How low can you go?
It appears the Browns offense is trying to find out.
What happened Sunday in a 31-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns Stadium might not have been the worst, most disjointed and out-of-sync- offensive performance in team history, but it’s on the podium with all the placers.
The Browns had just 139 total yards, and nearly one-third of them – 43 yards – came in two pass plays.
In that Kardiac Kids season of 1980, the Browns marched 87 yards in less than two minutes to score a touchdown – on a 46-yard pass play – and beat the Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Stadium on Oct. 19, nearly 29 years ago to the day. Where, oh where, are Brian Sipe and Dave Logan now when we really need them?
Derek Anderson was 12-of-29 passing for 99 yards, no TDs and an interception on Sunday. In the last three games, he’s been 23-of-70 for 244 yards, one TD and three picks. His quarterback rating in those three contests have been 15.1, 51 and, on Sunday, 36.4. For the season, it’s 40.6, which, if it continues, would break the team record for the lowest mark by a starting quarterback since Tommy O’Connell’s 41.6 in 1956.
The Browns scored 167 points that year – but in only 12 games. With 72 now in seven games, they’re on track to get 164 points – in 16 contests.
Browns head coach Eric Mangini said after Sunday’s game that he never thought about making a switch back to Brady Quinn, who started the first three games at quarterback, having a 62.9 rating, before being lifted in favor of Anderson.
“He’s our starter, and I felt very comfortable in the things he was doing,” Mangini said of Anderson.
Even though, if you add together Anderson’s ratings the last three weeks, they still only come to 102.5, which is dwarfed by the near-perfect 155.4 turned in on Sunday by Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
Anderson said – emphatically so, in one and only one word, “No” – that he wasn’t looking over his shoulder on Sunday as his and the offense’s struggles continued.
But to his credit, he didn’t argue with the criticism that’s being leveled, especially at the passing attack, from all corners, including many in the announced crowd of 69,797 who booed their disapproval.
“We’re not good right now,” he said. “We’re not good, flat out. We do not do the things you need to do is win.
“We do fine in practice. That’s what frustrating. Most of the times we’re on the right page with one another, but for whatever reason, we don’t take that into Sunday.”
Are he and the rest of the members of the offense frustrated? Are the leaves turning in Northeast Ohio?
“What are we now, 1-6?” he said rhetorically. “Would you be frustrated if you were 1-for-7 in writing good articles? Yeah, it would be frustrating to anybody.
“We’ve been bad before. But we’re not a terrible team now. We’re just not executing.”
It’s just like John McKay, the first Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, who was asked what he thought of his winless team’s execution in that 1976 expansion season.
“I’m all for it,” he said.
NUMBERS GAME: The aforementioned announced crowd – tickets distributed – of 69,797 is not only the lowest of the season for three Browns home games, but the second-lowest they’ve had in the expansion era. The lowest of 69,603 was for a late-season, brutally-cold game in 2006 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Though chilly, at 50 degrees with a wind-chill of 45, it was bright and mostly sunny on Sunday.
SAVING GRACE(S): Dave Zastudil averaged 46.3 yards on four punts and is now averaging 44.6 for the season. He put all four inside the Green Bay 20 and now has done so with 20 of his last 25 kicks. Joshua Cribbs averaged 34.5 yards on two kickoff returns and is now averaging 28.9 for the season. He moved into 18th place on the all-time NFL return yards list 7,214. And though he had a 22-yarder on Sunday that hit the left upright and caromed through, Billy Cundiff is 6-for-6 on field-goal tries this year in relief of the injured Phil Dawson. Defensive end Robaire Smith had 12 total tackles, one off his career-best.
QUOTABLE: “I’m really disappointed in our performance across the board. I don’t think we played very well or coached very well. I thought we had been making progress in a lot of areas the past several weeks, but we didn’t do that today. I really liked our style of play the last three weeks. Now, did I like all the results? No, but I liked our style. I want aggressive, intense, tough, physical players who finish and are consistent and execute. If you play like that every week, you give yourself the best chance to win.” – Mangini.