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Opening Day Downer: Browns Lose in Sloppy Performance Against Bengals

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 11: Head coach Pat Shurmur of the Cleveland Browns reacts to an officials call against the Browns during the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium during a season opener on September 11, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Browns 27-17. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Daymon JohnsonCorrespondent ISeptember 11, 2011

Ultimately, the game started the way it would end. 

With more a whimper than a bang.

With heightened expectations going into the 2011 season, Cleveland fans have been waiting for today since the train left the station on Mangini last season.

However, Cleveland fans would see more of what they've seen since the expansion than anything to hang their proverbial hats on.

Today's performance by the Browns can be only be classified with one word: sloppy.

Cleveland struggled all day to get into a rhythm and create something sustainable and successful, and not just on one, but both sides of the ball.

Defensively, Cleveland looked out of sorts, and seemed to still be picking up on Jauron's system while committing numerous penalties.

Perhaps the low defensive point for the day was the play that ultimately sealed the fate of the Browns. 

That being the connection from the rookie QB Andy Dalton to fellow newbie WR A.J. Green when the Browns, for whatever reason, were still in the huddle when Cincinnati's offense was at the line and Joe Haden was nowhere near the play.

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 11: Linebacker Rey Maualuga #58 of the Cincinnati Bengals tackles Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns during the fourth quarter at Cleveland Browns Stadium during a season opener  on September 11, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. T
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Why was that call so delayed in getting in? Why wasn't there a timeout called? Why wasn't the Browns defense in position? Many questions....no answers.

Offensively, the Browns looked as in rhythm as a one-man band after sipping a few too many barley pops.

The offensive game plan looked to be out of sync from the beginning, with Cleveland committing several false starts and looking generally unprepared and a bit skittish.

There seemed to be no cohesiveness or logic in the game plan itself, and Shurmur (who's also calling the plays) is directly responsible for that and has to be held accountable.

Honestly, I think the the question that many Browns fans have to be asking is: "Where was Hillis?"

The answer? Blocking more than he was running.

Admittedly, I didn't see Hillis becoming the back he did last season, but, since he did develop into a top-tier running back, Cleveland needs to use him as such.

Hillis got only 17 touches from out of the backfield. Conversely, MJD, received (in a concerted effort to keep him fresh by the Jags) 24 carries while his backup, Deji Karim, got 14 carries.

Other notables: Ray Rice received 20 carries; Jahvid Best received 21 carries; Fred Jackson got 20 carries; and Cedric Benson received 25 carries. By the way, did I mention all of them were on the winning team on Sunday?

Other elite level RB's had fewer touches, such as LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte, but they're major factors in the receiving game, and Hillis was not today for the Browns.

Was that by design, or for other reasons? In my mind, I think involving him more is a must and the fact that he didn't get 20 combines touches has to be a source of concern for Browns fans.

Shurmur must use the weapons at his disposal effectively in order for Cleveland to have a fighter's chance in the AFC North this year. And, that means using Hillis more effectively and involving guys like Greg Little and Cribbs more often.

It's still far to early for anyone to be calling for Shurmur's head, alas, that's already happened some places. And, what happens in Week 2 remains to be seen.

Suffice to say, however, that if Shurmur doesn't have a better game plan next week, it could be another long day for the Browns one week from today when they travel to Indianapolis.

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