As I wrote earlier, Jim Tressel made two costly mistakes with timeouts. Well, the evil spirit infecting Tressel worked its way into the head of Romeo Crennel, who in the fourth quarter against the Steelers called a timeout to ponder whether to risk another timeout by challenging a play.
This was a colossal, unexplainable error. Crennel stacked the deck against himself, placed a huge bet, and — surprise! — lost: two timeouts and the challenge. It was a spectacular failure late in a tight game where the Browns were going to need all their timeouts.
This was a monumentally frustrating loss. Throughout the second half the Steelers would inch their way down the field on the first two downs, thus putting themselves right where they wanted: third and long. Third and ten? How about a 30 touchdown run! Third and 18? How about a 18 yard completion! Third and eight? How about a touchdown pass!
The defense was atrocious on all fronts. The defensive line could neither pressure nor contain Ben Roethlisberger, who either sat in the pocket for hours at a time or broke containment for big scrambles and completions. Meanwhile the secondary played something resembling a soft prevent defense. And if anyone spots a corp of linebackers wondering around the streets of Pittsburgh aimlessly — please contact local authorities. The Browns are looking for them. They apparently missed the team bus to the game this morning.
As for the offense, the first drive of the game was the most impressive drive I’ve seen this season. It was methodical, relentless, long, and successful. Derek Anderson tossed the ball around well and the running game even showed up for a play or two. How quickly things went downhill, though. Pittsburgh stepped up its defense to be sure, but the Browns just looked lost on offense. Never once did they attempt to stretch the field, Anderson had about 82 incompletions, and Lewis decided to crap the bed with heartless runs and a costly fumble. When they were finally able to move the ball — on the last drive of the game — the drive ended prematurely because the Browns were out of timeouts. Instead of third and 3 from the Steelers’ 38 yard line with about 20 seconds remaining the Browns had to spike the ball to stop the clock so they could attempt a longer-than-it-sounds 53 yard field goal into a slight wind.
Though a victory over the Steelers would have put the Browns in a commanding position to earn a playoff berth, the loss probably won’t do major damage to the Browns’ playoff hopes. The Browns remain tied for the Wild Card, although they do not hold the tie-breaker. The Browns do have a favorable schedule for hereon out and they just went to the wire against one of the best teams in football on the road. All in all it wasn’t a complete failure. The Browns had no offense, no defense, no home field advantage, and still almost won.
Josh Cribbs out-gained the entire offense, 204 yards to 163 yards. He touched the ball four times.
As for Anderson, he didn’t play well. This was his worst game of the season. Still, his worst games have come against Pittsburgh (twice) and New England. Few quarterbacks are going to have good games against those two teams and he won’t face another defense nearly as good as either of those two the rest of the regular season.
QB Score: 17
QB Score per play: .46