In every sporting event there is one factor that is probably the most important when it comes to achieving victory, that factor is momentum. It is one of those elusive and indiscernible elements. You know when the team has it (and when it does not). It comes from a team’s ability to work together as a cohesive fighting unit as they leave the egos on the sideline and all efforts are for the team.
After four weeks of training camp (the last week without the distraction of fans looking on) and three pre-season games it would be hoped that the fans would see a solidifying of factors necessary to win but alas in the Brown’s 33-14 loss to the St. Louis Rams they were not to be found. In spite of the fact that a slew of Ram players left the field injured (including their franchise Quarterback) the Browns simply did not measure up.
Last night’s game was (to say the least) fitful. Every time the Browns began to put together a drive or defensive stand something would happen (usually a dumb mistake) that would kibosh the entire deal. In the NFL it is the mistakes that kill you and some games the winner is the team with the fewer errors.
From the opening drive when St. Louis ate up half a quarter to the squandering of time by the Browns in the waning minutes of the game the Browns managed to show one thing. They need improvement in just about every area (except perhaps on special teams).
Last night, the one phrase that struck fear into the hearts of the Browns Defensive Unit was “third and long” as the Rams receivers ran roughshod over our secondary. Zone defense turned into “the catching zone” for St. Louis. Add to this key mistakes throughout the game that included poor blocking from the offensive line, dumb penalties at crucial times, confusion with personnel and play calling and a Brown’s specialty…dropped passes. It looked as if everyone was so concerned with performing they forgot the fundamentals of football…in that it is a team sport.
You had to feel a bit sorry for the defense. They spent nearly as much time on the field as the referees. I am trying to remember if there were any thee and outs for the Rams but for the life of me I can’t remember any. With St. Louis being allowed so many opportunities it’s tough to really judge the Brown’s offense since there was scant time to see them perform.
Not to say that the game did not have its moments. With time running out in the first half, Brian Hoyer led a brilliant offense resulting in a touchdown. Ditto for Johnny Football as he used every weapon in his arsenal (including his running ability) to score. I am sure that every heart in the stadium and those watching TV skipped a beat when Manziel’s defender fell on him in the endzone. The kick and punt return squad is probably the best developed group in the entire team in terms of consistency. There were also some brilliant defensive plays by the secondary but they were overshadowed by the huge giveaways that they allowed.
So what needs to be done to get this team ready for the opener at Pittsburgh? Part of the problem will be solved with the next round of cuts as those who do not fit the team’s scheme will be let go. When you remove the anxiety of fighting for your job, good things hopefully will happen. Besides that, it’s back to the basics. The team must be drilled over and over again until every move becomes automatic. Great musicians have been known to fall apart when their momentum is disturbed unless they have practiced to the point where “muscle memory” takes hold. The same can be said of great football players.
What we have with the 2014-2015 Cleveland Browns is a group of highly skilled individuals who each in their own right are excellent players. What we need is something to glue them together for the season and convince them that they are winners. It seems nearly impossible to take 53 individuals and mold them into a “one thought unit”, but other teams (the winning teams) have been able to do it. We should be able to also. Until then, keep rooting, cheering and praying for the team. If fan loyalty was a factor in winning we would have been world champions long ago. Go Browns!