Much is lost in the quarterback hullabaloo as the Cleveland Browns prepare to travel to Kansas City to face the league's only undefeated team.
So much scrutiny of the quarterback and so much talk about Brandon Weeden obscures other real issues.
The defense is struggling. Badly. The Browns have given up 23 points or more in five of seven games, and in the last two they've given up 31. The last three game teams are averaging 28.6 points against the Browns, the last five 23.8 -- with a game in there when the Bengals scored six points. Miami scored 23, Minnesota scored 27. Green Bay and Detroit both have topped 30. These are not the results of a championship defense, or of a defense that was built to pressure the passer, force turnovers and limit points.
Heading into Monday night's game, the Browns ranked 29th in third-down defense. They lead the league in yards per play, but rank 26th in yards per game. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton pointed out last week that the Browns have far more defensive plays than the top defenses, which accounts for a large average per game. But this sounds a bit like the proverbial chicken/egg question. The case can be made that the Browns have more plays because of their ineffectiveness on third down.
With and without Trent Richardson, the running game is not helping. The Browns have run for 100 yards only twice, and they did it against Detroit because of a long run on a reverse by Travis Benjamin. That run counts, but it also indicates the Browns don't have a running game that can grind out yards when they need to. The NFL is a passing league, but coach Rob Chudzinski covets balance, and he's not getting it.
Mix these factors with a struggling quarterback and it's evident the Browns are dealing with many issues as they struggle to end a two-game losing streak.