There are more ways to win in the NFL than just by having a really good quarterback and a dynamic offense. But that’s certainly the easiest way to get it done.
Sunday’s matchup between the Browns and the Bears exemplified the new-age reality that good offense beats good defense every time. Cleveland entered yesterday’s game with a top-ten defense and bottom-ten offense while Chicago was the exact opposite: bottom-ten defense, top-ten offense. At the end of the day the good offense beat the good defense and the crappy offense couldn’t do anything against the crappy defense.
I’ve spent a ton of time this season railing about quarterbacks and about how that’s all that really matters. I still believe that to be true, but before we talk about Jason Campbell’s ineptitude I want to exercise a little criticism of the defense that I’ve praised so much this season.
Ray Horton is a very good defensive coordinator who has some really good talent to work with on that side of the ball. Last week I talked about how I think the Browns could have probably five or six guys on defense go to the Pro Bowl. But there are some oddities that are tough to pinpoint with this unit. There are a few different statistical measurements that we use to judge defense and with some of them the Browns look really good:
And others…not so good:
Third Down Percentage: 27th
Which leads ultimately too…
For some reason it seems that the Browns are great on first and second down but can’t seem to get off the field on third. Yesterday was a great example of this as the Bears were 9-14 on third down. Now, the Bears have a very good offense. They’re 2nd in the NFL in points/game, 3rd in yards/play, 7th in third down percentage, 7th in yards/game, 7th in time of possession…you get the idea.
Yesterday the Browns defense allowed just slightly more points (31) than the Bears average (29). The tough part is that they gave up 21 of those in the fourth quarter. A fourth quarter that they started out leading, I might add…for the third straight week. I know it’s tough for defense in the NFL especially when your offense is consistently disappointing. And it’s even tougher when you’re going up against a team with two really good receivers and you lost your Pro Bowl corner. But you can’t allow 21 points in the fourth quarter. It just can’t happen. You have to find a way to pull it together and finish strong.
I’ll end my discussion of the defense by giving them a little praise. They did force three turnovers and scored two TDs (just as many as the offense). TJ Ward was an absolute freak and every week makes Joe Banner’s smarty-pants decision not to extend him in the offseason look dumber and dumber. Tashaun Gipson, after talking a little trash about Cutler just throwing the ball up for grabs, did pretty good backing up his mouth with two picks and a TD…until he poorly misplayed one of those “up for grabs” balls that ended up being an Alshon Jeffery game-tying TD.
As a whole they didn’t have a terrible game especially when you consider that they scored as many touchdowns as the offense. But when you have a terrible offense you need an even better performance from the defense. And we didn’t get that Sunday.
About that offense…
They continue to be terrible in large part because they continue to not have a quarterback. I could go on and on and on and on about this but I’ll spare you all. In the NFL you either need an elite QB with decent pieces around him (think Tom Brady/Aaron Rodgers’ situations) or you need an above-average/consistent QB with great pieces around him (think Jay Cutler/Alex Smith) to have a great offense in the NFL. The Browns have some pretty good pieces on offense for sure in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, but that’s about it. They don’t have a great running game and the secondary receivers are all inconsistent. And they don’t have at least an “above-average/consistent” QB.
I could bore you with stats upon stats upon stats about how offense wins in the NFL. If you haven’t figured out by now that the best teams in the NFL also have the best offenses, then I’m not sure what you’ve been doing. But let’s run down the list of the guys who quarterback the best offenses in the league:
The Vikings Quarterbacks???
Aaron Rodgers before he got hurt
How the Minnesota Vikings have the ninth best scoring offense in the NFL is beyond me. I know they have Adrien Peterson but they also have one of the worst defenses in the league. Do they just score a bunch of garbage-time TDs? I confess that I don’t pay a whole heck of a lot attention to the Vikings but I guess it must have something to do with the general lack of defense in that NFC North division and that they all have good offenses so they have to score to keep up??? I don’t know. When the Browns played them earlier in the year they certainly didn’t strike me as having a good offense. Who knows? Not everything is easily explained.
But aside from the Vikings, the rest of these teams make up what are essentially the best teams in the NFL. And you’d take each of those QBs on that list (except the Vikes) for the Browns over the crap we’ve got right now.
Look, I don’t know if I can say that the Browns are just a QB away from being a contender. But it’s tough not to imagine that happening when in the past two seasons we’ve watched a two-win Colts team add Andrew Luck then go to the playoffs, followed by a two-win Chiefs team adding Alex Smith and going to the playoffs. And those are just two examples. We could go throughout history and give so many more. You fix the QB problem and all the other issues become a whole lot less difficult.
I know one thing: if the Browns didn’t have the fourth worst time of possession in the league then maybe, just maybe, the defense doesn’t end up bending late in games. But they do…so they do. It’s a team game. You win as a team, you lose as a team. It takes a total effort. Unless of course you have a great offense…then you can get away with having a crappy defense. Wish it worked the other way around.
I’m just so sick and tired of this crap. I’m tired of watching the dregs of the league like Jason Campbell who can’t find his record-setting wide receiver and consistently throws balls leading his guys into concussion-potential blows from linebackers and safeties. I’m sick and tired and watching dudes under center throw ghastly interceptions like yesterday when Campbell orchestrated what were two of the worst giveaways we’ve seen all year. I mean neither of them had a chance. It’s just so freaking frustrating.
Just get me a quarterback before I lose my mind.
 Obviously the Browns team gave up 38 points. But seven of those came on the Campbell pick-six.