Steelers @ Browns – Game #11 Review
This was a typical performance many Browns’ are accustomed to; poor, mistake-filled offense and a defense that allows too many big plays. Tack on the fact that Jason Campbell could not finish the game, and it was another bad day for the franchise. Early in the second quarter, the visitors took the lead; and it never appeared that the Browns could come back. Any playoff possibility is now gone and many players will be proving whether they should remain on the roster in 2014. They are once again in a familiar place in the AFC North – last. Let’s take a look back and review the disappointing outing for the home team.
Offense: Once again, the Browns had to use more than one quarterback against the Steelers, as the opponent took out (illegally, in the eyes of many) Jason Campbell. Prior to the injury and fumble, the former Auburn signal caller completed an efficient fourteen of twenty-two throws, but for only 124 yards. He did not throw a touchdown or interception, and was taken down twice during the contest. Upon Weeden’s re-insertion to the lineup, the Browns had a small chance to win. That evaporated to a zero percent chance following the quarterback’s interception (which was returned for a touchdown) and fumble. Weeden could only connect on thirteen of his thirty tosses for 209 yards – he also found the end zone for the team’s only touchdown.
For the third contest in a row, a running back for the Browns put the ball on the ground. Chris Ogbonnaya’s turnover really killed the momentum of the offense in the second quarter; this was at a point when the game was manageable (13 – 3). Overall, the home team put up fifty-five rushing yards on sixteen attempts. The unit continues to disappoint on the ground; either via getting stuffed or giving the ball to the other team. In the receiving game, Ogbonnaya and Fozzy Whittaker combined for three receptions and twenty yards. There’s no denying the team will acquire some rushers for next season, but for now the current group has got to make a play – a simple ten-yard run is not going to cut it.
What a performance by Josh Gordon; the only offensive weapon for the Browns had a franchise-best performance. He finished the contest with fourteen grabs, 237 receiving yards, and a touchdown. The wide out always seemed to be open – I wish this team had three or four guys like him on the team. However, they do not and it showed. Davone Bess and Greg Little posted seven catches for a meager forty-four yards. Both had issues hauling in passes (especially Little) and were once again unimpressive. Jordan Cameron had the second-most receiving yards with thirty-two – however, he was largely blanketed by defenders and could not make a big play. If the coaching staff is going to employ short routes, they must utilize the tight end better. He has shown a tremendous ability to catch and run with the football, it just takes accurate throws to get the athlete involved.
Mitchell Schwartz had yet another tough outing; on nearly every drop back, the right tackle had his issues. Defender Jason Worilds appeared to be right around the quarterback as he blew by his opponent. Joe Thomas held his own on the left side, but even he could not wall off his counterpart. Along those lines, Shawn Lauvao allowed a sack by the guy occupying his gap. Fortunately, John Greco and Alex Mack did not make any glaring mistakes – but the duo was far from dominant. The offensive line rarely opened holes for guys to run and gave up five sacks during the contest. This year has been rather disappointing for the guys upfront; changes will likely be coming unless some sort of miracle happens for this unit.
Defense: Ahtyba Rubin was the only member of the defensive line who had a good game; the veteran collected six tackles and put a hit on the opposing signal caller. Phil Taylor was invisible and did not even notch a single tackle. Desmond Bryant and Billy Winn had adequate contests; they combined for six tackles and were never dominated by opponent. For all their ills, the defense once again prevented a 100-yard rusher – they gave up a couple runs early but clamped down the remainder of the contest. After being inactive a couple of weeks, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen returned to the lineup – and posted three tackles. He is taking advantage of his situation and continues to show the depth of this part of the team.
I thought Paul Kruger put together a solid effort at outside linebacker; the veteran made some nice stops against the run and finished with five tackles. The other two guys had embarrassing performances, however. Jabaal Sheard whiffed on a sack attempt and had only one tackle; while, Barkevious Mingo did not have a single tackle and put just one hit on the quarterback. This perceived strength of the team has been terrible the last two games, and the Browns have not notched a sack over that span. In the inside, Tank Carder’s injury paved the way for Darius Eubanks to get some playing time. The veteran had a decent game, with four stops and covered well in the passing game. D’Qwell Jackson was reliable once again; the former Maryland star tied for the team-high in tackles with nine and defended a pass. He continues to lead on defense, even when others around him do not excel.
Following one of his best games in the NFL, Joe Haden had a less-than-stellar performance on Sunday. He allowed multiple receptions to Antiono Brown, including a forty-one yard touchdown. It was rather disappointing and unexpected, but the veteran will bounce back – still, it was a tough pill to swallow on Sunday. Buster Skrine and Chris Owens did little to stand out as well; the former was juked out early in the contest and each gave too much cushion to Steeler receivers. The end result was a consistent routine of pitch and catch by the opposition. I thought the safeties had pretty good games; Ward and Gipson had a combined sixteen tackles (two of which were for losses). Overall the secondary had an up-and-down performance, but it was the big plays that really stood out.
Special Teams: Outside of a horrific Billy Cundiff shank, the special teams matchup was rather even. Once again this was not the determining factor of the contest, and neither squad made a huge error in this facet. Antonio Brown had a decent punt return (of fourteen yards), which set up a field goal for the visitors. With Brandon Weeden the likely starter going forward, dominating the special teams battle might be the only way the Browns can win contests.
Coaching: Some of this loss should go on the coaching staff; Chud and Turner continued to avoid going downfield, and the offense struggled. However, this staff also noticed Josh Gordon was getting separation with ease and they continued to employ his talent. The ratio of runs to passes was sixteen to fifty-two, obviously they could have attempted more runs, but lack of production will lead to avoidance. The defense should have adjusted better to the opponent’s quick throws to the boundary, as the opposition was able to easily move the ball.