Browns at Broncos – Game #15 Review
Well, the game against the Broncos was expected to be ugly and it turned out that way. The Browns managed to keep it close in the first half, but turnovers and missed assignments turned an eight-point deficit into a twenty-two-point loss. The visiting team never really had a realistic chance of winning; they surrendered an opening series touchdown and never lead in the game. Fortunately, the season comes to a close next week – hopefully the Browns can forget about this game and finish the season on a high note.
Offense: Before leaving the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury, Brandon Weeden had another decent outing. The quarterback was twelve out of nineteen for 104 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He did surrender two sacks and missed a wide-open Josh Gordon in the third quarter though (which would have been a touchdown). It would have been interesting to see how the rookie responded the remainder of the game, but the team was forced to go with his back up. Colt McCoy played the same way as he did in 2011; the veteran took four sacks and had only a 4.6-yard average over his seventeen attempts (almost a full yard less than Brandon Weeden). He was able to find the end zone though, something that has been lacking in the passing game. Overall, the quarterback position was once again not the strong suit of the Browns – it was an improvement from last week’s contest though. The team faces another strong defense in their season finale; perhaps they can pass the test.
The running game for the visitors was once again efficient but struggled to produce large totals. Rookie Trent Richardson averaged 5.9 yards per carry, but only toted the football nine times (for fifty-three yards). The next leading rusher was reserve quarterback McCoy, who picked up seventeen yards on a pair of carries. The fact that the team was continually down multiple scores put them in a position where they had to score quickly – typically by throwing the football. Also, the Broncos utilized time-consuming drives, which caused the offense of the Browns to not be on the field a long time. They felt like they were playing catch-up all game. Regardless, Shurmur and the coaching staff continue limit the team’s playmaker (Richardson) by not giving the back multiple opportunities. He and Hardesty combined for four grabs and twenty-two yards – they were not able to be active in this area.
Veteran Greg Little continues to lead the way for the receiving group of the Browns; the target came away with six grabs, fifty-eight yards, and the only touchdown for the visiting team. I have a great deal of faith he will continue to get better next season, he has gotten much better from just a few months ago. Travis Benjamin had somewhat of a productive game – the rookie had three catches and forty-six yards. His game has developed nicely as of late; the rookie from the University of Miami has displayed an ability to catch short passes and run, as well as hauling in a deep throw. Josh Gordon had an excellent conversion on third down during the first quarter but was unproductive otherwise. After several great games earlier this year, he has taken a couple of steps back. I would like to see the standout make a big play or two in their final game next week. With Jordan Cameron’s injury, the main tight end for the visitors was Ben Watson. The veteran was the second-leading receiver for three grabs and forty-seven yards. He was routinely involved in the offense (but was targeted ten times – I wish he could have put together a little more output).
I anticipated a rough outing for the offensive line, and that’s what precisely happened. The unit was a part of six sacks given up by the vaunted Broncos’ front seven. A fair amount of pressure occurred on the right edge, where Watson and Mitchell Schwartz were unable to limit Elvis Dumervil. Von Miller and Derek Wolfe were also able to get to the signal caller a couple of times. It’s very difficult trying to prevent so many athletes, whom are great at being disruptive in the passing game. I thought the offensive line did a solid job in the running game – Richardson had lanes to run when given the opportunity. The interior continues to get better as the season wears on; they have becoming a strength of the team.
Defense: Not surprisingly, the front four of the Browns’ defense was not able to harass Peyton Manning in the passing attack. The group did not record a sack and the only time the opposing signal caller was disrupted, an offensive guard ran into him. Jabaal Sheard had the most tackles for the defensive line; he appeared to be close to sacking Manning a few times but could not finish the task. Athyba Rubin had three tackles (including one for a loss), while John Hughes had a pair of stops and a pass deflected. These two were some of the main reasons why the opponent’s running attack was limited. Veteran Knowshon Moreno tallied just seventy-eight yards on twenty-two carries. He has been running well of late, but that was not the case on Sunday. The success of the passing game put a smaller emphasis on the Broncos’ reliance on running the football, however.
The combination of Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen were successful against the Browns; they had five catches and eighty-one yards between the two. The linebackers continued to allow opponents to hurt the defense. Craig Robertson had a team-high fourteen tackles for team – between defense and special teams plays. D’Qwell Jackson had nine tackles himself; the veteran is one of the most reliable players on the defense. Unfortunately, no other linebackers were active for the Browns (that may have been expected facing the passing offense of the Broncos, though). The corps need to find a player that can both cover well and produce in blitz packages – that player may not arrive for a couple of months, though.
The secondary was picked on and picked apart a majority of the contest. The main recipient of passes coming his way, was veteran Sheldon Brown. He surrendered a pair of touchdown throws in the first half – he then left the game with a head injury after colliding with Brandon Stokley. Brown’s replacement, Buster Skrine, was the next player to get tormented. He had the second-most tackles for the team with nine, but that was largely due to the fact his responsibility had the football. Trevin Wade filled in the at slot role mid-way through the game – he did an admirable job but nothing spectacular. As far as the safeties go, Usama Young may have had one of his better games of the season. The veteran finished the contest with five tackles and a pass deflected. More importantly, he intercepted Manning in the red zone just before halftime. If it were not for this, the Browns would have been in a much bigger hole than just eleven points. The announcers rarely called Joe Haden’s name; which is a good thing for the cornerback. He garnered respect from the home team and was hardly thrown at. If the team can acquire another athlete similar the to level of Haden, the Browns’ secondary will be monumentally better going forward.
Special Teams: Turnovers was the name of the game in special teams. Trindon Holliday and Jim Leonhard muffed a pair of punts for the Broncos, both of which they recovered. Josh Cribbs fumbled one punt himself, and his team was unable to recover it. Special teams were not the difference into the contest; it just created a wider margin in the final score. Both kickers were perfect in the game, and Phil Dawson booted a fifty-three yarder.
Coaching: Once again, it’s hard to fault the coaching staff when facing Peyton Manning. The quarterback is able to find opposing deficiencies and audible perfectly at the line of scrimmage. The defensive coaching staff tried their best to stop the run and put the Broncos in difficult third downs. The home team went an astounding nine out of fifteen in these scenarios, which killed the Browns’ defense. Offensively, the team went heavier with the passing game. They were simply outmanned in several areas though, they could not expect too much success in the run or pass.