Game #10 Review – Browns @ Bengals
This game started out well for the visitors – a few interceptions, and a Joe Haden touchdown put the Browns up 13 – 0 after the first quarter. Following that, however, was all-around horrible play. The Browns surrendered thirty-one points in the second quarter and were never really in the contest after that. It’s interesting to note that the Browns scored only in the first and third quarters, while the Bengals found pay dirt in the second and fourth periods. The wind was a decided advantage, and when your team went against it, the offense struggled. However, turnovers were the name of the game and (simply put) these caused the Browns to drop their fifteenth consecutive divisional game on the road.
Offense: Jason Campbell was due for a poor outing; after two good starts, the quarterback made a multitude of mistakes at Paul Brown Stadium. Among his poor statistics were the three interceptions tossed as well as the four sacks he surrendered. Campbell completed twenty-seven of his fifty-six throws for 248 yards and a touchdown. The signal caller did not seem as confident as he has been in previous outings, and the Browns’ offense could rarely get things going. Twice the team was in the red zone and came away with only field goals – if Campbell could have made better throws during that time, the game may have gone differently. Another issue with the quarterback was the continual choice to check down to shorter options instead of heaving it downfield. Granted, the wide outs appeared to rarely get separation, but I would have liked to see some more shots towards Josh Gordon deep.
Chris Ogbonnaya had a tremendous run early in the contest, but otherwise the Browns’ running attack was once again limited. He finished with a team-high sixty-nine yards on eight carries. However, his fumble (which was returned for a touchdown) was crucial in the Browns’ demise. I understand he is a smaller back, but ball security is paramount; and turning it over cannot happen. Fozzie Whittaker and Willis McGahee combined for ten carries and a pedestrian thirty-three yards. The receiving output was somewhat solid for the running backs; Ogbonnaya and Whittaker were active in helping out Campbell. Fozzie hauled in five throws for forty-one yards, while Ogbonnaya accrued thirty receiving yards on six catches.
Like several contests this season, it was Josh Gordon and a bunch of other guys at wide receiver. The former Baylor star hauled in five passes for 125 yards and scored the team’s only offensive touchdown. Of course more opportunities should have been given, but sometimes the defense dictates that. Greg Little and Davone Bess combined for seven yards on a pair of receptions – the huge drop-off from last game was a detriment to the offense. Again, I would not be surprised if each is replaced next season (by both rookies and veterans). Following a slow start, tight end Jordan Cameron had twenty-nine yards on six receptions. The defense game planned to take away both Gordon and Cameron and they did a good job at it (outside of Gordon’s long touchdown).
The outside of the offensive line had their issues on Sunday. Mitchell Schwartz gave up a few sacks, while he and Joe Thomas committed several penalties. The interior was rarely dominated, but they also could have made things easier in both the running and passing games. Overall, the offensive line played about what I expected against this tough defensive front (unfortunately). At times they provided holes on running plays and gave time for the quarterback to throw, while Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap easily got into the Browns’ backfield on a few occasions. Hopefully, this unit for the Browns can improve but they face another difficult task next week.
Defense: Yet again, the defensive line held their own against the opponent’s running attack. Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis and Giovanni Bernard combined for 107 yards, but it took them twenty-six attempts to do so. Slowing down the combination of a stronger back and a quick runner strengthens my confidence in the guys upfront. Coming back to the city where he played college football, John Hughes led the unit with five tackles and defended a pass. Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor finished the contest with a combined six stops – they continue to produce on a weekly basis. Although a couple of the reserves did not stand out (i.e. Billy Winn and Armonty Bryant), I hope the coaching staff continues to rotate these guys in on a regular basis.
Outside of Jabaal Sheard, the pass rush was non-existent for the Cleveland Browns. The former Pitt Panther had three tackles, a hit on Dalton, and was close to several sacks. Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger had five stops but were never close to taking down the opposing quarterback. Mingo was up and down in special teams (of course he should not be blocking), and his ineffectiveness in defensive packages is frustrating for fans. Without Quentin Groves for the remainder of the season, the coaching staff inserted special teamer Tank Carder for a couple of plays at linebacker. I was rather surprised at his performance – the TCU star had seven tackles and was great at disrupting passing plays. D’Qwell Jackson had team-high nine tackles and covered well against the pass. Craig Robertson was invisible; the linebacker never made an impact against either the run or the pass.
This may have been Joe Haden’s finest performance as a pro; the cornerback did not have any bad plays and was exceptional in coverage. A.J. Green (arguably the second-best wide out in the league) had two catches for seven yards against Haden. The former Florida standout also collected two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown – the first of his entire career. On the other side, Buster Skrine played relatively well. He had five tackles, a pass breakup, and was solid in defending the pass. The blown coverage on a Germaine Gresham touchdown was his lone failure – but those things happen. Chris Owens had a rather rough game; the cornerback had just two tackles and gave up several receptions (in man coverage). Both safeties were active in stopping the opposition’s run game; the duo accumulated nine tackles. T.J. Ward, however, failed in pass coverage a few times. For example, when Bengals’ wide receivers beat the cornerbacks, the strong safety was not there to assist in defending the throw.
Special Teams: Easily the worst outing by the Browns’ special teams; whatever could have gone wrong did. Spencer Lanning had a punt tipped and another blocked and returned for a touchdown. Armonty Bryant committed an offside penalty on a punt – yielding a first down for the Bengals. The coverage units permitted a couple of longer returns by the home team as well. It’s debatable whether this was the sole reason the visitors lost the game, but it definitely put the team in a huge hole that they could not get out of.
Coaching: The staff of the Browns did little to impress me, including the lack of halftime adjustments (or, at least, that was the appearance). The coaches realized the opposing secondary was scheming to prevent longer throws, and they tailored the offense to catch and run underneath – which was ineffective. The Browns were creative at times, but again certain play calls did not work. I hope Chud and his staff learns from this dismal outing and gets back on track next week.