Before I dive into what makes me so optimistic, let me point out what went wrong. Flying high over the victory over the Steelers, I noticed a ton of Browns fans looking past this game as an easy win. Unfortunately, it seemed the Browns also shared this mindset. I was disappointed in seeing our boys blow a tire against a team that had not yet won a game. I expected a mature approach to this game and it didn’t seem like it was there. This was a hard lesson the Browns won’t soon forget, and the sooner they learn it the better. You simply cannot underestimate any team in this league. They are all professional organizations that can burn you on any given Sunday.
I noticed some coaching gaffes in this game. Instead of kicking a field goal on 4th down at the end of the second quarter, Mike Pettine decided to go for it. This lead to a turnover on downs and Jacksonville marched down the field for a touchdown. Points are points; you simply cannot give them away like that, no matter how small. A challenge was thrown on a call that did not look like it needed to be challenged and another 4th down loss came in the second half. These are situations that can derail a team during a game.
The offense looked very lost out there. I don’t think the Jaguars defense garnered enough credit for their game, they shut down the Browns all game long. There's a very underrated defensive unit in Jacksonville. They predicted our runs plays, they exposed our holes on the offensive line, and they covered our receivers with ease. The offense in general did not seem to flow well together, with Hoyer not being on the same page several times with his receivers. This was a very lackluster offensive performance.
I still am very fond of Mike Pettine. He brings a very imposing brand of toughness that is instilled into the team. I still feel he is the right man for the job here in Cleveland and this is a game that he will also not forget. Pettine is learning what it takes to be a head coach with every game. With each new contest, he is learning that sometimes it’s better to be conservative with the football. I don’t expect him to never make mistakes, but I am very confident that he learned a lot from this last loss. You gotta take what you can get. The next game is a good test for Pettine and I am curious to see if he changes his decisions. He isn’t being absolutely terrible, and perhaps there is a legitimate reason in not trusting Billy Cundiff’s leg, but you must, must must take the points. Nothing wrong with kicking field goals. Mike Pettine is going to understand this sooner than later. Book it.
We have seen Brian Hoyer and the offense look amazing this season prior to this game. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say they weren’t prepared and were looking past this game. I mentioned the team is going to learn to take every team seriously—I can promise you the offense is taking this to heart more than anyone. I know they are better than how they played and are eager to prove it against Oakland. You can say that losing Alex Mack for the season has severely weakened the offensive line. And you’d be absolutely correct, because Mack is irreplaceable.
But we cannot excuse our poor play on injuries. Every single team that has ever existed in any sport has had to overcome injuries. This is the ultimate test of resilience for the Browns. They’ve got some work to do in patching up the holes on that line. With practice, I think we can survive the year without Mack. The line didn’t skip a beat against Pittsburgh when Mack was injured, so who’s to say we can’t find that form again?
I know this game was a tough pill to swallow. I saw so many fans on Facebook and Twitter being upset, and rightfully so. It hurts to lose a game, whether we lost to the best team or the worst. As I mentioned before, this team is learning with each game and making progress. They won’t forget this game for a long time and I expect it will fuel them to get back on track. I have not lost hope for this team. Losses happen, that’s part of the game. But what’s important is how you bounce back from those losses. I am confident the Browns will.