Sooner or later, the Browns are going to have to help themselves out, but for now, if you want to look for reasons to keep the faith about Cleveland after a disappointing season-opening loss to Cincinnati, you could do worse than simply looking at the schedule and seeing Indianapolis as the next opponent.
The Colts' first start without Peyton Manning in the lineup since 1997 wasn't pretty. Manning's replacement, Kerry Collins, fumbled twice in the first quarter, and the Texans turned those turnovers into touchdowns. Very quickly, Houston was down 17-0. By halftime, the deficit was 34-0. The Colts didn't score until 9:17 was left, and they scored but that one touchdown and extra point in a 34-7 loss.
Little worked for the Colts. They were outgained 384-236. Their special-teams coverage units, seemingly an annual concern, gave up a punt-return touchdown. Simply put, they were overmatched by the Texans, whom they had previously defeated 16-of-18 times.
The Browns did not play well vs. the Bengals, but they did enough in all three phases to raise hope that they can improve in the weeks to come. The defense forced seven straight Cincinnati punts. RS Joshua Cribbs had a strong game. The passing game perked up in the second quarter as Cleveland scored both of its touchdowns and racked up 157 total yards.
Short of playing Indianapolis last week, Cleveland probably couldn't have picked a better time to face the Colts. Indianapolis still has some very talented veteran players on the roster and may soon find its bearings, but it figured to face an adjustment period without Manning, and the season-opening loss at Houston saw the Colts look very vulnerable.
If Indianapolis struggles again, can Cleveland capitalize? To do so, the Browns need to cut down on the mistakes that marked the 27-17 defeat to Cincinnati. Another sloppy performance would be a major disappointment — and a definite red flag.