The Browns’ 6-3 victory over the Seahawks in Week 7 could not have sent fewer shock waves through the football universe. At bars and restaurants across the country, crowds drank and laughed and made lifelong memories watching absolutely anything except the perverse Punt, Block, and Kick competition that brought Seattle’s preposterous excuse for a professional football team to ever-blustery Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday.
For those unfortunate enough to be Browns or Seahawks fans and actually watch the game, there were plenty of entertaining moments. They just weren’t really football moments.
There was the fact that coming into the game, the Browns’ fan base was positively giddy at the prospect of our team potentially rising to .500 despite having produced basically no memorable plays in seven weeks of NFL football (in their defense, they were off two weeks ago, which means they have now gone a week without fumbling a snap. We think.)
There was the odd though unsurprising statistical anomaly that the combined record of the Browns’ two previous victims, the Dolphins and the Colts, was 0-12. There was the fact that both Browns RB Peyton Hillis and Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (the alleged strength of both alleged offenses) were inactive, giving fans of both teams a perverse reason for hope.
There was the actual game, of course, which wasn’t so much entertaining as it was sad and troubling. The game’s one impressive play - a long punt return that was the result of a fantastically blown punt coverage - was called back for a questionable block in the back penalty on Kennard Cox. The highlight crews savaged the call, not because it was THAT bad but because they knew it was their one chance to call a touchdown in this waste pit of a game.
Pete Carroll looked perplexed as always, most of all as he watched Sidney Rice step out of bounds for no reason after catching the ball at the Browns’ ten yard line. The Browns secondary had completely lost track of Rice for about ten seconds, allowing him to get the ball on a ponderous rollout and lazy throw by Whitehurst.
In the end, the Browns somehow held on for a 6-3 win despite the fact that the most exciting offensive play they produced was a thirteen-yard zonebuster to TE Alex Smith on 3rd and 3 from their own 24 (and if you didn’t watch the game, no, I am not exaggerating.) Despite the fact that they allowed the same DT to block two different chip-shot field goals by coming unblocked up the middle. Despite the fact that they are the worst team in NFL History to do it, the Browns are 3-3.
“Wait, What?!?!” you say. “The Browns are no great shakes, but the worst?” Consider the evidence, dear fellow Dawgs.
The gold standard for quick-and-dirty statistical comparison of modern NFL teams is the Yards Per Pass Ratio, that is, the difference between how many yards a team’s offense expects to gain on a pass play and how many yards that team’s defense expects to give up when its opponents pass.
The Browns gain 5.5 yards per pass attempt in 2011 - that’s last in the league. Only the Jaguars are similar at 5.6 - even the winless 30th-ranked Rams gain six yards per attempt.
Meanwhile Browns’ opponents have gained 6.6 yards per pass against them. That’s not too bad - good for about seventh in the league, in fact. But the spread - 1.1 yards per attempt - is very bad, worse than any other team with three or more wins this season.
But as my hyperintelligent readers no doubt know, we have to take opponent strength into account. So have the Browns played a lot of tough pass defenses? On the contrary - of the six teams the Browns have played, only the Bengals have a decent pass defense. Seattle is about average, while the other four - the Raiders, Colts, Dolphins, and Titans - are among the easiest teams in the league to throw on.
So despite their current position at the bottom of the Yards Per Pass ratio, it’s likely the Browns passing performance has been even worse than that. It’s quite possible we’ve just watched one of the worst pass offenses in NFL history win three out of six games.
Should we be upset about this, Dawgs? I, for one, say no. I say this is like that moment when your buddy is at the blackjack table, halfway through his ninth rum and coke, and he’s doing everything wrong but he just keeps hitting card after card after card. At first you try to convince him to quit while he’s ahead, but after a while you realize, you’ve just got to let it ride. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? Humiliation? Ruin? Intense nausea? Not like he hasn’t been there before.
The Browns are already one of the least impressive teams ever to go 3-3 in the NFL. Now we get to root for them to become the worst team ever to make the playoffs. Why not? I won’t say life’s good, but I will say I’m interested in what the Browns do in Week 8. These days that might be just about as good as it gets.