Pondering the many ‘what-ifs’

Posted Nov 18, 2013

Senior Editor Vic Carucci says the Browns’ 41-20 loss to the Bengals was hard to swallow because of all of the “what-ifs” it left to be pondered. The biggest? Keep reading.

The Browns’ loss to the Bengals Sunday felt like a hard punch to the gut because of the many what-ifs we all were left to ponder.

It’s a long list that starts with … what if the Browns got a touchdown rather than a field goal after Joe Haden’s first interception put them in business at the Cincinnati 14?

And what if Jason Campbell doesn’t throw the interception late in the first quarter, with the Browns holding a 13-0 lead and owning momentum?

And what if the Browns don’t allow the virtual unthinkable: Not one, but two, punts that get touched by Bengal players behind the line, including a fully blocked punt that is returned for a touchdown?

And what if Chris Ogbonnaya doesn’t cough up the ball after a pass, resulting in another touchdown return by Cincinnati?

And what if Campbell doesn’t miss a wide-open Jordan Cameron for a touchdown and generally plays with a level of competence – not greatness, but competence – that he displayed through his first two starts?

You ask these questions because nothing about the way the Bengals performed should have allowed them to win by a point, let alone by the lopsided score of 41-20.

The Browns’ defense couldn’t have done a whole lot better than limit Andy Dalton to a paltry 93 passing yards and intercept him twice. It couldn’t have done a whole lot better than hold A.J. Green, one of the best receivers in the NFL, to two catches for seven yards. It couldn’t have done a whole lot better than contain the Bengals’ running game to an average of 3.4 yards per carry. And it certainly couldn’t have done a whole lot better than permit the Bengals to convert only one of 14 third downs.

Numbers such as those should have told the story about a Browns victory.

In fact, they should have been the reason for a double-digit Browns triumph.

Which leads us to the biggest what-if of them all.

What if the Browns had won? What if they had swept the season series against the Bengals? What if they had moved to within a half-game of first place in the AFC North on the same day one of their other division rivals, the Ravens, lost?

We would all be getting a little bit crazy, staring at a much more realistic-looking picture in our collective mind about the Browns in the playoffs. We would all be feeling an even greater sense of anticipation for this Sunday’s game against the Steelers and all of the remaining games for that matter.

With six games left, it is still too early to count the Browns out of anything.

But for the two weeks leading up to Sunday’s game, the thought of leaving Paul Brown Stadium with a 5-5 record gave us all some fun fodder for our dreams.

And that is why the loss hurts a little bit more than the five others the Browns suffered this season.

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