The Browns just can't seem to get things right -- or Wright. On a Sunday when they had a running back gain 144 yards and when they overcame numerous injuries to play very well, they still lost to the Baltimore Ravens.
And they lost because cornerback Eric Wright had a tough day trying to cover Anquan Boldin, who slipped through and past the secondary and Wright for eight catches for 142 yards and all three of Baltimore's touchdowns.
Wright stood like a man after the game, saying he cost his team the game by not playing well. But there were times during the game when he gestured toward rookie safety T.J. Ward as if he expected help from Ward on certain plays.
Boldin's first touchdown was a good throw by quarterback Joe Flacco that went over Wright to Boldin in the back of the end zone. His second, he was wide open, and Wright seemed frustrated. His third was a long throw on a blitz when Wright was on an island and he simply was beat. Boldin nearly caught a fourth touchdown later, but the pass was broken up by Ward on a play that the Ravens thought was interference.
"(Boldin's) obviously a good player, but I just didn't play up to my ability, not even close," Wright said. "It's just unfortunate, just because you have 10 other guys on the field that are doing their jobs and really depending on me to be a certain type of player and I wasn't that player by a long shot today."
Wright has played well at corner for the Browns, especially since the middle of last season. No game comes down to one player, so focusing on him isn't entirely fair -- defensive coordinator Rob Ryan could fairly be questioned for calling the late blitz when Wright was obviously struggling. But had he or the secondary come through on any one of the passes to Boldin, the Browns' effort might have accounted for a win instead of more frustration in an 0-3 season.
--RB Peyton Hillis proved a lot of people wrong with a sterling effort against one of the better run defenses in the league. Hillis rambled for 144 yards on 22 carries, and had runs of 25 and 48 yards.
Hillis is no speed back. He's pure effort and power, but it sure worked against the Ravens. With Jerome Harrison a surprise inactive due to a thigh injury, Hillis stepped up to the challenge. He hit holes, went forward and ran with burst and power.
"I really think that Peyton is a talented guy, and he's tough with the football in his hands," coach Eric Mangini said. "I think his potential is extremely high."
Hillis now is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and has 220 yards for the season. He seems like the prototype Mangini player -- a hard worker who is tough and dedicated but not especially flashy.
It doesn't matter if he 's not flashy, though, as long as he keeps running the ball like he did.
--LB Matt Roth made a silly play late in the game that epitomized something coach Eric Mangini has been lamenting the first three games of the season. Baltimore had third-and-4 with 1:55 left, and the Browns had just used their last timeout.
Down seven, Cleveland's only chance was to stop the Ravens and hope for a last-minute drive. It was a long shot, but it was a chance -- until Roth jumped offside and gave Baltimore a first down and the chance to run out the clock.
That penalty was one of eight that the Browns had on the day. Through three games, the Browns have been flagged 22 times. The team's three opponents have gained five first downs on those miscues.
"I'm tired of talking about the same things after games," Mangini said. "I'm tired of talking about penalties after games."
Mangini prides himself on having teams that are disciplined and smart. The penalties have been neither, and a team that lacks pure talent like Cleveland cannot afford them. The coach knows that's been key to the 0-3 start.
"Not having eight penalties, not having nine penalties, that's the first step (to winning)," he said.
--QB Seneca Wallace did not have a bad game against a good defense (18-of-24 for 141 yards and a TD), but did not come up with plays needed to win. His miscue with Peyton Hillis on a late pitch hurt badly, and on a key third-and-2 with the Browns down seven and time still left to tie, Wallace threw out of bounds on a fade route to Josh Cribbs. That was the Browns' last offensive play.
--QB Jake Delhomme again sat out with what has been reported as a high ankle sprain. He has not practiced for two weeks, so his availability for Sunday's game against Cincinnati should be questionable at best, though coach Eric Mangini will say all week that Delhomme might play.
--WR Mohammed Massaquoi was again invisible in the offense, as he had one pass thrown his way. The pass was overthrown, and Massaquoi came up with no catches for the day. Not good for a guy trying to be a No. 1 receiver.
