Rapid Reaction: Cleveland Browns
November, 17, 2013
By Pat McManamon | ESPN.com
CINCINNATI -- A few thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 41-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
What it means: Special teams can determine a game. The Browns had things going their way early, but they imploded in the second quarter with a punt blocked and another tipped. For good measure a good Bengals return set up a late field goal. Then the Bengals' defense scored twice -- though one was called back by a penalty. All told the Browns saw a 13-0 lead flip into a 31-13 deficit at halftime even though Cincinnati had just three first downs at the half.
Stock watch: Jason Campbell, this is the earth. After two of his best back-to-back games, Campbell found plenty of difficulty with the aggressive and nasty Bengals defense. Campbell did complete a 74-yard TD to Josh Gordon in the second half, but more often that not it was checkdowns to backs or running to avoid a rush. Campbell did very good things for the Browns for two weeks, but he’s had seven seasons to show the kind of player he is. A “correction” seemed inevitable.
Missed chances: In the first quarter, the Browns had first-and-goal at the 2 and first-and-10 at the 14. With a chance to take command early, the Browns wasted those chances. Cincinnati’s red zone defense forced field goals. Even with Joe Haden’s interception return for a touchdown, those early field goals kept the game manageable for the Bengals, who took charge in the second quarter.
Not ready yet: It was nice to think and talk that the Browns could make a playoff push -- ESPN’s Merrill Hoge picked them to win the division before the game -- but this is a team that is a ways from that level. They have done something with what they have, but they walk too fine an edge to be playoff-caliber yet.
What's next: The Browns return home to play the Steelers, a game that prior to this Sunday looked winnable. Now, who knows?