December 18, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
29°F
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Brian Dulik: Browns know the score, but just can’t figure out how to score

Take two of the worst teams in the NFL, throw in a bunch of injured players, then add bone-chilling winds off Lake Erie to the mix.
Put it all together and, voila, you’ve cooked up another sorry Sunday on the lakefront, where the Cincinnati Bengals thoroughly outplayed the Browns in a 14-0 victory.
The Browns were bowled over by running back Cedric Benson, outsmarted by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and had their spirit crushed by cornerback Leon Hall from start to finish.
It was enough to make everyone inside Cleveland Browns Stadium sick, if the zero-degree wind chill and strong gusts didn’t get the job done first.
“This feels awesome,” said Benson, who rushed for 171 yards on a stadium-record 38 carries. “Bengals and Browns football is a great tradition and has a great history. That was some smash-mouth football right there.
“I think this may have been one of my biggest games as a professional.”
The same could be said about Hall, who had as many interceptions — three — as Cincinnati’s leading receiver had receptions.
It also applies to Fitzpatrick, who only attempted nine passes, but didn’t make any mistakes in throwing for 55 yards and a touchdown.
In comparison, the Browns didn’t run a play in enemy territory until the final minute of the first half, they were intercepted four times, and they allowed the Bengals to convert 7 of 14 third downs.
“Sadly, that’s been the story of the season,” Browns safety Brodney Pool said. “We are paid to play and we didn’t pull it off today. We just didn’t get the win.”
The loss completed a terrible home season for the Browns, who won just once in eight games and failed to score a touchdown in four of them. Overall, their offense hasn’t reached the end zone since Nov. 17 at Buffalo and will carry a TD drought of 314 minutes and 47 seconds into the 2008 finale at Pittsburgh.
How bad has it gotten? The downtrodden, AFC North cellar-dwelling, 2-12-1 Bengals came into the game aiming for a shutout — and got it. It was the Browns’ first shutout at home since Cincinnati turned the trick two years ago.
“(Defensive coordinator Mike) Zimmer talked about it last night at our meeting,” said defensive tackle John Thornton, who had two of the Bengals’ three sacks. “As we got into the fourth quarter, we said, ‘Let’s get this shutout for Zimmer.’ It was a fun day for us.”
If there was a positive — and admittedly, this is a reach — it was the small crowd that ventured out into the cold to watch the game in person. At no point was the stadium more than half full, while it was almost empty by the middle of the fourth quarter.
“That’s the first time in seven years that I’ve seen this (small) amount of people in the stands,” Cleveland linebacker Andra Davis said. “They deserve more. You can’t blame them.”
But you can blame coach Romeo Crennel, a class act and true gentleman who is certain to take the fall for the Browns’ failings. It’s hard to see how he is to blame for the team’s awful offense, but it’s even more difficult to defend his 24-39 record over the last four years.
Change is definitely coming, even if no one in Cleveland’s locker room is certain what needs to be changed or what went wrong this season.
“Your guess is as good as mine, your guess is as good as mine,” Browns wide receiver Braylon Edwards said. “We come in and practice hard all week. We always have the intensity and all the guys come to work.
“I know people don’t want to hear that, but we work hard and we always act professional, no matter what our record is, even at 4-11. It is what it is.”
Contact Brian Dulik at (330) 721-4059 or brisports@hotmail.com.