Review of Game #8 – Browns @ Chiefs
The Browns were just a play away from winning this contest – unfortunately that failed play frequently centered around free agent acquisition Davone Bess. There were multiple drops and a muffed punt from the former Dolphin, many of which occurred at inopportune times. The defense had its issues early, while the offense and special teams couldn’t come up big when it mattered. The Browns now head into a tough intra-division battle on a three-game losing streak – let’s look at what went down at Arrowhead Stadium.
Offense: I thought Jason Campbell had a performance that could win several games in the NFL. The signal caller completed twenty-two of thirty-six attempts for 293 yards and threw for a pair of scores. Facing the defense with the most sacks in the NFL, Campbell was taken down only once. I hope this type of performance can be duplicated on a weekly basis, but obviously that is a tall order. The former Auburn star made quick decisions, avoided poor throws, and never appeared to be rattled. His veteran presence is something that has been lacking in the huddle since Hoyer got injured. With the running attack not being exceptional, the Browns will rely more on the passing game. After witnessing this quarterback’s play, I am more confident in this aspect of the team than I have been these past few weeks.
After a miserable first two quarters, Willis McGahee put together a couple of nice runs in the second half. The rusher finished with only twenty-eight yards, but he averaged 3.1 per attempt. Chris Ogbonnaya was active in both the running and passing game; the fullback totaled twenty-seven yards on six touches. Fozzy Whittaker managed just a pair of receptions, but the University of Texas alum also found the end zone in the third quarter. This unit is performing up to their expectation level – the backs are far from dominant, but they can have success from time to time. Fortunately the coaching staff put these guys in position to excel – the Browns strayed from obvious running situations and employed the run when the defense was not expecting it.
Not surprisingly, the two leaders (once again) in the receiving category were Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. The duo piled up 212 yards on nine grabs and a touchdown in the defeat. Both had multiple amazing catches and showed why they should be targeted on a regular basis. The less-than-stellar season continues for Davone Bess. Besides the aforementioned poor mistakes, the wide out could only muster twenty-seven yards on three catches. Additionally, Greg Little only caught one pass for eight yards – his best play may have been preventing a defender to secure an interception in the end zone. This unit of the team will be overhauled in the offseason (outside of Cameron and Gordon – assuming they are not traded). I anticipate both a free agent and a draft pick to be acquired and for them to be on the field in passing situations.
The offensive line did an excellent job at preventing Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, and Dontari Poe from getting to Campbell. Unfortunately, Joe Thomas might have had one of his worst games in the NFL. The six-time Pro Bowler was flagged for both false start and holding infractions in this contest. Sometimes an offensive line is a lot like a referee – you don’t notice them until they make a mistake. Both tackles made a couple of these, and Thomas’s holding penalty killed a potential scoring drive in the second half. I felt the only two members who were solid were Alex Mack and Shawn Lauvao; the center and guard teamed up to keep pressure from coming up the middle.
Defense: The part of the defense that transitioned the best during the course of the game was probably the defensive line. Proof of that was in the play of Desmond Bryant; the end got flattened in the first half leading to a long Jamaal Charles run. In the second half, Bryant was always around the ball and put three hits on Alex Smith. I thought Phil Taylor put together one of his finest performances this season – the nose tackle made three stops, had a sack, and put a hit on the opposing quarterback. Ahtyba Rubin also had a solid effort with two tackles – the guys upfront definitely improved from the last two weeks. They held Charles to just seventy-four yards on the ground, but they also had issues when Alex Smith escaped the rush. I hope this unit keeps it up, as they will face formidable running backs and quarterbacks tandems in the coming weeks.
In the continued theme of improvement, two guys who really picked up their play were Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo. Each outside linebacker notched a sack (of Alex Smith) – something that has not occurred for some time. Kruger finished the game with a pair of tackles, while Mingo only had one stop – but both came off the edge well and force action inside. Craig Robertson surrendered only a couple of receptions by the opponent in this contest. The coaches understood he has been a liability in coverage and let someone else guard Dexter McCluster – this worked out well for the pass defense. Robinson totaled eleven tackles, a sack, and a quarterback hit – I am very pleased to see this type of resolve. D’Qwell had an extremely quiet, yet productive, game from his inside linebacker spot. The University of Maryland athlete acquired eight tackles, a hit on Alex Smith, and a sack – but never made a signature play. Perhaps the other defenders played exceptionally to divert my attention; regardless I anticipate this to happen on an almost regular basis.
For the first time in a couple of games, the Browns’ secondary defended well. Joe Haden shut down Dwayne Bowe (en route to a day that included three tackles and two tremendous deflections) and had very few flaws in his performance. His near interception early could have been a game changer. Buster Skrine also played well, the cornerback got beat a couple of times but the opponent failed to execute. The former Tennessee-Chattanooga star is putting together a nice 2013 campaign. The wide out (for the Chiefs) with the best stats ended up to be Donnie Avery – who only garnered three grabs and thirty-one yards. Both safeties were brilliant in stopping the run once again. Tashaun Gipson and T.J. Ward tallied a combined nineteen tackles, a sack, and a quarterback hit. These guys have not gotten an opportunity to collect an interception as of late – but that may come before too long.
Special Teams: Outside of the muffed punt, the special teams were fairly solid for the Browns. Billy Cundiff and Spencer Lanning did their jobs well, and the coverage units make tackles downfield. Following a great defensive stop, it is extremely deflating for the defense to go back on the field after a turnover. This alone tilted the scales in the home team’s favor and put the Browns at a huge disadvantage. Now both punt returners have muffed a punt this season; it will be interesting to see how the coaching staff handles this duty going forward (especially following the Travis Benjamin knee sprain).
Coaching: Better play usually yields a favorable opinion on the coaching staff; I thought the offensive game plan was great for Campbell and the offense. There was a masterful combination of shorter and longer throws, with a mix in of running plays and trickery. This week, Ray Horton stated his defense would be more aggressive and it proved to be true. The second half featured sacks and pressure on Alex Smith; the defense finished with six takedowns of the signal caller. They also only allowed three points in the second half – hopefully Horton can see what occurred after halftime and duplicates that game plan.