Review of Game #5 – Browns @ Giants
Well the quick start did not help the Browns get their first win of the season. The young team jumped out to an early fourteen-point lead, but mistakes and turnovers allowed the defending champs back in the game. Two things that were reinforced (to me) during this contest were that the Browns have the talent to play with any team and inconsistencies will continue on a weekly basis for the franchise.
Offense: Looking at Brandon Weeden’s stats (291 yards passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions); it appears the quarterback had a fairly good outing. This was true for the most part, but a couple mistakes cost the team dearly. Driving the team down the field with a seven-point lead, the signal caller threw an interception (on third down and one) – this was returned several yards and set up a Giants’ touchdown. As stated previously, this team is not good enough to overcome errors like this and still get a victory. On a positive note, Weeden threw a couple of nice passes – including a sixty-two yard touchdown (it feels like forever since we have seen one of these). It is evident that the Browns are a pass-first team; the offense is reliant upon the quarterback’s ability to move the ball. The Browns have shown indications of success here this season – however, other deficiencies of the team have made it difficult for sustained success.
Another stellar outing occurred for Trent Richardson – this has been the norm, even though the rookie had fewer than twenty carries once again. He tallied eighty-one yards (averaging almost five yards a run) and also had five receptions for forty-seven yards. It seems automatic that the rookie will account for over one hundred total yards every game; he appears to be the most reliable player on the offensive unit. I wish the team had given him a few more carries in the first half (when they had a lead). Richardson was running hard and getting several yards on each handoff. Chris Ogbonnaya had an average game, with three receptions for forty-seven yards. He continues to help the team, even if it is not by a huge sum. Hopefully, the reduced number of carries will help the pair of backs later on in 2012; less wear-and-tear will mean the duo might maintain their health throughout the season. This has not been the case the last couple of years.
With Mohammed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin sitting out, the wide receiver who stepped up and made an impact was rookie Josh Gordon. The former Baylor athlete had only two catches, but they accumulated eighty-two yards and a pair of scores. Fans might have finally seen his ability to make a big play, as he hauled in the long touchdown pass in the first quarter. Jordan Norwood was thrown to nine times and caught all of them for eighty-one yards. He improved greatly from last week and proved he can be a viable receiver in the NFL. The injuries and up-and-down play from others caused the team to use Norwood – I hope this continues the remainder of the season, even while others are available. Once again, second-year veteran Greg Little came away without a reception. I’m not sure how he breaks out of this apparent “sophomore slump”, but he is killing the potential of this offense when he is not making any plays.
The offensive line has put together two solid performances back-to-back; the unit did not allow a sack of Brandon Weeden on Sunday. They also provided openings for Trent Richardson to run through – the guys upfront have improved vastly over the past month. They will continue to be relied upon if the offense is expected to move the ball efficiently and score points. Joe Thomas had a tough matchup with Jason Pierre-Paul but limited the stand out for the most part (two tackles and one pass deflection). What is frustrating, is the continued lack of production during third down and short yardage to gain – once again Richardson was stuffed on third and two (leading to a field goal). This likely lead to the play call of a pass on the next third and one – and the resulting ill-fated turnover. If the team cannot convert these regularly, they will have to come up with a surprise play call and “outthink” their opponent. This is what occurred, but the Browns were unable to catch the Giants off guard and it cost them.
Defense: The Browns’ defensive front (collectively) may have played their worst game of the season; not only did the unit fail to garner a sack of Eli Manning, but they allowed the Giants to run the football with ease. Ahmad Bradshaw had two hundred yards on thirty carries – shades of the 2011 defense were there (and that is not a good thing). Ahtyba Rubin had the best game (statistically) of the defensive lineman with five tackles but left the game with an injury. If he is unable to play next week, the defense will definitely suffer against the Bengals. Billy Winn, Jabaal Sheard, and John Hughes all took a step back from the prior week – they each had a few tackles but were unable to make a big play the entire contest. Lack of production and surrendering many yards caused the team to play reserves Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Emmanuel Stephens, who played just as average as the rest. Expect to see a healthy rotation of lineman over the next few weeks, while the team endures a long, physical season.
This same will likely occur in the linebacker unit as well; D’Qwell Jackson left the Giants game with a concussion. The veteran was having a decent game (with five tackles), but like most of the front seven, did not stand out during the contest. L.J. Fort and Craig Robertson recorded ten and seven tackles respectively, although some of those occurred on special teams. These two, along with Scott Fujita and James Michael-Johnson, may have to play more than they have been recently (depending on Jackson’s availability). They were somewhat effective in the passing game; tight end Martellus Bennett was limited to three catches for thirty yards. The linebackers have shown this season they can play well overall; it was not evident in New Jersey, but perhaps they can get back on track next week.
The secondary will get a shot in the arm with Joe Haden returning next Sunday; Eli Manning and Victor Cruz tormented the Browns’ cornerbacks (sans Haden) all game long. Dimitri Patterson’s injury did not help things either – depth is being tested and the Giants exploited their opponent’s weakness. Buster Skrine accrued nine tackles and had three pass deflections, but he gave up several receptions as well. Veteran Sheldon Brown had a quiet game – he was not asked to be in one-on-one situations however (thus avoiding a potential “big play”). Usama Young tied Fort with the team-high ten tackles, as well as a pass deflected, and an interception. He appeared to be the only bright spot of the secondary; T.J. Ward played so-so and the team threw in rookie Johnson Bademosi (who made a play or two) while Tashaun Gipson was unable to play due to injury. Hopefully the Browns learned, from their first meeting, how to defend their upcoming opponent; if not, it could be another tough outing for the secondary.
Special Teams: Following an interception and a touchdown surrendered by the team, the Browns had no margin for error. Josh Cribbs’ fumble on the ensuing kick return really hurt the team – this was magnified by the impending touchdown scored by the Giants. Otherwise, the veteran had a few nice returns. The Browns’ kicking and coverage units consistently did their job, but the special teams will be remembered, in this game, for the mistake than their positives.
Coaching: Again, it’s easy to second-guess the play calling by Pat Shurmur when the team is losing. Whether the team runs or passes, they must execute and eliminate errors. This did not occur a couple of times and the team suffered as a result. Defensively, the team simply could not compete with the Giants – it did not matter whether Manning threw the ball or if Bradshaw carried it, the Browns were giving up yards.