Review of Game #12 – Jaguars @ Browns
The 2013 Cleveland Browns have officially bottomed out; they played horribly at home against the worst team in the league. The end result was, yet again, the franchise stealing a loss from the jaws of victory. Mistakes were once again the issue; I feel the Browns do have talent but they screw up too frequently to win contests. Judging by public perception – it feels that the fan base is done with this team (whether it’s in the short-term or not is yet to be determined). Unfortunately, the Browns still have four more games until the front office can start re-tooling this roster and hope can begin for the 2014 season. Until then, let’s look at this miserable outing on Sunday.
Offense: Well, it was pretty much what Browns’ fans expected from Brandon Weeden. The quarterback made some nice plays – including a 95-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. He finished with 370 yards passing, while completing twenty-four of his forty throws and finding pay dirt three times. However, it was his negative plays that did the team in. This includes a pair of interceptions, two fumbles, and an inability to handle a high snap (leading to a safety). Facing a poor team like the Jaguars, who feature three rookies in the secondary, and the Browns were supposed to flex their muscles on offense. That was not the case, and the second-year signal caller’s regression as a passer continued. This team’s offense cannot afford to turn the ball over, and Weeden constantly does that. I hope the Browns give Alex Tanney a shot down the road, as I am one of the many who wants to see what the kid can do (before the offseason).
Sadly, this may have been the best performance by the Browns’ running game all year. They only racked up ninety-seven yards in total, but both Willis McGahee and Chris Ogbonnaya were effective toting the ball. McGahee’s 4.1 yards per carry average was easily his best of 2013, however I do not expect that to continue over the final four games. The veteran lead the team with seventy-one total yards (fifty-seven on the ground) and scored the team’s second rushing touchdown of the season. Ogbonnaya finished with twenty yards rushing and had a pair of grabs for fourteen yards – he turned in a decent performance in this contest. I am glad this unit ended their streak of turning the football over, as this contest could have gotten out of hand if that occurred. Overall, they played a little better than expected but once again it was in a losing effort.
Josh Gordon turned in another record-breaking performance. This week, the wide out went for 261 yards on ten grabs and a pair of touchdowns. He continues to be extremely dominant and remains one of the best receivers in the league. However, Gordon must be getting frustrated, as his teammates are not holding up their end of the bargain. Overall, the team lost both games he dominated (the first time a receiver had over 200 yards receiving in consecutive games). Additionally, Davone Bess and Greg Little totaled five grabs and thirty-seven yards. Fortunately, the latter was able to find the end zone in the second half – but his lack of production otherwise is apparent. Bess’s stats were comprised largely late in the contest, so they should be taken with a grain of salt. Jordan Cameron played better than he has over the past few weeks. The tight end had four grabs and forty-three yards; it was not spectacular but it was respectable and the second-most yardage on the team.
Alex Mack’s horrendous snap is one thing many fans will remember about this game. The offensive line played adequately during this matchup, but the mistakes are magnified. Although the unit was so-so, they surrendered three takedowns of their quarterback. (I would argue that at least two of these were a result of Weeden not getting rid of the football at a reasonable time). Shawn Lauvao was bull-rushed a few times and his counterpart got the better of the guard. The play of both tackles improved slightly – defenders, like last week, did not dominate them. I still believe the front office will make some changes to the offensive line in the offseason, but for the time being this group is playing decent football.
Defense: As a whole, the defense did a admirable job containing the duo of Maurice Jones-Drew and Jordan Todman. They combined for 108 yards, but they did not find the end zone and never appeared to stupefy the defenders. Ahtyba Rubin had four tackles, a sack, and a pass defended – he continues to be the most productive linemen on a weekly basis. Phil Taylor finished the game with two tackles, but his most memorable play might have been his facemask penalty on the Jaguars’ game winning drive. The only other defensive linemen who were impactful were Desmond Bryant and Billy Winn. These guys combined for four tackles and two hits on Chad Henne. Despite playing well once again – I would have liked to see the defensive line be more dominant at the point of attack (but there is not a ton to complain about with this group).
Looking at his statistics, Barkevious Mingo had five tackles, a pass defended, and a hit on the opposing quarterback. It would appear that he had a very good outing, but the “sack specialist” was walled off several times while Henne had time to throw. Mingo’s lack of production in that department is more than disappointing, and I do not see a huge improvement soon. Paul Kruger had just two tackles; his 2013 campaign is a miserable one – he is not making any tackles, behind or past the line of scrimmage. Jabaal Sheard was stout in passing situations, as the outside linebacker defended a pass and had one of the team’s sacks. If Kruger or Mingo could at least equate Sheard’s production, then the outside linebackers would be a much more dominating presence on drop backs. On the inside, Darius Eubanks and D’Qwell Jackson each collected six tackles, while the latter almost had an interception. I liked the way the Browns employed T.J. Ward as more of a linebacker who was always around line of scrimmage. The result was seven tackles and a pass defended – the veteran has been playing excellent against the run and kept Jones-Drew in check all game long.
Following a shut down of A.J. Green, Joe Haden has had his issues in coverage. The veteran intercepted the opponent and had three tackles, but the blown coverage on Cecil Shorts III is all he could think about after the game. It was the game-winning score and Haden was frustrated and voiced his displeasure about the continual losing. Buster Skrine and Chris Owens each tallied four tackles and the former defended two passes. Each held his own, but Owens left the contest with an injured leg (and it’s unknown whether he will play next week). Tashaun Gipson filled-in rather well at his new role, the lone safety. The defender had five tackles and was never beat in coverage. The secondary did not allow any player to eclipse the seventy-yard total, as the opponent chose to run shorter routes all game long. Doing this should provide many wins in the NFL; but all three phases of the team must operate for that to occur.
Special Teams: I thought Jordan Poyer had a tremendous outing as a punt returner. The rookie free-agent pickup had a thirty-eight yarder which set up an early touch down. Spencer Lanning had a poor outing and was bested by his counterpart Bryan Anger. In the kicking game, Billy Cundiff’s field goal miss was huge, as a conversion may have altered the rest of the game considerably. The Browns lost this matchup on Sunday, but it was not by a wide margin.
Coaching: This contest was an example of when being too aggressive can be a detriment to the team. After throwing an interception, Chud continued to call passing plays late in the second quarter. Weeden then proceeded to toss another one to the defense as well as fumbling on the next series. What was once a 14 – 7 lead quickly turned into a 20 – 14 deficit at halftime. I wish the Browns would have managed the clock better, but that is not Chud’s philosophy. Better play will obviously make the coach look smarter; at this point the staff is putting a good deal of faith in guys who are not performing.