Cover Story Photo: Cleveland Browns – John H. Reid III Mediocre play and vanilla game planning contributed to the Browns 31 to 13 loss to the Tennessee Titans yesterday at Cleveland Browns Stadium. After coming off a fourth quarter come back victory against the Miami Dolphins last week, the team gained a bit of swagger and confidence. Unfortunately, these attitudes didn’t affect their performance. The ragged receiving corp showed their true colors again with dropped balls on what should have been easy catches. Also adding to this trend was running back Montario Hardesty, who racked up four dropped passes. Why the Browns try and use the pass game to open up the run is beyond comprehension. With Hillis back this week after missing the last game because of strep throat and Hardesty coming off a solid performance, one would think that they would play off this strength. It’s obvious that first year head coach Pat Shurmur is dedicated to running the West Coast Offense (WCO) based on the throwing game, though he needs to take a hard look at this team and realize he is not playing to the strengths available to him. While pass first, run second is the modus operandi of the WCO, it just won’t work on this team. Hillis and Hardesty combined for just 17 carries on the day for 88 yards total on the day. What could very well be a two-headed monster of a running game has been hampered by the offense scheme. If the Browns want to win they need to grind it out. The WCO requires sure handed receivers that can catch the ball in traffic, a skill set the Browns wideouts simply don’t posses, or at least don’t demonstrate with their play. There is some talent in the passing game, mainly Josh Cribbs and Gregg Little. The rookie wideout lead all receivers with six catches for 57 yards. It is clear that he is becoming a favorite target for McCoy, which makes it baffling why he is still not starting. Number one wideout Brian Robiskie contributed three catches for 25 yards. That brings his season total to three catches for 25 yards, great numbers from who should be the main target for the quarterback. What a bum. McCoy finished the day with a deceptive 350 yards with a touchdown and interception. The interception was returned for a touchdown, which helped put the game further out of reach. Fans will likely start calling for McCoy to be sat if the Browns continue to struggle on offense, something that may not be justified, as the current lineup isn’t offering him much in the way of talent or help. The offense’s dismal performance could also be attributed to the Titans’ league leading defense. It would be hard to say that the Browns should have matched up better against them. Tennessee picked apart all of offenses weakness from the poor receivers to the weak play on the right side of the offense line. McCoy and Co. did seem to get it going in the fourth quarter, but by then the game was out of reach. In fact during the only touchdown drive for the Browns, which came on a 10 yard pass to tight end Benjamin Watson, Tennessee backup QB Jake Locker was warming up on the sidelines. This is a testament to the job that veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck did today, going 10 out of 20 with 220 yards and three touchdowns. Titans’ running back Chris Johnson had his best game of the season against what was the ninth best defense in the league, though it didn’t look like it. Johnson racked up 102 yards on 23 carries. A quarter of this total came on a 25 yard scamp through the Browns defense. Former Browns’ head coach and current Titans’ offensive coordinator Chris Palmer absolutely played off the Dawgs defensive weaknesses, targeting the safeties and the weaker players in the line backing core. With the Browns going into the by-week at .500, fans may be moaning and groaning, but they should look at it realistically. In a rebuilding year, with major holes in the both the offense and defense, the team has showed some sparks and a small core of talent. Hopefully going forward the team can continue to build on these strengths through the draft. The team is turning it around, but you can’t expect a complete turn over in one year. Fans need to realize this and hope that we don’t see another new head coach and QB change before the team gets the chance to fully develop. If the Browns can address the gaps in talent they have the potential to contend in the aging AFC North, maybe not this year, maybe even not next, but soon.