Collapse could signal drastic changes
|AP Photo/Ron Schwane|
|Eddie Royal's 93-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter Thursday night jump-started the Denver offense.|
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
CLEVELAND -- Browns running back Jamal Lewis said he's never seen anything like it in his nine years in the NFL.
Two double-digit second-half leads ... in back-to-back games ... in front of their home crowd.
As fast as Cleveland leads have vanished the past two games, its 2008 season, which began with high expectations, disappeared just as quickly as the Browns suffered another fourth-quarter meltdown in a 34-30 defeat.
It was the second consecutive head-scratching loss for the Browns who, at 3-6, had the potential to turn around their season. Instead, the pair of losses left their coaches dumbfounded and players frustrated and perplexed.
"Collectively, we don't finish," said Browns tight end Kellen Winslow, who had 10 catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns. "I don't know what it is. We had Baltimore and we couldn't finish the game and [Thursday] the same thing."
Cleveland made a major change by handing the offense to former backup quarterback Brady Quinn for his first NFL start. Quinn did well with 239 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn't enough.
Here is what else we learned from Cleveland's loss to the Broncos:
Derek Anderson may want to begin thinking of ways to stay warm on the sideline this winter. Quinn, despite a short week, proved in one game that he can be a capable NFL starter.
|Matthew Emmons/US Presswire|
|Brady Quinn threw two touchdown passes to Kellen Winslow and went 23-of-35 for 239 yards.|
This loss wasn't on the quarterback. Quinn and the Browns played well enough offensively to win as he was efficient (no turnovers, no sacks) and well-prepared for the Broncos (5-4).
Quinn had 23 completions, none more than 30 yards. Most of his completions were underneath and on checkdowns, which was opposite of the way Cleveland ran its offense with Anderson at quarterback.
It's further proof that the Browns will be much different under Quinn. Instead of Cleveland looking deep for receiver Braylon Edwards, expect to see more Quinn-to-Winslow connections in the second half of the season. Winslow's 10 catches were a season high and his two touchdowns were a career high. Edwards, on the other hand, had just one catch for 15 yards.
The knock on Anderson was that he didn't throw short passes accurately to tight ends and running backs, which is one of Quinn's strengths. The knock on Quinn is he rarely takes chances deep, which was the case Thursday night. That will be something to watch as Quinn continues to evolve.
"I have to make a play at the end and give us a chance to win," Quinn said. "That is what you want out of your quarterback and that is why I am upset with myself right now. As time goes on, hopefully I can get better."
Is Crennel in trouble?
There was no indication from Cleveland after the game, but expect some serious hot seat talk to pick up in the next few days involving the Browns and head coach Romeo Crennel.
It's hard to defend blowing two double-digit leads at home late in the second half. The losses were the difference in being 5-4 and 3-6.
Now the season is all but over for a team that felt it was a legit postseason contender this year. Considering the talent on the roster, the Browns are underachievers and all they can hope for now is playing spoiler.
Cleveland has 10 days to evaluate the state of the team before its next game, against the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 17. If nothing is changed, Crennel's biggest challenge is to keep his team motivated now that its main goal of the playoffs is gone.
"Well, that's the challenge that the coaching [staff] has to deal with," Crennel said. "We'll go to work and back to the drawing board to be more consistent on the basics and fundamentals and see if that can help and make a difference."
Cleveland blew assignments, tackled poorly and showed little poise in the fourth quarter for the second straight game.
Denver quarterback Jay Cutler is the real deal, as shown by his 447 yards and three touchdown passes. But if an opponent loses its top two tailbacks and is struggling and trailing on the road, it's on the coaching staff to make sure one player doesn't beat them.
That didn't happen for Cleveland.
So in a week that's already seen significant change, the Browns may not be finished with their alterations just yet.