Penalties, dropped passes, bad passes, turnovers, horrible clock management, gutless play calling, injuries, equipment malfunction and just general ineptitude. What does it add up to? Yet another loss by the Browns at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers--this in a game in which yardage and time of possession stats were nearly identical. Usually, home-field advantage swings games like this in the favor of, well, the home team. Unless that home team is the Most Depressing Team in Sports, the Cleveland Browns.
And by God are the Browns depressing, but their problems against Pittsburgh go way beyond this most recent, Sunday night 10-6 humiliation. Let's look at some of the happy facts in the recent history of this storied rivalry:
-Since their rebirth in 1999, the Browns have earned exactly ONE playoff berth, in 2003. Who was their first-round opponent? You guessed it. The Browns squandered a 24-7 third quarter lead and, worse, a 33-24 advantage with less than four minutes left in the game. The Steelers won that excruciating contest by 3, which is exactly how many times they beat the Browns that year.
-How many times have the Steelers made it to the postseason since 1999? Five, including one Super Bowl victory. Of course the road to the playoffs is a lot easier when you can basically count on two automatic wins per year.
-The Browns are about the only team that can win 10 games in a season (2007) and not make the playoffs. Why did they not qualify? In part because they lost both their games against the Steelers.
-The Browns have lost eight consecutive games at home to their arch nemesis and division foe. Overall they have lost 10 straight. Since '99 the record is 17-3 in the Steelers' favor. The Steelers beat the Browns so often and in so many ways that by now the Browns have learned to like it. On December 28th they'll be in Pittsburgh asking for another.
-The Steelers' 10 wins in a row is the longest current streak between two NFL teams.
-Which modern coach has had the most success against the Yellow and Black? Chris Palmer. Palmer had a combined overall record of 5-27 in his two years at the helm. His record against the Steelers? A sparkling 2-2. Since then it's all been downhill. Butch Davis? He was 1-8. Romeo Crennel, in seven tries, has beaten the Steelers roughly as many times as I have.
-Recent history suggests that maybe this bitter rivalry is no rivalry at all. Yet dating back to 1950 the teams are deadlocked at 55-55, revealing these teams are indeed rivals and have always been. But until the Browns start acting like a real member of the NFL by beating Pittsburgh at least once a year, they don't deserve a slot in the postseason.
The Browns have now lost two games at home to start the season. I say last year's 10 wins were a mirage, considering the ease of schedule. The schedule this time around is brutal. Romeo Crennel and Co. are beat up and battered already. Neither the offense nor the defense are working and even QB Derek Anderson's helmet radio has been malfunctioning. Fourteen games remain in which to turn it around and show the league and their infuriated fans what they're made of. Doubtful it will happen, but let's see.