Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Monday, November 22, 2010

Without Cribbs Browns lack playmakers

I admit, over the last few seasons whenever Josh Cribbs would bring his contract squabbles public, I wasn’t that sympathetic.

Here was a undrafted free agent who wanted security and signed a six-year deal making a million dollars a year. Complaining about being underpaid when you are cashing big checks is never something you want to hear. As much I loved watching Cribbs exciting style of play, I wasn’t sure it was worth playing a special teams player big bucks. He may have been the Browns best player, but if your best player is a special teams player, that team is in trouble.

I was wrong.

In the second half of the Jets game last week and again this week against the Jaguars, Cribbs absence totally altered the game. While Colt McCoy again showed he is the future of the Browns, even a great quarterback like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning needs some weapons. McCoy just didn’t have enough bullets on Sunday against Jacksonsville. Without Cribbs in the game, the Jaguar defense was able to key on Peyton Hillis, and McCoy’s favorite weapon Ben Watson was banged up early and wasn’t much of a factor. Brian Robiske was again mostly invisible and no one is going to mistake Chansi Stuckey and Mo Massaquoi for Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie or even for that matter Kevin Johnson and Darrin Chiaverini.

When the opposing offense turns the ball over on five straight possessions and six times overall, you have to find a way to score points. The offensive line wasn’t much help to McCoy as the Jaguars sacked him six times and was in his face all game. With Hillis put in check in the second half and no go-to-guy to throw it to, the offense sputtered. Even the usually reliable Phil Dawson couldn’t bail the offense out.

The result was the Browns again lost a game they should have won.

No one on the Browns team is blameless. Without Cribbs, the special teams lost a lot of what makes them special. The Jaguars didn’t have worry about giving up field position. They could just kick it as far as they could without fear of a big return. As for Dawson, 51-yard field goals are never automatic, but man he is paid to make those and by missing both the Jaguars were allowed to stick around.

The defense dominated the third quarter and the start of the fourth as they harassed David Garrard and his mates into five straight turnovers. Abe Elam had an interception in the first half and then made a heads up strip and fumble return of a touchdown that produced the Browns only touchdown of the second half. But for the second straight game missed tackles cost the Browns a win as failing to lasso Maurice Jones-Drew allowed the Jaguars to steal the win.

The NFL is about wins and once again the Browns fell short. But the game also showed promise that the Browns may have finally found a winning front office that knows how to use the draft to change the teams fortunes. First-round pick Joe Haden had a strong game with several great pass defenses and an interception. Second-round pick TJ Ward had two interceptions and is leading the team in tackles. With a little coaching Ward may learn at big moments you have to tackle with both arms and not always go for the haymaker. And third-round pick Colt McCoy again with the game on the line played well. With another draft like this, the Browns will finally close the talent gap that keeps them from being among the NFL’s elite.

How many times over the years have we watched a quarterback barely escape the clutches of a defender and use his feet to keep a drive alive? And how many times was it the other team’s quarterback that did it?

McCoy was great orchestrating a 16-play, 10 minute, 92-yard touchdown drive in the first half. He eluded the rush and pitched it forward to Hillis for a touchdown. It has been a long time since the Browns had a quarterback capable of pulling that kind of play off. But McCoy shined after the Browns had given up the lead. Despite what had been a dormant offense in the second half, McCoy found a way to make plays. He scrambled and found Evan Moore down the sideline and then used his legs to get the Browns into field goal range.

Even after the Browns defense gave the lead back up and left him with no time outs, McCoy got the Browns into a position to win. The young quarterback from Texas calmly led the Browns down the field and his final throw was on the money to Watson, but skipped off him into a defender.

So the result was a disappointing loss. A loss because the Browns lack playmakers on offense. Heal those toes Mr.Cribbs, the Browns need you.