2012 Year in Review – the Cleveland Browns – Part III
The playoffs were once again unlikely for the Browns after a dismal 2 – 6 start; an incredible run would be the only way to salvage the season. They still had half their divisional games remaining, but added pressure was put on the team as now Jimmy Haslam was voted in as the official owner of the Cleveland Browns.
Road Tested: One of the first moves (as owner) made by Haslam, was to get the franchise on TV. His wife, Dee, is the CEO of RIVR Media – a production company that owns many networks like the Travel Channel. Thus the show “Road Tested” was born on her network; the five-week show began in December 2012 and went in-depth about the Cleveland Browns. In it, players (mainly Phil Dawson) were chronicled in both their professional and personal lives. The program also delved into employees of the NFL franchise; including those who work with players’ equipment, field management, and marketing/advertising (to name a few). It gave die-hards fans and those lesser informed a chance to see how game-days work in professional football – especially off the field. Also, it recognized a few employees that had previously gone unnoticed.
Regular Season (Games 9 – 16): On the field, the Browns had another chance to exact revenge from an earlier loss. This time it was against the Ravens; the home team fell behind 14 – 0 but a few Phil Dawson field goals gave the Browns a 15 – 14 lead midway through the fourth quarter. However, Joe Flacco then lead his team on a eighty-one yard touchdown drive, and after the Browns turned the football over on downs, the Ravens clinched the win with a field goal. The contest was decided by the home team’s lack of execution in the red zone; Brandon Weeden only had 176 yards, two interceptions, and never really made an attempt to throw in the end zone. The defense definitely kept the team in the contest, but both sides of the ball must play well to win. That was not the case and the result was a disappointing 25 – 15 defeat.
Following the team’s bye week, the Dallas Cowboys were next on the schedule. All looked right as the visiting team took an early 13 – 0 advantage in Arlington, Texas. The Browns cooled off in the second half however; Ben Watson’s late touchdown (his second of the contest) was the only real offense in the second half. Weeden’s earlier fumble was negated by a Tony Romo fumble. However, another absence by Joe Haden in this contest resulted in the team’s secondary suffering and overcompensating. The Browns’ defensive backfield was flagged for multiple penalties (interference, holding, etc.), including the game-tying field goal drive in regulation. The Cowboys added another field goal in overtime to pull out a 23 – 20 win.
It was a renewal of the rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the next game. The Browns dodged a bullet, as longtime veteran Charlie Batch was the opposing quarterback; the defenders took advantage with three interceptions by Sheldon Brown, Billy Winn, and Joe Haden. The opposition could not run the football adequately either; four athletes took carries for the Steelers for a combined forty-nine yards and five fumbles. Weeden threw an important touchdown to Jordan Cameron in the first half, and Trent Richardson’s score gave the Browns the lead in the third quarter. A scoreless fourth quarter gave the home team the much needed win; the Browns survived 20 – 14.
After more than an entire calendar year, the Browns were finally in position to win a game on the road. The place was O.co Coliseum in Oakland – the opponent was the Raiders. Brandon Weeden threw for 364 yards and a nice touchdown pass to Josh Gordon (for forty-one yards) in this game; fortunately his two interceptions did not hurt too much. Despite shutting down the home team’s running game, the Raiders kept this close with their aerial attack. Tight end Brandon Myers and receiver Rod Streater combined for 226 yards and two touchdowns, but Carson Palmer’s late interception in the red zone paved the way for a game-sealing drive for the Browns (capped off by a Trent Richardson touchdown). A late score was not enough as the visitors got the 20 – 17 win.
Back-to-back wins have not been an easy accomplishment; surely three in a row would be extremely difficult. However, the Browns’ next opponent was the struggling Kansas City Chiefs – a team dealing with the Jovan Belcher tragedy. Jamaal Charles ran untouched for eighty yards and a touchdown on the first offensive play of the game; the air appeared to leave Cleveland Browns Stadium. After a goal-line stand and a field goal, the Browns completely tipped the scales their way following a ninety-three yard punt return (touchdown) by rookie Travis Benjamin. The second half was dominated by the home team; twenty points and an interception of Brady Quinn made the final score 30 – 7. It was a rare blowout, and even Colt McCoy saw playing time when the game was out of hand.
It looked like the Browns were going to catch another break, as rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III would be held out when the two faced each other. Kirk Cousins played poor initially (tossing an interceptions) but recovered well the rest of the way. The Browns held a 14 – 10 lead at the half but that disappeared quickly after Weeden’s first interception (of two). Four touchdowns later; three by the ground, and the rout was on by the Washington Redskins to the tune of 38 – 21. There was a great deal of disappointment, as the defense was dominated facing a backup rookie signal caller in his first game. The only second half points for the Browns came from a sixty-nine yard fade to Travis Benjamin in the fourth quarter.
Peyton Manning lead the Broncos to three scores and 339 yards through the air; the visitors had no response the future Hall-of-Famer. Besides getting thrown upon at-will, the Browns were bruised and battered at Sports Authority Field in Denver. Brandon Weeden was having a decent game, before being knocked out in the second half. Colt McCoy stepped in and took several sacks but also got the team in the end zone (the only time). While being completely dominated both offensively and defensively, the special teams did not help either – Josh Cribbs fumbled a punt (setting up another touchdown). When the dust settled, the Broncos scored a touchdown in every quarter and defeated the Browns by the score of 34 – 12.
It was Thaddeus Lewis who got the nod at staring quarterback in the season finale (following the injuries to Weeden and McCoy). In his first start, facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, the young quarterback had a decent outing but also made mistakes. His early interception (by Troy Polamalu) eliminated a chance to get on the scoreboard – however, Lewis was also able to tie the score in the third quarter with a touchdown pass to Greg Little. It was not enough though, as the rushing attack of Brandon Jackson and Montario Hardesty could not move the football well against the tough defense. The Browns dropped the game 24 – 10 at Heinz Field and finished the 2012 season losing their last three games.
It was yet another 5 – 11 season for the Cleveland Browns; they showed flashes of greatness, immaturity off the field, and inconsistent play. This was likely bound to happen with such a young roster. Immediately following the season, Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner wiped the slate clean – removing both coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert from their respective positions. Hopefully, the team can build off this season and take a huge jump in 2013.