MARK DUNCAN / AP Enlarge
CLEVELAND - It's not always Braylon Edwards' drops, Kellen Winslow's penalties or defensive holes the size of craters that beget a Browns defeat.
Sure, those usual suspects contributed to the Browns' 16-6 loss yesterday to the Houston Texans.
But what does the team do when golden boy quarterback Brady Quinn tosses two interceptions and then is yanked with a quarter to go? When left tackle Joe Thomas is chewed up and spit out by Houston defensive end Mario Williams? When kicker Phil Dawson shanks a field goal from 39 yards?
"We were all over the place," said running back Jamal Lewis.
Except in the end zone. The Browns failed to score a touchdown for only the third time in 27 games under offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
The first time came in a blizzard last year. The second came against the Pittsburgh defense this year. This time there were no excuses.
"This is the worst we've been," general manager Phil Savage said.
The Browns fell to 4-7, 1-5 at home. Players were at a loss to explain the bumbling that saw them commit five turnovers against a team that had a league-worst nine takeaways all season.
They were also at a loss to explain Quinn's surprise benching, Edwards' three drops, and the sin of giving Lewis the ball for only 10 rushing attempts. He totaled 58 yards.
Quinn was pulled after his second interception with 3:41 left in the third quarter when Houston cornerback Fred Bennett jumped Edwards' short slant route and stole the ball at the Texans' 7.
"It was a combination of his decisions that could have been a little bit better and the injury to his finger," coach Romeo Crennel explained. "I thought maybe we could get a spark from [Derek] Anderson. Brady has not lost his job. We're going to go through the week and prepare him, and he is going to play."
To be sure, Quinn was not sharp (8-of-18 for 94 yards and the two picks). But he said the small fracture on his right index finger, suffered in the previous game, "wasn't a factor" in his performance. He was upset with Crennel's decision, saying, "I didn't know I was on a short leash.
"I thought I'd have the opportunity to keep fighting," Quinn said. "I like to go 12 rounds."
Lewis, who fumbled a handoff from Anderson in the fourth quarter, said he was surprised by the move, "being that [Quinn] took all the snaps with the first team in practice. So that's kind of confusing."
Anderson played the entire fourth quarter and went 5-of-14 for 51 yards and was intercepted once. He was obviously rusty from not playing since losing his job after Game 8. And, as usual, he was victimized by Edwards' relentless drops.
Anderson's second series in the fourth quarter was as mind-boggling an offensive possession as you will ever see. With the Browns down 16-6, Anderson had the ball at the Houston 29 in four plays. Then there was a false start on Thomas, followed by a holding penalty on Thomas and then a drop by Edwards in the middle of the field.
The Texans then contributed illegal contact penalties on two of the next three plays, giving the Browns a first down at the Houston 35. Anderson whipped one ball off Edwards' right hand and then another one. After an incompletion intended for Kellen Winslow, Edwards made a Pro Bowl-like play on fourth down, reading the blitz correctly and then stretching for the first down.
Two plays later, Anderson lobbed the ball perfectly for Edwards in the right corner of the end zone. Edwards soared above cornerback Jacques Reeves, juggled the pass in the air, and failed a second time to pull it in.
The drive ended in Dawson shanking a field goal try from 39 yards.
This must have been Edwards' day to talk. Winslow politely declined, and he fell hard on his sword.
"That's a catch that I've got to make for my team. They're depending on me to make that play," Edwards said. "I don't know what it is, but I've got to go somewhere to get my head together."
Edwards now has 40 catches and 18 drops, unofficially, after his record-setting Pro Bowl season of 2007.
"We had one big play in the second quarter when I caught the ball for 42 yards," Edwards said. "And then I come back with a drop or two. All I know last year I was one guy, and this year I'm a different guy."
Lewis, who has made references weekly about his displeasure with his rushing load, thought the running game should have had a big and busy day.
"I thought we ran it well when we did run the ball," he said.
Lewis had 58 yards on 10 carries, and Jerome Harrison added 31 yards on seven rushes.
As for the defensive breakdowns, they were numerous. Enough to make Sage Rosenfels look like Warren Moon.
"A lot of times you just don't know what you're going to get," Crennel said of his team. "How hard they're going to try, how hard they're going to execute, and if they're going to do the right things. If I knew the answer, I would definitely get it fixed."41.50436 -81.69046