A school-related engagement with my daughters meant I couldn’t watch the Browns live.
Lucky for me, the event concluded in time to race to a spot where the first play on the screen was the Miles Austin catch-and-fumble in overtime that was incorrectly ruled an incompletion.
Dallas went on to win.
Somehow this seemed like all I needed to see.
And it was.
Then again it wasn’t. The replays showed there were penalties, a fourth-and-1 fade, more penalties and some very key calls that went against the Browns.
At this point it’s almost bordering on cruelty to animals, what the Browns put their fans through. They come close, play hard, but find a way to lose.
The Browns are quite simply good enough to lose.
It’s interesting. Before the game folks were talking about Dallas playing its third center. Take advantage, Browns fans said. Dallas then lost left tackle Tyrone Smith. Nobody in Cleveland felt in the least bit sorry for the Cowboys.
But when the Browns lost Joe Haden and Buster Skrine, well it was a problem.
Didn’t the Cowboys have the same problem? They couldn’t run, so they threw — and completed just enough to win.
Winning teams do that. As I write this Pittsburgh is getting ready to play Baltimore without Ben Roethlisberger. I fully expect the Steelers to play well, and win. Because they are a team that does not listen to the externals, and they are a winning team that finds a way to win.
Losing teams find ways to lose.
Which the Browns did.
Up three with a minute left, they committed two penalties on the Cowboys game-winning drive, part of a day in which the Browns gave Dallas 10 first downs by penalty. This might be unprecedented. It’s simply an amazing fact.
Ten first downs by penalty. Incredible.
Were all calls good? No.
The worst was the overtime non-fumble call. Worst by far.
But take the flag for a hit on a defenseless receiver on T.J. Ward. Bad call? Probably. But then again I thought the blindside block by Josh Gordon against Baltimore was a good block, but he was flagged and fined for the block.
Ward earns these calls by reputation. He’s proud of the fact he goes for the big hit rather than the wrapup tackle, and he’s earned that rep. So refs look for him.
Bottom line: Losing team find ways to lose and then wind up blaming the refs.
If you don’t want the refs to be a factor, go win the game. Make the plays that make the refs a nonfactor.
Yes, Ed Hochuli’s crew made that task a lot more difficult in Dallas — it’s still hard to fathom the incomplete pass call in overtime; it made no sense — but winning teams overcome external factors. They go win the game.
The Browns led 13-0 at halftime and did little on offense in the second half and overtime, when it had a three-and-out from poor field position. It missed opportunities, and let chances slip away. It lost, for the 12th time in a row on the road, the eighth in 10 games this season and the 20th in 26 games with Pat Shurmur as coach.
Right now the Browns are a torture chamber.
A medieval torture chamber.
A medieval torture chamber in a dank, damp dungeon.