point swing that put Baltimore up by 13 points with under 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
Weeden, to his credit, had a rather solid fourth quarter. He was also robbed of a touchdown when Greg Little (more on him later) couldn't hold onto a pass in the end zone, a ball that he "has to come down with" as he stated when speaking with reporters following the game. Turnovers such as last night's pick six often mean the difference between a win and a loss. Close doesn't cut it in this league, and Weeden will, in time, (hopefully) understand what not to do in such situations.
Ravens beat Browns 23-16: Noteworthy stat
The Cleveland defense continued to miss suspended CB Joe Haden on Thursday, and tackling issues again plagued the Browns throughout much of the first half. One thing that wasn't talked about a lot on Cleveland sports talk radio shows late Thursday night or early Friday morning, though, is the fact that the team's defense rallied from a disastrous start to the second half and didn't surrender a single point during the final quarter and a half of play.
Part of that must be attributed to the Ravens doing themselves in with several costly and silly penalties, and also Baltimore trying to run the clock out in the fourth quarter. Still, the Cleveland defense kept the team in the game with four stops during the most crucial moments of the game, something they couldn't do against the Eagles. That, above anything else, could be the "moral victory" some Cleveland fans are searching for heading into the weekend.
Ravens beat Browns 23-16: Trend continues
The song remains the same regarding WR Greg Little and his inability to hold onto the football. Little was guilty of five drops on Thursday night, extending his total on the season to a league-high 16. Yes, Little is averaging one drop per quarter played in 2012. "Unacceptable" isn't nearly an adequate enough word to describe that stat.
The idea of benching Little is hardly new. Head coach Pat Shurmur even discussed it earlier this week. The problem is that Little has the size and athleticism that Weeden will require if he wants to stretch the field as he did when the two connected for a 43-yard gain in the first half of Thursday's game. With that said, no team can afford to start a WR who is on pace to finish the campaign with over 60 total drops. I keep hoping to see signs that Little will remedy this issue and soon. I'm quickly running out of optimism.
Ravens beat Browns 23-16: Conclusion
The Browns did plenty right against Baltimore. They just weren't good enough when it mattered most for the fourth consecutive game. In short, Cleveland remains a team that doesn't have the talent or depth to overcome the plethora of mistakes they continue to make each and every week. Their latest losing streak isn't coming to an end anytime soon until such miscues are, at the very least, limited to a few per game.