Review of Game #13 – Chiefs at Browns
This was what Browns’ fans finally wanted to see – a great all-around game against an inferior opponent. It didn’t look pretty early, but the team was able to rally and play excellent from then on. It was more than refreshing to see the Browns win comfortably – this has been foreign to the organization but now it only perpetuates the belief the team is continuing to improve. Hopefully the team fares well against better opponents in the final three weeks.
Offense: Brandon Weeden had a good game for the Browns; the rookie threw for over two hundred yards in the victory. Fortunately, he did not turn the ball over but was close a couple of times (the Chiefs dropped a pair of interceptions). Once again, the signal caller put together a performance that can win many football games in the NFL – excelling at his strengths continues to be the key for him. On the three sacks he took, Weeden was able to hug the football and eliminate the opportunity for a costly fumble. One thing that went against the quarterback was his inability to get more players involved in the passing game; only five members on the team recorded a reception. However, the team’s two top playmakers made their mark. Weeden continues to let the athleticism and ability of Greg Little and Josh Gordon be displayed.
It was not flashy, but Trent Richardson got the job done on Sunday. The rookie carried the football for only forty-two yards but was able to find the end zone twice against the Chiefs. He consistently ran hard and carried the pile during a couple of rushes. Fortunately the team has talent in other areas where they are not exclusively reliant on the running game (to the point where they do not need huge yardage totals). Montario Hardesty had a solid game as well; he tallied ten carries for a team-high fifty-two yards. His long run was great for the offense, but it also displayed his lack of breakaway speed. Nonetheless, the veteran was a great complement to the running attack. The receiving game did not really include the running backs though; Richardson had one grab for nine yards (he did have a touchdown called back for offensive interference) while Hardesty dropped the only pass headed his way. Hopefully the group can rack up the stats in the upcoming weeks; for now, the duo was at least efficient in the team’s victory.
I loved seeing the Browns calling multiple plays for their two top targets; both Gordon and Little got involved regularly in the passing game. The rookie (Gordon) was able to haul in eight passes for eighty-six yards, while the veteran came away with four receptions for sixty-nine yards. Little’s thirty-four yard catch-and-run was huge for the offense – these types of plays are definitions of growth (both individually and for the team). His toss sweep was also big; the third down conversion was successful and set up one of Richardson’s touchdowns. The tight ends were not as involved in the game plan as they have in the past few meetings. The combo of Ben Watson and Jordan Cameron combined for just four receptions and fifty-three yards. They both have been rather consistent, but the opportunities were limited during a majority of the game.
The offensive line had a poor first half but was able to rally in the latter stages of the game. The unit gave up three sacks (for a loss of nineteen yards) in the first two quarters; Weeden was not taken down during the second half of the game though. Tamba Hali seemed to be the only dominant force for the Chiefs’ defensive line – the veteran got around Ben Watson and Joe Thomas a couple of times and led his team with two sacks. Other than that, there were not many negatives for the offensive line. The group allowed two running backs to have decent days; along with opening holes near the goal line. This offensive line was able to bounce back after a slow start; things will not get easier over the next few weeks but it’s comforting to know they can make the necessary in-game adjustments.
Defense: It may have taken two quarters and a few scores by the offense, but the defensive line did a fine job of putting pressure on Brady Quinn late in the game. Ends Frostee Rucker, Jabaal Sheard, and Juqua Parker each came away with a sack of the opposing quarterback. They are playing the way many were expecting they would – granted, it was not against a tremendous opponent, but they made the most of their opportunities. The same could not be said against the rush however. Surrendering an opening-play eighty-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles, and the defense’s spirit was destroyed. Fortunately, the Browns were able to regroup and shut out the visitors, but Charles continued to compile his statistics. The veteran had 165 yards on the ground and could have had more carries, if the game was closer. The Browns’s defense must clean this up and play better against the run in the coming weeks. They will face solid athletes and not shutting them down could lead to the end of their winning streak.
The linebackers for the Browns played rather well on Sunday. Veterans D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Robertson each totaled seven tackles and seemed to always be around the football. (Robertson added a few stops on special teams as well). Additionally, Kaluka Maiava and James-Michael Johnson did not disappoint either. Maiava was in on a sack and Johnson finished the contest with four tackles – depth has been key at this position group. Limiting tight end Tony Moeaki to just one catch and ten yards was the one of the highlights for the linebackers. The opponent has been dependable this year, but the Browns were able to blanket the veteran all game long.
Joe Haden had four tackles for the Browns – the veteran did not have a great game and allowed a couple of longer receptions. Fortunately though, he contained Dwayne Bowe; the star only had one long gain on Sunday. Sheldon Brown did not record a tackle for the team but was able to bat a pass upward leading to an interception. This recipient was Tashaun Gipson, an undrafted rookie – his twenty-three yard return paved the way for a field goal. T.J. Ward was in on four tackles for the defense, he was also able to get a key pass deflection around the goal line. The fact that the team held the Chiefs to a field goal opportunity (in that series) was huge for the defense. The game may have been completely different if the ball had bounced a different way. Nonetheless, the secondary was not very active on Sunday – simply because they were rarely tested.
Special Teams: Well, special teams did not single-handedly win the game for the Browns, but it helped them garner their sizeable margin of victory. Ryan Succop’s miss on a short (twenty-seven yard) attempt was huge – he could have made it 10-0 at one point for the visitors. Travis Benjamin’s punt return for a touchdown was a game changer; the ninety-three yarder gave the home team a lead, which was not relinquished. I though Reggie Hodges had a decent game; once again he was out-kicked by his counterpart, but Dustin Colquitt did not dominate either.
Coaching: The Browns’ run-pass balance was relatively fair in this contest. The staff handed the ball off to a pair of backs (and two receivers), employed the wildcat, and Brandon Weeden tossed thirty passes. I liked the out routes and quick slants – the team was able to move the football and get themselves out of tough situations. Again, when you win a contest by twenty-three points, it’s hard to criticize the team’s play calling; Shurmur and Jauron did fine jobs of putting the offense and defense, respectively, in the best situation for success. This is all fans can ask for; the team dominated and are now on a three-game winning streak!