|Sloppy Browns show youth in mistake-riddled loss|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 03 December 2007 16:23|
They did it by playing one of their sloppiest games of the season, committing four turnovers and 10 penalties in a 27-21 loss at Arizona on Sunday.
Cleveland has found ways to overcome its mistakes in recent weeks, typically by scoring a lot of points late and squeaking out wins in overtime.
But some egregious errors Sunday, like cornerback Leigh Bodden kicking the ball after the defense made a stop, had the Browns looking like the bumbling teams of years past instead of a postseason candidate.
The loss was a setback for the Browns (7-5), who are competing with Jacksonville (8-4) and Tennessee (7-5) for the two AFC wild-card spots.
Playoff talk in December has been a rarity in Cleveland over the last decade, but coach Romeo Crennel doesn't think it's affecting his team.
``I know that other people have been talking about playoffs and all of that stuff, but I don't talk about it,'' Crennel said Monday. ``Hopefully, they listen to me more than they listen to everybody else.''
The players say playoff talk had nothing to do with their unfocused effort against the Cardinals. But they acknowledged that too often they've allowed their opponent to gain an early lead, then leaned on the offense to make a comeback.
That's bound to catch up to them eventually, like it did Sunday, running back Jamal Lewis said.
``Sometimes a game like that, it sneaks up and bites you, but it can be a good thing to humble you and let you know that we need to get better,'' Lewis said. ``That's what championship teams do.''
The Browns have a tendency for slow starts on the road where they're 2-4. Guard Eric Steinbach was at a loss to explain why that's happening.
``We're on the road again in New York this week,'' Steinbach said of the matchup with the Jets. ``We're going to have to come out and just try to start fast.''
The Browns also need to improve a defense that has given up a league-high 28 points a game. They could get back nose tackle Ethan Kelley for Sunday, but likely will still be without defensive end Orpheus Roye and cornerback Eric Wright.
It's hard to blame the defense for a loss in which the Cardinals got 21 points off turnovers, but foolish penalties by Simon Fraser for head-butting and Bodden for booting the ball set the Browns up for defeat.
Bodden's kick came after Cleveland stopped the Cardinals on third down. It gave Arizona new life in a drive that led to a touchdown and an early 14-0 lead.
``You cannot kick the ball unless you're a kicker,'' Crennel said.
Pretty simple rule. Still, Bodden said after the game that he didn't know it was a penalty.
``If he didn't know, then I did a poor job,'' Crennel added, saying he spends a lot of time going over rules with his team.
The Browns have the softest schedule of the AFC teams chasing wild-card berths - at the New York Jets and Cincinnati and home against Buffalo and San Francisco - and still have a shot at their first playoff appearance since 2002.
However, the loss to Arizona exposed some flaws that have been glossed over in recent weeks by improbable comebacks and overtime wins.
``We were definitely on a roll,'' Steinbach said. ``It was a little wake up call to say, hey, four weeks left in the season. We've got to get things together.''