--WR Brian Robiskie was one of several key inactives for the Browns. Robiskie strained a hamstring during practice during the week and was not activated. Josh Cribbs took his place.
--WR Josh Cribbs played through a sore and painful ankle injury -- he was in a walking boot after the game -- and had a typical Cribbs game. Major effort, a team-high five catches for 58 yards and a 19-yard run out of the Wildcat that set up a touchdown. Cribbs struggled in the return game again, though, as teams are determined not to let him beat them on special teams.
REPORT CARD VS. RAVENS
PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Given what the running game gave the team, the Browns didn't need a lot from the passing game. Seneca Wallace threw a lot of high-percentage, get-the-ball-out quick passes and completed 18-of-24. They went for 141 yards, not a lot, but he did have one touchdown. In some ways that is good. Baltimore is an aggressive defense and it could have confused or harassed Wallace into mistakes. But that did not happen. What also did not happen, though, were key plays in the fourth quarter when the Browns were down four and seven and had the ball twice. Wallace made two big errors. The first came when he mistakenly -- in his words -- pitched the ball to Peyton Hillis on a play that was supposed to be a handoff. That set the Browns back at their 1, which gave the Ravens a field goal following a punt. When the Browns got the ball back they had third-and-2, Wallace sailed a fade route to Cribbs well out of bounds. The team's last offensive play was emblematic of the frustration felt with the loss.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Some folks thought Peyton Hillis was too slow to be a featured back. Some folks might be wrong, as Hillis ran 22 times for 144 yards, the first time a Browns back has topped 100 against the Ravens. Hillis ran straight ahead and hard, and it paid off. His style might be perfect against the Ravens because he does not dance or mess around. He takes the ball and runs. Hillis is a strong, hard-working guy, and this game sure makes the Brady Quinn trade look smart. It will be interesting to see if he can sustain this kind of effort the rest of the season, and it will be interesting to see how the return of Jerome Harrison affects his touches.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- Whether it was because of one guy or four guys or 11, the Browns let two people on Baltimore's offense beat them. Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin combined for three touchdown passes, and the last was maddening because the Browns blitzed on third down and left Eric Wright one-on-one against Boldin. Wright had already been beaten twice by Boldin. The third time was the non-charm, as it gave the Ravens the win. Flacco had a rough game the week before against Cincinnati, throwing four interceptions and leading the media to wonder if he should have been replaced. Against the Browns' poor pass rush -- Shaun Rogers and Marcus Benard, two of the team's better pass rushers, were out -- and a soft secondary, Flacco threw for 262 yards and three TDs.
RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Baltimore didn't do a lot with the run, but Ray Rice was able to gain 80 yards on 15 carries and the Ravens as a team had 109 yards. They weren't especially damaging, a positive for the Browns. But the defensive effort also wasn't sterling. It was good enough to be good -- except for the final score.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The Browns' coverage units again were excellent. It's evident a team is going to have to have one special day to do much against Brad Seely's guys. Phil Dawson made his first field goal and Reggie Hodges punted well. But Josh Cribbs again did nothing on returns. He caught one punt and had no yards on the return, and brought back two kickoffs for 23 yards. Cribbs has been so good in his career it's evident teams are targeting him. If that's true, the Browns might need to loosen things up with a reverse return, or something like that. They need to get Cribbs going; he's that important to the team's success.
COACHING: B-minus -- It's kind of weird. The worse things look for the Browns, the better they seem to play. Few observers gave Cleveland any chance at all against Baltimore after the Browns had started the season losing to Tampa Bay and Kansas City. What happened? The Browns played well and hard and led in the fourth quarter. They also went mano a mano with the Ravens' tough defense, and ran the ball extremely well. That's a credit to Eric Mangini and the coaching staff. But the Browns also did not compensate at all for Eric Wright's struggles on defense, and did not have a very good play dialed up on a key third down late in the game. There were good signs for the Browns, but the good signs did not equal a win. In the NFL, the latter is far more important than the former.