Game #7 Review – Browns @ Packers
It was yet another brutal game for the Cleveland Browns and their fans. The offense couldn’t move the ball (until the Packers’ played a prevent defense), the defense easily yielded yards via the air and the ground, and the special teams only prospered (slightly) with the aide of some penalties. There were few, if any, positives that came out of this contest – the anguish and frustration continues to mount for this fan base. Let’s review what the Browns failed to accomplish at Lambeau Field to see why things are not looking up for this franchise.
Offense: Status quo for signal caller Brandon Weeden; the Oklahoma State product had another miserable outing on Sunday. He finished the contest completing just seventeen of forty-two passes for 149 yards, a late touchdown, and an interception. In no circumstance will this type of performance be able to win games in the NFL. Weeden could not see wide-open targets downfield and over/underthrew several tosses as well. Inaccuracy, poor timing, and slow decision making was the theme of this contest (and has largely been in all of 2013). I would not be surprised to see Jason Campbell under center in the near future; it has come to a point where the team has to find another answer at quarterback. I do not have faith the team can win any games with Weeden under center (except against a dreadful team).
The running game for the visiting squad performed admirably once again; the unit amassed eighty-three yards on twenty-three carries (for a 3.6 yards-per-carry average). Willis McGahee had a couple tough runs but finished with just thirty-nine yards on eleven totes. Chris Ogbonnaya mustered fifteen yards on the ground; this position is expected to just play average and they certainly are not exceeding this. The Browns will find a replacement as the 2014 starter, but until that happens fans will continue to see two and three yard runs. I have confidence in the running backs when this team is in the red zone, as McGahee can move the pile and Ogbonnaya excels at catching and running. However, the Browns did not find themselves in this situation until it was too late against the Packers.
Granted the quarterback play was subpar, but the wide receivers were doing very little to help the offense. Josh Gordon slipped (and fell) multiple times and also dropped a few passes. The supposed best wide out on the roster had only a pair of catches for twenty-one yards. Davone Bess dropped a couple of passes as well; the slot receiver came away with eleven yards on two grabs. Greg Little had a mediocre outing and that was good enough for second-best against the Packers. The North Carolina athlete hauled in four passes for forty-nine yards; it is nothing astonishing, but perhaps he is steadily improving. Once again, the best Browns’ receiver was tight end Jordan Cameron. He made some magnificent, sideline catches and scored the team’s only touchdown. The dependability and sure handedness of the tight end should merit more targets from the signal caller – perhaps this will improve the offense. However, that has not been the case and the unit continues to struggle.
The five guys upfront had a sporadic performance; the offensive line got beat a few times but also held off pressure. Joe Thomas got another false start penalty, while Mitch Schwartz accrued a holding call. Weeden took three sacks; some of that was due to the line not pushing back defenders and others was the quarterback holding onto the ball too long. Overall, this group will likely not be the reason why the team wins or loses – however if they (magically) get solid quarterback play, then the offensive line must do their part to permit him to toss the ball all over the field.
Defense: Eddie Lacy was held to less than 100 yards, but he made the Browns’ defense look foolish in the second quarter. The Alabama running back carried defenders several times down the field and found the end zone to cap off the drive. The two leading tacklers on the defensive line were reserves John Hughes and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen. While the pair had solid outings, I am less than enthused at the trio of starting linemen. These guys totaled just six tackles and a hit on Aaron Rodgers. Desmond Bryant’s most memorable play was the holding penalty he drew on the Packers’ offensive tackle. I am uncertain of what is occurring, but the guys upfront are not playing as well as they have been earlier in the season.
Mobile quarterbacks who release the football quickly can make pass rushers look average. Rodgers was pressured almost every passing play and was able to escape unscathed with his athleticism and vision. Paul Kruger had the best game by an outside linebacker; the veteran had three stops, a hit on the quarterback, and shared the team’s only sack with Chris Owens. Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard were largely invisible and could not disrupt the home team. Two combined tackles is not going to cut it for guys expected to be impactful on both passing and running plays. Craig Robertson accumulated five tackles but struggled in coverage yet again (as Jermichael Finley had five catches for seventy-two yards and a touchdown). D’Qwell Jackson was far from dominant and looked pedestrian at Lambeau Field – the linebacker corps set the tone for the entire meager play of the defense.
Outside of a perfect touchdown throw, Joe Haden did a good job of limiting Jordy Nelson. The de facto number one wide receiver never had a long gainer, but his threat allowed others to prosper. Jarrett Boykin had 103 receiving yards and a touchdown on a game-high eight catches on Sunday. The combination of Chris Owens and Buster Skrine could not lock down the young target, and he got his first NFL touchdown as a result. The safeties were not impactful as well – the duo did have a combined twenty tackles, but a majority of them were downfield after the Packers’ offense flexed their muscles. Tashaun Gipson’s biggest play was a legal (in my opinion) hit that injured Finley. I understand they faced one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but the defenders could not do anything to make it hard for the signal caller. This was just another example of frustration exhibited by the visiting franchise.
Special Teams: The Browns benefitted from a roughing the kicker call and executed a fake punt attempt. Additionally, Billy Cundiff was perfect on field goals and Travis Benjamin nearly had a kickoff return for a touchdown. There were several positives that came with special teams in this game. The Browns recovered an onside kick twice, but were penalized on both plays – giving the ball to the home team. There was little to complain about, but without good play on offense and defense its impact is minimal.
Coaching: This was another outing where the coaching staff underwhelmed me. The team committed twelve penalties and seemed to be ill prepared. On the offensive side of the ball, Chud and Turner permitted Weeden to let it rip. I understand they were down early but more rushes could have been attempted. Both the run and pass gashed the defense – I do not think Ray Horton could have done much to slow down their opponent, however. It was a forgettable game and I hope the team has a short memory before they face another difficult task next Sunday.