Talent alone doesn’t win football games. In 18 years, how many Patriots’ teams were the most skilled in the league? Maybe 2007? They own six rings and have been to 13 AFC title games in those 18 years because they are better prepared, execute the game plan, and don’t take plays for granted. Bill Belichick’s teams know their assignments. The emotions of the game don’t affect their focus on the goal: win.
The Browns enter the bye week having given another game away. It’s a familiar story; since the rebirth seasons are littered with contests they’ve handed to opponents. This team is too emotional. Unable to remain levelheaded, the players’ emotions ebb and flow. This causes penalties and turnovers. Individual plays inflate or destroy their psyche.
During the goal line fiasco on Sunday, when a mix of poor officiating and inept execution kept the offense from scoring, they were discombobulated. In a hurry, overly excited and rushed when the situation called for calm. A team psychiatrist would be busy on their sideline.
NFL franchises have developed an identity recognized by fans and players. What comes to mind when you picture certain teams?
Each team stirs specific emotions, a knee jerk reaction based on years of results, good or bad. What stirs when you think of the Browns?
The bedrock of this franchise needs detonated. Giving up or becoming frustrated is a Cleveland Browns staple. They have done it for twenty years.
Blame the officials.
Blame the special teams.
Blame the coaches.
The excuses need to end and responsibility taken by everyone in the locker room, a decision made by each individual. Are they happy collecting checks, or do they want to be the group that changes the way football in Cleveland is viewed forever?
Good teams and strong organizations are never 0-3 at home. Seattle won on Sunday because they possess the levelheadedness to withstand adversity. The Browns don’t need better coaches, or play calling, or players. They need better heads.
“If you don’t wear brown and orange, you don’t matter.” Freddie Kitchens uttered this phrase during his introductory press conference. It’s a rah rah collection of words all too common in sports. They’re hollow and meaningless. Owners and coaches spout this babble to unite the team with the fan base. Change the mindset and be about something on the field.
Ditch the mantras.
The Browns are on bye this week, then return to play the Patriots in Foxboro. They’ll lose and fall to 2-5. After, the lessons learned in the first 7 games will either bond them, allowing the team to make a run, or they’ll crumble. The schedule over the final 9 weeks eases, full of winnable games. The AFC North is there for the taking, if the Browns have the stomach for it.
The Whip Around
1. Enough about offensive line play. Except in the worst situations, good quarterbacks can make up for poor O-line play, and coordinators can scheme around it. Good teams have bad O-lines and vice versa. Russell Wilson is playing behind one of the worst lines in the league, and he’s the MVP to this point. The Cowboys own one of the best in the league. How’s that working out?
2. Referee Complaint of the Week
The zebras flagged Trey Flowers for illegal hands to the face with 1:30 left in the game on third down Monday night, giving the Packers an automatic first down and ending the game. His hands were on the offensive lineman’s shoulder. The ref cannot throw a flag in that situation unless it’s blatant. The Lions would have gotten the ball back with a chance to drive for a field goal of their own. Instead, Green Bay ran out the clock, kicking the winning field goal as time expired. The referees are looking to throw flags as opposed to allowing the players to decide outcomes. It’s staining the game and creeping toward making it unwatchable.
3. The Lions’ defensive secondary keeps slowing elite quarterbacks. In consecutive weeks, they’ve forced Carson Wentz, Pat Mahomes, and Aaron Rodgers into sub-par performances. Rodgers could find no one open Monday night. A few vintage Rodgers’ dimes rescued the Pack. Playing almost exclusively man to man, their corners and safeties are winning one-on-one battles, a rarity with today’s quarterbacks and rule changes. The Lions are real because of this unit.
4. The numbers thrown up by Carolina’s defense against Tampa in London are jaw dropping. Seven sacks, two forced fumbles, five interceptions, and 13 passes defensed. A dominant showing by a suddenly interesting squad. While Christian McCaffrey racks up yards and highlight plays, the other side of the ball is producing victories.
5. New Orleans is undefeated since Drew Brees’ injury, and he’s inching closer to returning. The defense has carried the Saints, unthinkable given the potency of the offense. Cameron Jordan piled on two more sacks to his season total and seems to live in opposing offenses’ backfields. A team on a mission to atone for last season’s ending, the Saints look like the team to beat in the NFC.
6. Want to know what a team with toughness and pride looks like? The Steelers are experiencing the season from hell, down to their third-string quarterback, yet dominated a supposed Super Bowl contender in the Chargers on Sunday night. They won’t make the playoffs and shouldn’t win many games, but the stability of that franchise shined in Los Angeles.
7. Speaking of the Chargers, it seems old habits have returned. Losing games they should win, racking up injuries, and missing kicks has been going on since their San Diego days. After a brief hiatus last year as one of the five best teams in the league, it’s good this hackneyed bunch is back.
8. Tyreek Hill, that’ll do.
9. How people keep falling for the Cowboys is beyond me. Three cupcake wins against the Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins had the media salivating. Dak Prescott is average, and running teams don’t win in the NFL anymore, no matter how badly folks yearn for 1985 again.
10. While the NFL has made pass interference a reviewable play, they have no intention of overturning calls on the field unless it’s an obvious error, akin to the play in the NFC Championship game. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the replay center has upheld the original call 24 of the past 25 challenges. An inane rule change has become absurd. Coaches are wasting challenges and timeouts on plays the NFL has no interest in overturning. End this experiment.