Originally written on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 12/4/11

INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 16: Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball against the Indianapolis Colts in the first quarter of the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Lucas Oli Stadium on January 16, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns were beaten handily by Ray Rice and the Ravens 24-10, but that doesn’t tell the story.  The Ravens appeared to be trying very hard to keep the Browns in the game over the course of the first three quarters.  The Browns had plenty of opportunities, but they shot themselves in the foot continually.

Granted it was a wet day in Cleveland, but the Browns receivers were dropping the ball all throughout the first half.  Greg Little had a drop.  Ben Watson had a drop.  Evan Moore let one slip through his hands as he stumbled over his own feet in the end zone.  That drop right there takes a 10-7 game and forces it to a 10-3 game as team MVP Phil Dawson kicked a field goal.  (Yes, the snap by Ryan Pontbriand’s replacement Christian Yount was just fine.)  That was the day for the Browns.

I can’t let Colt McCoy off the hook either.  Yes, he was the victim of many drops.  Yes, he got his knee banged up and still returned to the field.  His toughness has never been a question.  The biggest problem was that McCoy committed another horrendous turnover at the end of the first half.  It was deep in Browns territory and resulted in a short field goal for the Ravens.  Billy Cundiff was given this gift after the kicker had missed two previously from further out.  For McCoy, that makes (at least) three especially horrendous interceptions in the last few weeks that I can think of.  No matter how much his receivers fail him, he can’t compound the mistakes for his team.

Similarly, the Browns defense can’t use injuries as an excuse.  The team never planned to play without Scott Fujita or T.J. Ward this season, but that doesn’t excuse the absolute abuse that Ray Rice unleashed on a defense that appeared to have their non-tackling hands oiled up all day.  There were some nice individual plays as Sheard strip-sacked Flacco and the defense held on 4th and short early.  And yes, the Browns offense abused the defense with a lopsided the time-of-possession battle, but ultimately the Browns D fell victim to too many big plays.

On the bright side (this will be short, I promise,) when the Browns make so many unforced errors, it feels like they are somewhat correctable.  Petyon Hillis had a long reception and seemed to run the ball well early.

On the dark side, it certainly seemed like a lackluster effort for most of the game.  That doesn’t bode well for the future, down the stretch, for a young and supposedly building team with a rookie head coach. The team finally seemed to be “getting it” over the last few weeks and maybe it is just the better competition, but it sure seems like they hit a plateau and started to fall the wrong direction the last two weeks.

I don’t know anyone who really thought the Browns were going to win today.  I also know a lot of people who thought this game was going to go far worse than it did.  That is no solace right now as the Browns needed something to feel good about heading into a short week with a game in front of the NFL Network-receiving world on Thursday night.

And if you were like I was and thought the Baltimore game would be ugly, how are you feeling about the Browns facing a Steelers squad that just pasted the Bengals 35-7 today?  Potential for two demoralizing losses in five calendar days?

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