A solid hit by a Titans DB on 4th and long solidified the playoff picture. Tennessee held on to beat the Colts 16-10 and move onto the playoffs, leaving the Browns at home. Who's to blame? Derek Anderson, for throwing away the Bengals game in week 16? The Colts, for resting their starters and refusing to use their last timeout to get the ball back?
I say neither. The Colts were obviously looking out for their best interests. If you want to be shortsighted and pick one moment that cost the Browns their season, you have plenty to choose from. Blame the defense, or coordinator Todd Grantham, for letting the Steelers come back. Blame the line for letting the Raiders block that last-second field goal. Blame the coaching staff and front office for naming Charlie Frye the week 1 starter; if Anderson had started that week, maybe he would have been better prepared against the Raiders. Heck, if you want to be more perverse, blame Frye for playing so well in the preseason and beating out Anderson.
In the grand scheme of things, seasons never really come down to one moment. Besides, there are many positives to take away from this season. At the beginning of the season, 8-8 looked like a stretch for this team, much less 10-6. Any team or fan would be and should be absolutely ecstatic that a first-year starting QB only has two bad starts. Yeah, the Browns went 10-6 by playing the weakest schedule in the conference. But now they have a young, hungry team that believes they can win.
Things look good in Cleveland. Sure, the Cavs need to work out a few kinks. (I'm from the school of thought that if you're not the most talented team in the league, you just need to put forth more effort than anyone else. Then again, I'm not an NBA coach.) Baseball Think Factory's ZiPS projections have some nice things to say about the 2008 Indians. I agree that they're a trade or two away from surpassing the likes of the Red Sox and Tigers in the AL. So again, optimism is the word in Cleveland.