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News » Browns' season turns black-and-blue

Browns' season turns black-and-blue

Browns' season turns black-and-blue

Since the Browns have returned in 1999, this may be the worst, most frustrating season for the fans. They came into the season with reasonable expectations of watching a playoff contender. That wasn't only a local prayer, but a prediction from the NFL and TV networks which gave them five prime-time games. Instead, the 10-6 loss to the Colts dropped the Browns to 1-6 at home. In three of those seven games, the Browns have not scored a touchdown. While coach Romeo Crennel said "the team played their hearts out," it also was a rather boring game, despite what Crennel called "a valiant effort."

It's boring because the offensive game plan

was designed so Derek Anderson would not take many chances, the hope being to avoid interceptions. They wanted to keep the ball on the ground, a good idea against a Colts defense that is vulnerable to the run. But 24 carries to Jamal Lewis, when he averaged only 3.2 yards for 77 yards and obviously was not in good form? Two carries for Jerome Harrison, none in the second half? One carry for Josh Cribbs? The temptation is to say Lewis complained about not getting the ball last week, so they reacted by forcing the action with him. How about a few sweeps to Harrison and Cribbs? Couldn't they see Lewis struggling, when that was obvious to the fans?

If anyone in the Browns organization

wants to know why the fans are so hurt and angry, it's because they feel betrayed. It goes back to the team moving, which wasn't their fault. It goes back to rules being rigged against them when the expansion came about in 1999. It goes back to only two winning seasons since 1999, one playoff experience (a loss). It goes back to the promise of 10-6 last season, including 7-1 at home when fans began to feel pride in the franchise and an excitement about going to the stadium. It goes directly to this season, when it seems even with the injuries, some players suffered from "The Disease of Me" as they have underachieved and not held up well under expectations.

The Browns are now 4-8.

The coaches can correctly say the front office didn't give them a veteran cornerback to help youngsters Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright. The defense had two massive fourth-quarter meltdowns in home field losses to Baltimore (37-27) and Denver (34-30). But the offense has been an even bigger disappointment than the defense as the Browns have scored one or no touchdowns in six of 11 games.

GM Phil Savage missed

on Dont? Stallworth, who was supposed to be a big-play guy. He's missed five games because of injuries, and has only 13 catches in seven games. Stallworth came to the Browns with a history of leg injuries, but played all 16 games in three of the past four years. For his career, he's averaged 15.1 yards per catch. Last season, he played 16 games, caught 46 passes for a 15.2 average. He had 10 catches for at least 20 yards. This season, it's zero for 20 yards, and 9.7 per catch. The Browns are his fourth team in four years, and he has never found a spot in this offense.

Anderson was mostly confined to short throws,

which is not his strength. Of course, it's hard to gauge his confidence, and now, he may be out for the season with a knee injury - he's awaiting tests. Suddenly it's Ken Dorsey time with four games left, a coaching staff basically finished with the team at the end of the season. Thank goodness they have only one home game left, Dec. 21 against those pesky Cincinnati Bengals . There were about 20,000 empty seats Sunday, and I'll bet you can find a ticket for that last game.

McDonald had his best game of the season

with an interception and also breaking up a pass to Reggie Wayne in the end zone. Wright did a solid job on Marvin Harrison. They showed some formations that seemed to confuse Peyton Manning, and the Browns forced three turnovers while allowing only three points. I really believe that in time, both Wright and McDonald will develop into above-average cornerbacks. A veteran presence would have helped them, however.

Martin Rucker made his first catch of the season,

and it makes sense to see more of the rookie tight end. He had five catches in the first preseason game, then injured his knee, requiring surgery. He has talent and the Browns should look at him, especially with Kellen Winslow (now with an ankle issue) always battling injuries and perhaps heading to off-season contract problems.

To reach this Plain Dealer columnist: terrypluto2003@yahoo.com; 216-999-4674

Previous columns online: cleveland.com/columns

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 2, 2008

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