The Browns are in rare air, as big expectations and lots of winning lay ahead. I am not down on the Browns at all. In fact just the opposite. But I am expecting much from them as they are out of excuses, and now success or not, is squarely on them as a team, and not as an organization. As I wrote last week the days of "moral victories" are over for me, and hopefully for them. (Click here to read last weeks article)
But looking at them through the truth prism, there is a part of the Browns that needs to be fixed ASAP, or the season could be a series of very close wins and losses. No nuts and bolts here, that's not our area of expertise, that is theirs, but our third down defense is bad, and is going to haunt this team if they don't get it fixed. The ability to get off the field and get your offense back on it, is crucial to their success and right now, it stinks. Because the offense is darn good and needs to be on the field.
But this is nothing anywhere near new for them. Third down defense has been bad in this town for 35 years. And that is no exaggeration. Bad third down defense cost this team two AFC Titles in the 1980s' with the Kosar teams. "The Drive" from John Elway was an entire series of them. "The Fumble" would not even have been an issue if the game was not in the place it was. Again, Elway, and third downs. It also cost us a trip to the AFC Championship game last year in KC, as the Chiefs made play after play killing the Browns chances of advancing to a game with the Bills that I was confident they would win. And can we stop with the Mahomes thing? The guy who ended our season last year in the playoffs on third downs was Chad Henne a 13 year journeyman who was making 1.2 million, pennies for a QB. Eventually you have to make a play and get off the field.
Last weekend, they made the Texans' third string rookie QB look pretty darn good as he converted third down after third down against the Browns making this game much closer than it should have been, and threw his first NFL TD pass in a 14 play drive! How do we fix this? Not my job, but it is someone's and they need to do it. Players need to play better and coaches need to coach better. If this is not fixed, the Browns could have a real issue against most teams, and that shouldn't be. We are better than most and it's time to show it.
Third downs are an emotional thing. Stop teams on third down and you get the ball back. You also demoralize the opposition with three and outs, and that is a big deal. Then it energizes your offense. It keeps your crowd in the game, and takes theirs out of it. It sets the general tone that we are better, stronger, and tougher than you are. Win that battle and you win most games. In this era of scoring a million points a game, there still comes a time in a game that you have to win - that you have to close people out and get off the field. We are not really there yet. You can't just simply outscore people forever.
And with an exciting player like Justin Fields coming to town this weekend, I hope we don't make him look like Elway, or Big Ben more recently, who has tormented the Browns third down defenses for years. Make no mistake, the Bears know this as does the rest of the NFL and the Browns now are charged with fixing this big time problem. The Browns need to take it to him and show the Bears they are simply better. As good as our offense is, they are useless if they are on the bench.
Football is an interesting sport. If your on defense, you are happier when you play less. And that's what we need, more third down defense, so they can watch the offense do its thing.
Now, get off the field!