CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line — Joe Haden reminded us Sunday — is probably the best in the NFL.
That is hard to argue against. It’s also beside the point.
The season is nine games old, and the Browns are just one week removed from the New York Jets rushing for 171 yards.
Wait, there’s more.
They are two games removed from the Bengals rushing for 271 and producing an offensive clinic that included a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver.
Three weeks removed from Kendall Wright going for 133 receiving yards and Marcus Mariota posting a 132.6 passer rating for Tennessee.
Four weeks from two 100-yard Patriots receivers.
Five weeks from Matt Jones rushing for 117 and Kirk Cousins completing 21 of 27 passes for Washington.
Six weeks from Miami’s Ryan Tannehill throwing for 319 and Jarvis Landry catching 120 worth of those.
Seven weeks from Joe Flacco-to-Dennis Pitta and a squandered 20-2 lead.
Eight weeks removed from another 100-yard receiving day (Jordan Matthews) and the early suggestion that Carson Wentz already looks like a Top 20 NFL quarterback.
It’s November. Christmas isn’t far off. And the Browns defense couldn’t cover a partridge or a pear tree right now.
Whatever teams do best, they do even better against the Browns’ defense.
The Browns do not do any one thing well.
Until Sunday, at least, we could at least say they lined up onsides without much problem.
All things considered, Cody Kessler has looked pretty good for the #Browns. Not sure he’s the future, but he can do some things!
— Brian Billick (@CoachBillick) November 6, 2016
The Browns had back-to-back offsides penalties when Tyrone Holmes and Xavier Cooper took turns lining up in the neutral zone.
Haden and Tramon Williams got mixed up, leading to one easy Dak Prescott TD throw. New linebacker Jamie Collins let tight end Jason Witten get behind him for another, apparently thinking he had zone help.
The Browns made Witten, 34, look 24. He finished with 134 receiving yards, his most productive day since he had 135 yards in the final game of the 2013 season.
Zeke Elliott rushed for two TDs and 92 yards. He had one carry in the fourth quarter.
“We’re not going there,” Hue Jackson said when asked about his defense. “It starts with me. It’s not just the defense. I’m not going to dump on one group.”
The Browns are the worst team in football by an unhealthy margin, in no small part because of what they are defensively under Ray Horton in his second tour of duty here.
#Browns Chris Kirksey: “We’re not going to go 0-16. That’s for a fact. We’re not going to be winless”
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) November 6, 2016
That the head coach is insistently and consistently accountable beats the alternative, I guess.
But because the responsibility should start with Jackson, he can’t get too many points for saying it does.
This is brutal. No other way to say it.
Sashi Brown said he’d be disappointed if the Browns won four games. Anybody see this group going 4-3 to finish the season? How about 1-6? If so, where’s the one?
Owner Jimmy Haslam said he’d wait until January to take the measure of things, but we know he said that betting on this team showing improvement later than sooner. Where is the improvement?
Late Thursday night in Baltimore, it will be 10 games down, six to go. It’s hardly enough for Jackson to keep saying, “We gotta get better and we will.”
His offense managed 194 yards in Sunday’s first half. In the second, the Browns gained 28.
The two themes of the season remained intact Sunday: Outplayed and outcoached in the second half. Overmatched on defense.
This was the sixth time in nine games the Browns have allowed 30 points or more. (One of those was 29 points in Philly, another 28 in Tennessee). And Sunday wasn’t Tom Brady and the Patriots.
The sense of the game was that the Cowboys of rookie Zeke Elliott and rookie Dak Prescott could’ve named their score. They led 21-10 at the half, then 35-10 at the end of three.
They scored touchdowns on five of their first seven possessions. Dallas was 4-for-5 in the red zone and 8-for-12 on third downs.
“They’re already a good team,” Williams said of the Cowboys. “When we leave them open like we did, it just makes it so much easier for them.”
The impulse is to say it doesn’t get any easier for the Browns. But it should.
After Baltimore, the Browns have home games against Pittsburgh (4-4), the Giants (5-3), Cincinnati (3-4) and San Diego (3-5). The away games are against Buffalo (4-4) and Pittsburgh.
The head coach is only one week removed from saying he sees improvement “everywhere.” Right. What else would he say?
As for showing it, time is already getting short.