The Browns suffered an unfortunate loss, 21-27, on the road against the Cardinals on Sunday. The loss drops them to 7-5. They are now tied with Tennessee for the last Wild Card spot, although they do hold the tiebreaker. Tennessee must play San Diego and Indianapolis in the coming weeks, while the Cardinals probably represented the toughest team remaining on the Browns’ schedule. The schedule definitely works in the Browns’ favor. They are still in good position for the playoffs, but a win would have probably sealed the deal. The Browns are now operating without much room for error. Such is life in the NFL.
Tabling the result (damn loss!) this was a glass half full/glass half empty game.
Glass half empty: The Browns did not play well. They committed 11 penalties. They gave up 133 yards rushing. They turned the ball over four times. One of those turnovers was a Derek Anderson interception that was returned for a touchdown. One was a Derek Anderson fumble that gave the Cardinals the ball in Cleveland territory and eventually led to an Arizona touchdown. One was a muffed punt that led to an Arizona field goal. And another was a Derek Anderson interception that happened deep enough in Arizona territory that the Browns probably lost out on a field goal. That’s a twenty point hole the Browns put themselves in. Few teams could comeback from such a deficit.
Glass half full: The Browns still had a chance to win! Seriously, if Winslow is not pushed out of bounds at the end of the game the story this morning is the incredible, improbable comeback earned by the Browns with 1:45 seconds left, 85 yards to go, and no timeouts. Derek Anderson is the minor hero instead of the major goat, a young John Elway who’s lead the Browns to four fourth quarter come-from-behind victories in less than a season’s worth of games. If only that were the script.
It’s hard to judge a defense when they’re put in such a terrible situation. How one approaches the defense is smaller glass half full/glass half empty situation. The defense should only be on the hook for 10 points; were it not for an outstanding goal line stand that could’ve been 14 points. They gave up an 84 yard touchdown drive, which is terrible. But after the Cribbs fumble they held the Cardinals to a field goal, which was great. Of course, they followed that up by allowing a 79 yard drive that ended with the aforementioned goal line stand. So it’s a wash?
The defense did not get to Kurt Warner for a sack, which absolutely horrible. If a defensive lineman so much as sneezes on Warner he tends to fall down, often fumbling the ball over in the process. The guy is about fifty years old and has the mobility of a dead tree. To not sack Warner once in 30 pass attempts is a very weak showing. They did pick him off once, but they couldn’t stop him when it mattered. They also couldn’t stop James when it mattered… except for when it really mattered, on that goal line stand. This is kinda like a reverse clutch scenario. Were the unit actually clutch they wouldn’t give up long drives. Were they not clutch at all they wouldn’t put up great goal line stands. Is driving home drunk and not getting in an accident clutch driving? (1)
In a number of way this game reminded me of the Colts-Chargers game from a few weeks ago, where Peyton Manning threw six interceptions and the Colts still almost won because when he wasn’t turning the ball over things were going pretty well. When Derek Anderson wasn’t giving the ball to the Cardinals he tossed the ball around nicely. Hell, even when he was tossing the ball into the hands of the Cardinals he wasn’t throwing it that terribly. Yes, the second interception was inexcusable. It was third and short and Edwards was tripled teamed. Anderson should have dumped the ball off for the first down instead of forcing a throw that would have put the Browns on the threshold of a touchdown. It was a bad throw but it was an even worse decision. It was the sort of throw that was an attempt to erase the first interception, which was not entirely Anderson’s fault. On that interception Anderson didn’t throw a great pass, but it wasn’t so poor a pass that it should have been intercepted. If Tim Carter runs a sharp route — if he makes a sharp cut instead of a curved turn to the outside — and if he moves towards the ball instead of sitting down on the route then at worst that pass is incomplete. That interception was a team effort.
As for the fumble… Maybe Anderson thought his name was Rex Grossman? Who knows what happened on that play. It was a freak accident, probably the result of miscommunication about the snap count. It shouldn’t be cause for concern.
Outside of those three turnovers Anderson played extremely well. (2) How he responded to the interceptions and fumble should inspire a bit of confidence, even if the interceptions and fumble inspire more concern. Including the interceptions and fumble and Anderson was just a tick above average, although going against a weakened secondary a tick above average is probably more like a tick below average. Still, he was on the whole above average. So glass half full, right?
QB Score: 83
QB Score per play: 1.93
fn 1: Do not drive drunk, even if you think you’re the Big Papi of clutch driving. The risk is nowhere near worth the reward. Also, it’s illegal.
fn 2: I’d like to apologize for the idiocy of this statement. “When Anderson wasn’t sucking he was pretty good!” WTF? Is my name Bill Livingston? Moreover, why don’t I just rewrite the line to not be so asinine instead of writing this footnote pointing out how asinine it actually is? Probably because my internal critic is louder than my internal editor.