Browns @ Vikings – Game #3 Review
After an exasperating and trying week, the Browns pulled out a victory during a nail-biter against the Vikings in Minnesota. There were trick plays, a muffed punt, and several turnovers – I experienced several highs and lows during the contest. Hopefully the Browns can take this momentum going forward, as they have two critical home games in the coming weeks. Having said that, let’s take a look back to Chud’s first NFL victory as a head coach.
Offense: Brian Hoyer definitely got the green light from the coaching staff; the veteran let it rip fifty-four times in the Metrodome. Some were great tosses, while others went to defenders; all told the signal caller completed thirty throws for three touchdowns and three interceptions. He was decisive and displayed great touch on a couple of tosses. The rapport with both Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon was fun to watch. His interceptions are a bit disconcerting, especially due to the fact that the ball was not tipped and was simply thrown poorly. If Hoyer can clean this up (and the mistakes turn out to be due to rust), he can really put together a good season. I don’t know if Weeden will get the nod when his hand heals, but I hope the former Michigan State star makes it tough to for Chud to put back in the incumbent at quarterback.
Taking away the fake punt, the Browns were only able to get roughly seventy yards on the ground. One could argue that the team was sorely missing Trent Richardson, but I doubt he would have made such a difference. The Browns (in keeping with today’s NFL) are employing a pass-first offense, sprinkled with several rushes to keep defenses honest. Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey each had a nice carry, while Willis McGahee was not surprisingly bottled up. Perhaps the veteran needs a few games to get back into rhythm? I do not envision the running attack gashing defenses this season – hopefully they can make a key play in a tight game however.
Targeted nineteen times, Josh Gordon hauled in ten passes for 146 yards and a long touchdown. The Baylor wide out definitely stood out as the best weapon for the offense, and his presence proved to be monumental. I really hope the team holds onto him for the future; he is a talented athlete who opponents have to game plan for. I really liked the acquisition of Davone Bess – he did his job perfectly as he helped to convert multiple third downs in the game (and finished with seven grabs for sixty-seven yards). The team finished six of fifteen on third downs, a huge improvement from the two prior weeks. As the third receiver, Greg Little had a pedestrian game. The North Carolina star just had three receptions for nineteen yards, but he did not drop a pass (which has been commonplace).
Facing a tough defensive front with one of the best sack artists in Jared Allen, I had my worries about the offensive line’s chances. However, under the leadership of Joe Thomas, the men upfront played well. Giving up three sacks is not stellar, but with fifty-four passing attempts, and it is more than manageable. None of the five linemen got blown off the snap or were defeated by their opponent. Hopefully this test will prepare the group for the next two weeks – they face some solid competition in Cincinnati and Buffalo.
Defense: I’m still in love with the way the Browns’ defensive line dominates. They held Adrian Peterson to under 100 yards on the ground and routinely put pressure during passing attempts. I was also glad to see Ahtyba Rubin return from his calf injury, the defensive line only got deeper. The tackle totals were down from their regular amounts, as Desmond Bryant, John Hughes, and Rubin led the group with three stops. Four of the team’s six sacks came from guys up front – I was glad to see both John Hughes and Billy Winn take down Ponder. Ray Horton’s defense was expected to take a few games for the team to gel, but fortunately it has been immediate (at least for the front three).
As expected, the trio of outside linebackers excelled in this game. Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard (who left the game with a knee injury) combined for seven stops and a pair of sacks. With Sheard and Groves being injured, depth will be tested over the next couple games. Someone will get their opportunity, maybe Paul Hazel, or there’s a chance that Horton will employ more four-men fronts. Paul Kruger has played well at times this year, but he must be close to dominant with only he and Mingo to play a majority of the game. D’Qwell Jackson led the team with ten stops, while Craig Robertson tipped a throw leading to an interception and recovered a fumble. It’s safe to say the linebackers had a solid contest.
I was really surprised by the play of both Buster Skrine and Chris Owens. Each of the cornerbacks has surrendered long gainers this season, but they defended the pass well on Sunday. Skrine had two deflections – plays like those can really elevate the entire defense. Ward’s interception was huge, as it thwarted the home team’s attempt the stretch their lead. The secondary did allow a couple of good throws by Ponder, which will occur, but they played well enough to put the team in a spot to win. I would like to see the rookie Leon McFadden finally get some playing time – it may come at points when the contest is not close, but it would still be good for the coaches to evaluate him during the regular season.
Special Teams: What can you say about decisions made by Chud and special teams’ coach Chris Tabor. A fake punt and a fake field goal occurred for the Browns on Sunday – one that lead to a first down conversion and eventually a field goal, while the other produced a touchdown. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Eric Mangini days; those two plays were the difference in the contest. I cannot wait to see future tricks up their sleeves. The only downside in this department was the muff of Travis Benjamin late in the second quarter. These cannot happen in the NFL and fortunately the defense raised up to force a fumble. I’m hoping it was a one-time thing and Benjamin produces next Sunday.
Coaching: I really liked the play calls on both sides of the football for the visiting team; Horton was able to bring pressure and took down Ponder on multiple occasions. The defense got burned a few times on running plays by the quarterback; these were not anticipated but I wish the Browns were better prepared. All things considered, the Browns were coached excellently and proved to be the better team on the field.