Browns Report: AFC North Struggles Continue

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 05, 2011



By Adam Dobrowolski
Cold, Hard Football Facts Browns Beat Writer


Repetition. Sometimes, it's a great thing, like when a weight lifter looks to increase his reps in the deadlift. Other, it's not a good thing at all, like when the 2011 Cleveland Browns offense takes the field. In this case, incomplete passes and punt are far too repetitive. As a result, the Browns are now looking at another losing season with one more defeat in the four weeks.

Baltimore Ravens 24, Cleveland Browns 10. Sounds like the game went just as expected. Still, there some business to tend to, so let's look at the five lessons to learn from this week.

1. The Browns can't keep up in the AFC North.
With the loss, Cleveland falls to 14-43 against the AFC North since the division's inception in 2002. Worse yet, that record is actually 7-32 since 2005. The Browns lost all threeof their divisional so far, meaning that they are halfway to a winless season in the division. If that happens, the Browns will average a 1-5 record against the division since 2005.

Remember, there's also the postseason loss to the Steelers in 2002 to account for, which just makes matters worse. Cleveland is 2-17 against the Steelers since 2002, so yesterday's loss may be the beginning of a bad stretch to end the season. Cleveland still plays two games against the Steelers and one more against the Ravens.

2. The Defensive Hogs took a beating.
In a rainy Cleveland, the Ravens took full advantage of the elements. Baltimore ran for 290 rushing yards on 55 carries, including a 204-yard afternoon for Ray Rice. Ricky Williams carried the ball 16 times for 76 yards and a touchdown. Baltimore's rushing attack beat down the Browns early and often. Rice ran Baltimore's first offensive play for 30-yard run. He simply ran through a seem off the left tackle and wasn't touched until he was 25 yards down the field.

Furthermore, the Ravens converted nine of 19 third-down opportunities while allowing only one sack with no yards lost. Combine all that together, and the Browns will continue drop down the ranks in the Defensive Hog Index.

3. Joshua Cribbs is now a non-factor in the offense...again.
Three weeks ago, Cribbs was supposed to be bigger part of the offense in the running and receiving game. Now, Cribbs has only one reception for eight yards to his name over the last two weeks.

This leads to a big problem. Mohamed Massaquoi can't fight off injuries long enough to get considerable time of the field. Jordan Norwood and Greg Little are rookies, so they're busy adjusting to the NFL's game speed to worry about consistency. Finally, Benjamin Watson and Evan Moore are little more than middling receiving tight ends. Add in the return specialist's up-and-down role in the offense, and there's absolutely no reliable option for quarterback Colt McCoy to hit. As a result, Cleveland's only completion beyond 25 yards went to Peyton Hillis, of all people. It's tough to think what would've happened if the Browns didn't complete that pass.

4. Colt McCoy continues to play with amazingly consistent mediocrity.
With one touchdown and one interception, McCoy continues an interesting trend for his 2011 season. In his 12 games, he never threw multiple interceptions, although he does have an interception in nine of those games. Meanwhile, McCoy still does not have a three touchdown game, although yesterday marked the sixth time he threw exactly one touchdown in a game. Quite simply, he won't have a great game, or an awful one as well.

McCoy's 63.0 passer rating yesterday marked his second-lowest total on the season, slightly ahead of his 59.0 passer rating in 6-3 win against the Seahawks in Week 7. However, he now owns a passer rating between 60.0 and 79.9 in seven games this season. While it was close to his worst game of the season, he didn't do much worse than his average game this season.

5. The Browns may be able to move up on the 2012 NFL Draft board.
With Miami playing well as of late and the Jacksonville still having to face three losing teams at home, there's a strong possibility that the Browns finish with one of the worst records in the AFC. After all, as mentioned in the first lesson, the Browns may need to settle for an 11-loss season.

So who should the Browns look at? For starters, a playmaker should be high on the draft board for one of the first three rounds. Second, the Browns will need to continue to stockpile its front seven. Both Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard are playing well as rookies, but the 290-yard performance by the Ravens shows this team still needs some more run-stuffing ability on the defensive line and more lane-attacking ability by the linebackers.

If the trend of offensive mediocrity and run-stuffing struggles continues, more promising draft prospects will continue make Cleveland's war room board.

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