Our colors seemed to be showing, we lost to Cincy in style, and then dropped two games to two 3-7 teams after our bye. We were sitting at 4-6, we had only had 6 regular season losses our entire year last year, and now we had six. I had to do some major rethinking, because we had the Ravens and Steelers, two tough opponents, and a slew of other good opponents. Then we had Ravens again, 7-3 Rams, 6-4 Niners, then capping it off with the 4-6 Colts, who were obviously tougher than their record suggested. We could still make a push for wildcard, but it was looking bleak at the moment. Not to mention Quinn was out for another week after tearing his shoulder labrum against the Texans two weeks ago. He was definitely a cog to our success.
I chose to start Graham Harrell following Quinn’s injury, who showed to me he wanted the start badly. It was against a good Ravens team that was at a disappointing 5-5. They would surely be blitzing the hell out of Graham to make him nervous. I was looking to take a 50-50 approach to running and passing, because my trio of RB’s were doing very well. I honestly thought we could win this game, maybe take third in division as a consolation (Steelers and Bengals were tied at 7-3). Only time would tell.
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Another overtime game, this time we received. It was 17-17 after a great drive by Clausen to get into FG range. Johnny Knox was proving to be a good asset. Harrell had thrown 3 interceptions, and I had benched him during the last drive.
Receiving the ball, I wanted to play conservatively, not go for the homerun. But I was wanting to run a spread offense down the field considering the Ravens had held us to under 50 yards rushing. The first play was a bomb downfield however, as Jimmy was clobbered when he got hit. The next play was a simpler out route, but Jimmy threw it right at the Safety who was starting for Landry, and they took it back to the house. Another game lost in overtime due to a big play. I just about threw my clipboard down the field. We were imploding on ourselves, very reminiscent of the end of Crennel’s tenure.
Cleveland Browns 17 @ Baltimore Ravens 23
Jimmy Clausen – 3/10 66 yds 1 INT
Graham Harrell – 14/29 142 yds 3 INT 1 att. 3 yds. Rush TD
Allen – 7 att. 6 yards
Edwards – 6 rec. 75 yards TD
Johnny Knox – 3 rec. 59 yds.
Gooden – 6 tckl 2 tfl INT
Ward – FF, FR
Cribbs – 5 KR 142 yds. 4 PR 51 yds 2/2 passing w/ 22 yds. TD
The weeks kept dragging on, and as the trend seemed to be so did the losses. It looked as if we were tanking for no apparent reason. And there was tension in the locker room as well. Statistically we were doing pretty well. Brady was on track to throw 3000 yds with 30 TD’s and about 10 or 15 picks, a great number for any quarterback. The running back trio were doing very well, combining for 700 yards with 6 td’s. Braylon eclipsed 1100 yds with 8 touchdowns, and our passing defense was doing pretty well. I was very proud of our safeties, especially after TJ Ward was getting so much flak from the media. He ended up with 40 tackles, 4 interceptions and a fumble recovery. Cribbs and Crenshaw combined for 1700 KR yards with a touchdown, along with 550 PR yards with a touchdown. And our O-line was getting better every game, so much promise.
So why were we about to go into playoff season with a 7-9 record, last in the AFC North? Well, the Bengals turned out to be very good this year, going 10-6 and clinching a wildcard. But that wasn’t our problem, we faced 8 teams with a non-winning record, and a few other teams were 9-7. Only a few teams did we play that were in the double digit wins, and we beat three of them (Cardinals (10-6), Steelers (12-4), and Rams (10-6)). So beating good teams wasn’t our issue either.
I felt like our team had a lot of luck on our side against teams we are supposed to lose to. We take advantage of the teams that are expecting a bye, and we take them into the fourth quarter with a close score. Brady had a great head on his shoulders and could conduct a very good drive when it was needed. A few of our games were lost in the final seconds due to a turnover produced by the backup qb or the wr’s dropping balls, or a blown coverage.
We ended the season at 7-9, with a few things to pat ourselves on the back with. Quinn finished in the top ten for the major QB stats (Rating, Yards, TD’s, lowest amount of int’s for starters, completion), Armando Allen won offensive rookie of the year (albeit a weak year for offensive rookies), and Braylon had another good year. Our young players were stepping up. After all this rambling, I still couldn’t figure out why we were losing to bad teams. Our losses were close, all but one of them were within one score, and three of them came in overtime. I felt like our defense wasn’t stepping up, but in film they looked great.