Lions @ Browns – Game #6 Review
It was a tale of two halves on Sunday – the Browns played well in the first two quarters but not so much after halftime. The home team was plagued by poor officiating, an inability to pressure Matt Stafford, and costly mistakes on offense. The all-around frustrating game was one that Browns’ fans have been used to; the Lions adjusted well to the Browns during halftime, and the same could not be said the other way. The Browns now go on the road for two very difficult battles – but let’s first look back at the defeat they incurred yesterday.
Offense: In order to be a franchise quarterback, one must possess a couple of qualities. A few of these are resiliency, smart decision-making, and leadership. As is stands, Brandon Weeden does not have any of those traits. Once the signal caller gets into trouble, he has difficulty letting go of his interceptions and bad plays. Weeden made a terrible throw down the sideline in the first half and made one of the worst throws I have ever seen. His attempt at a shovel pass to go out of bounds was caught by the Lions and killed a good drive. The guy behind the center finished with 292 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns, but it was more about the plays he could not make. I was surprised the coaching staff put the game in the quarterback’s hands in the second half; the running game had its moments and should have been relied upon more.
Willis McGahee and Chris Ogbonnaya totaled sixty-one yards on just fifteen carries. I thought the duo played hard on Sunday, given their limited roles. Ogbonnaya also was on the receiving end of a touchdown pass from Weeden. Again, I would have liked to see these guys employed a bit more after halftime, but obviously the coaching staff disagreed. Hopefully, that will not be the case in future contests. I liked seeing Travis Benjamin and MarQueis Gray get a crack at toting the football. Both excelled and combined for fifty-five yards on a pair of rushes. What has been frustrating is the smart “gadget plays” employed by Chud and Turner, while the coaches stray away from simple running plays.
Josh Gordon had an excellent game – the number one wide out collected seven receptions for 126 yards. I enjoyed seeing first down throws to the Baylor star; he was able to catch, run, and move the sticks (with ease). Following several quiet games, Greg Little found the end zone in this contest. He only had two grabs, but it should have been three as his sideline grab was nullified – a play that appeared to be successful during the booth review. Weeden could not get many targets involved, and players like Davone Bess and Jordan Cameron had diminished roles as a result. The former had only two catches for twenty-one yards, while the latter had sixty-four receiving yards on five snares. This offense has weapons and a potential to be very good, but the guy under center must do his part to make it work.
The insertion of Shawn Lauvao at right guard really helped the offensive line on Sunday. They opened up holes for the running backs to sprint through, and they kept Weeden off of his back a majority of his forty-three passing attempts. The trio up the middle (Alex Mack, John Greco, and Lauvao) held their own against a fierce tandem of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Granted the defensive line of the visitors was disruptive at times, but it definitely could have been worse. Overall, it was a performance that puts the team in a spot to win – the guys behind these five simply did not execute.
Defense: I was extremely disappointed with the defensive front seven for the home squad; the Lions’ offense was able to run and pass the ball without great resistance. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell combined to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark on twenty-four carries. This was the worst performance by the run defense all season, and the Browns were not facing two of the best running backs in the league (either). Poor play can be exemplified in the stats of nose tackle Phil Taylor. The guy up the middle did not record even one tackle, and his only production was a quarterback hit. The only two linemen who had decent outings were Ahtyba Rubin and Desmond Bryant. Ten tackles and a hit on Stafford were the only positives for this group. I hope Billy Winn can return next week and give this unit a boost – they will have something to prove following a subpar game.
The linebackers regressed in this matchup as well; I was looking forward to seeing a couple of sacks off the edge and abundance of early stops on running plays. However, that was never the case and it seemed the outside defenders were always a step away from making an impact. Barkevious Mingo only had three tackles, while Paul Kruger came away with just one stop. Reserve linebacker Quentin Groves’ only contribution was a personal foul penalty on a late hit (which was another poor call, in my opinion). In the inside, Craig Robertson and D’Qwell Jackson each had eight stops and the North Texas star collected the team’s only sack. However, both struggled in coverage and tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria made big plays as a result.
The secondary had its issues as well against the Lions. With a hobbled Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford hit Kris Durham eight times for eighty-three yards. No wide receiver found the end zone by the visiting team, but a few mistakes made by cornerbacks allowed the Lions to get in position to score. This includes a couple of controversial pass interference calls against Joe Haden – paving the way for the first touchdown surrendered by the defense. Buster Skrine and Chris Owens were beat several times in the passing game, but multiple drops saved the pair of cornerbacks. Both safeties had up-and-down performances as well. Tashaun Gipson collected the lone interception, had seven tackles, and a pass defended. However, he was also passive in coverage and allowed the Lions to pitch and catch the football. T.J. Ward allowed the final nail in the coffin (Fauria’s third touchdown) late in the contest. However, the strong safety also had eleven stops (including one for a loss) and defended a pair of passes.
Special Teams: The punting and kicking units for both squads were relatively even, but the same could not be said for the return games. Travis Benjamin had negative ten yards while bringing back punts, while Michael Spurlock collected twenty-two yards in the same department. This was not a huge deficiency for the home team, but winning the battle of special teams could have given them a better chance at victory. However that was not the case, and the offense and defense did not help either.
Coaching: Disappointment is the main description when mentioning the job of the Browns’ coaches. The offense got manhandled in the second half, and the defense could not slow down Reggie Bush, Matt Stafford, and Joseph Fauria. Nothing worked – the staff couldn’t nail down correct plays or formations for the players. It was a huge step back from the Minnesota game a couple weeks ago, but one must also remember that great players tend to make coaches look smarter.