By now, you’ve probably seen the phrase “Keep calm and remain cool” somewhere on the Internet, on a T-shirt or on a coffee mug. The catchphrase first appeared during World War II as a public safety poster in Britain and has recently returned to popular culture.
Unfortunately, the fad does not appear to have reached Berea.
Too often this season, the Browns offense has shown a penchant for panicking when trailing. Instead of staying on course with what is working, the offense opts to try to score points quickly.
It simply hasn’t worked.
With 4:33 left to play in the third quarter, the Browns trailed the Broncos 21-6 or, in other words, a two-touchdown deficit. Yes, the Browns offense needed to start scoring and scoring fast if they were going to be in this game. But four and a half minutes plus another quarter is an eternity.
Here’s how that third-quarter possession played out for the Browns:
· First-and-10 at the Cleveland 20-yard line: Brandon Weeden threw incomplete to the right flats to Trent Richardson.
· Second-and-10 at the Cleveland 20-yard line: Weeden was sacked by, guess who, Von Miller. Not only was it Miller’s 17th sack of the season, but also it knocked Weeden out of the game.
· Third-and-19 at the Cleveland 11-yard line: Colt McCoy sacked.
· Fourth-and-22 at the Cleveland 8-yard line: Punt.
In the matter of 1:07, the Browns lost their starting quarterback and the Broncos had the ball at the Cleveland 48-yard line, which led to a 27-yard field goal and 24-6 Denver lead.
What is infuriating is the success the Browns had the possession before the preverbal wheels began to fall off. The Browns drove 43 yards in nine plays and Dawson kicked a 53-yard field goal to pull the Browns within 14-6.
Now, while the deficit grew by seven points the next time the Browns gained possession, why change what was working?
Richardson was averaging 5.9 yards per carry after weeks of concern that his yards per carry average was so low. Against the Broncos, the Browns offensive line was getting push, holds were opening and Richardson was getting chunks of yards. His final three carries of the day went for 14, 9 and 1 yard, respectively.
“I thought he ran the ball well,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said the day after the game. “He had a couple of runs where they could have been lost yardage plays and he made nice gains out of it. I thought he ran the ball well. Of course, you’d love to have him involved running it throughout. When you get into a two-minute drill and you’re down by three scores, the game changes.”
But only down 21-6 with so much time left? Why feel the need to go away from something that was working?
On the Browns opening drive, they trailed 7-0, but drove 58 yards in 14 plays (eight pass, five run). Although the drive ended with a field goal, it took 7:35 off the clock, Peyton Manning remained on the sidelines and the balance between run and pass kept the Broncos pass rushers at bay.
In that third quarter the guesswork was over. The Browns had abandoned the run. The Broncos defenders were able to have one thought: Get to the quarterback.
In the Browns loss to the Redskins the coaching adjustments by the defense — or lack thereof — was concerning. A week later, the Browns offense failed in their adjustments and it allowed the game to get out of hand quickly.
While it is easy to critique play calling after the fact, it appeared the Browns coaches did not keep calm and remain cool when they fell behind 15 points in the third quarter.
It led to the beginning of the blowout Broncos win, the injuries to Weeden, Richardson and McCoy and potentially the beginning of the Thad Lewis Era. And who can forget the Comeback Kid's performance in the Great Lakes Classic last August? Isn’t the idea of Lewis starting at Pittsburgh is enough to keep Browns’ fans nerves calm? (Please note the sentence is dripping with sarcasm.)