Snap Judgments for Week 9
After falling to 3-5, it is now time that the Browns start Brady Quinn at quarterback
The Titans' Chris Johnson is becoming the favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year
The best quarterback in the AFC East is currently Matt Cassel or Chad Pennington
INDIANAPOLIS -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from Week 9 as we await a Patriots-Colts showdown that features much more "down'' than we're used to in recent years.....
Last year, the unheralded Derek Anderson seemed like the NFL story that was too good to be true. Alas, this year we've found out that it was. I imagine by now, sitting 3-5 at midseason and falling farther and farther out of the AFC North race, the Cleveland Browns know what they have to do. They have to start Brady Quinn at quarterback. They have to use the second half of this once-highly anticipated but ultimately disappointing 2008 season to find out what they have in their 2007 first-round pick.
That's the reality that should be dawning on Browns head coach Romeo Crennel after watching his club blow a 27-13 late-third quarter lead at home against Baltimore, which scored the game's final 24 points to win 37-27 and sweep the season series against their bitter division rivals.
The collapse against the Ravens was hardly Anderson's fault alone, but he certainly can't be absolved of blame. Anderson finished 17 of 33 for 219 yards passing, with a pair of touchdowns. But when Cleveland needed him most, he was at his absolute worst.
After taking a 27-13 lead on a 7-yard Anderson touchdown pass to Jason Wright with 6:13 left in the third quarter, the next five Cleveland possessions produced four three-and-outs, and a game-sealing interception of Anderson by Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who returned the pick 42 yards for a touchdown and Baltimore's final 10-point of victory. More than anything, I think that incredibly ill-advised pass, which was intended for Wright with 2:52 remaining, is going to be the mistake that costs Anderson his starting job.
On those five Browns drives, when the Ravens were grabbing what for Cleveland was a must-win game by the throat, Anderson navigated the Browns offense for all of a combined 22 yards. And sadly for Browns fans, that's nothing new. This season, Anderson has completed less than 50 percent of his passes (121 of 243, or 49.8 percent), with just nine touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a quarterback rating in the high 60s.
Quinn at this point deserves a chance to see if he can inject some life into a Browns passing game that entered Sunday's Week 9 ranked 26th among the NFL's 32 teams, averaging just 167.9 yards per game. Cleveland has been more than patient with Anderson, but his inability to take advantage of a Baltimore secondary that was ravaged by injuries in Week 9 should be the final straw.
Cleveland just slipped to 1-3 in the AFC North, and now has lost twice by double digits to a Ravens team that won just five games last season and hired a rookie head coach in John Harbaugh. Crennel's team is now two full games and the head-to-head tiebreaker behind Baltimore, firmly entrenched in third place in the division. That's not the way the story was supposed to go this season for the Browns, whose 10-win renaissance of 2007 now seems like a cruel set up to disappointment this time around.
The Browns should start Brady Quinn next week at home against the Broncos, a team that can definitely be thrown against. Maybe Cleveland can still salvage some of 2008, and find out if its future lies in Quinn's hands. Anderson's Cinderella story looks over in Cleveland, and the page is waiting to be turned.
Rookie running back Chris Johnson completely took over for Tennessee in overtime against Green Bay, gaining 45 of the 55 yards that the Titans gained on their game-winning field goal drive. The unbeaten 8-0 Titans have such faith in the former East Carolina star that they called his number on six of the nine plays from scrimmage that preceded Rob Bironas' 41-yard field goal.
In a season in which there are plentiful Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates -- at quarterback, receiver and running back -- Johnson is rapidly becoming the overwhelming favorite to take home the hardware. He touched the ball 30 times against Green Bay, and produced 161 yards and a touchdown.
Put this Buffalo loss -- the most troubling of the season -- squarely on quarterback Trent Edwards' shoulder pads. The second-year starter fumbled at his own 6 yard line, resulting in a Jets field goal, threw an interception at the Jets 8 that was returned 92 yards for a touchdown by New York reserve safety Abram Elam, and shortly thereafter led another drive that failed to convert a fourth-and-1 from New York's 8.
At the moment, the best quarterback in the AFC East is either New England's Matt Cassel or Miami's Chad Pennington. But it isn't Edwards or Jets legend Brett Favre, who threw another interception that was returned for a touchdown Sunday in Buffalo.
If Kyle Orton is out any length of time with the right ankle injury that forced him to the locker room just before halftime of Chicago's comeback win over Detroit, the Bears' chances of making some playoff noise in the NFC North just took a significant nose dive.
There's good Rex Grossman and bad Rex Grossman, as we all have come to realize. But the Grossman who filled in for Orton in the second half -- completing nine of 19 passes for 58 yards, with one touchdown and one interception -- looked too much like the old Rex Grossman to me.