Game #14 Review of Bears @ Browns
It was an overall up-and-down contest for the Cleveland Browns. The home team returned a pair of turnovers for touchdowns, but also committed a couple themselves – one going for a score. There were phenomenal points of the contest, but also several were fans wanted to hang their heads. When the dust settled, it was just another L in a long line of L’s; the team is now 1 – 8 in their last nine games and is limping to the finish line. The offense committed too many errors and the defense was not able to keep their counterparts in check. Let’s figure out what went wrong for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Offense: Jason Campbell was two throws away from a very good performance; however, the signal caller committed a pair of turnovers to produce an average outing. The quarterback hit on twenty-three of his thirty-nine throws for 273 yards with a touchdown (and the aforementioned two interceptions). He was not taken down and appeared to be decisive on multiple attempts. However, some of this throws were also off-target – granted that might occur in poor weather, but they were very costly. Campbell chose to dump it off several times as well, this usually is worthless for the Browns’ offense but the backs were able to gain decent yardage on Sunday. Overall, things could have gone better but there were several other reasons why the Browns lost.
I really thought Edwin Baker had a solid performance, considering he was added to the roster early in the week (and has never started a game in the NFL). The former Michigan State rusher tallied thirty-eight yards on only eight carries, as well as a touchdown. As a receiver, Baker caught four passes for forty-six yards; the free agent pickup was able to make some plays. Chris Ogbonnaya touched the ball ten times (five rushing and five grabs) for a total forty-six yards. This duo complemented each other well, but the team is still devoid of a “premier back”. Fozzie Whittaker’s role was greatly reduced in this contest. The Texas athlete managed to touch the ball only three times for five yards. Some of his opportunities may have gone to MarQueis Gray – who took two runs (one as a quarterback) and converted them into thirty yards. The Browns’ running game improved from previous weeks but still has miles to go until it is one of the best in the NFL.
This was a strange outing for Josh Gordon; the top wide out only came away with three receptions (on ten targets), for sixty-seven yards and a touchdown. However, the Baylor star also slipped on a route, dropped a huge pass, and refused to fight for another throw. Many have speculated that he was not in the contest mentally – and that is something that is hard to argue against. Greg Little led the receiving corps with sixty-eight yards on four grabs. Surprisingly he made a couple of nice plays; he showed the front office he could be a threat, despite not knowing what the future holds. The trio of Jordan Cameron, Gary Barnidge, and Davone Bess definitely had their issues against the Bears. They combined for five catches and forty-nine yards. The last two is not a surprised, but limiting Cameron is concerning as it has happened multiple times over the past few games.
To their credit, the offensive line kept Jason Campbell clean all game long. The unit was productive when holding the pocket firm during drop backs, and just as important – no lineman was getting beaten by his opponent with ease. In the running game, the line was able to open holes for Baker and Ogbonnaya to run through. However, they were not without fault. Shawn Lauvao’s holding infraction and a few false starts hurt the offense at different points. I thought the line played a fair game and it was better than I would have imagined. Hopefully they continue to improve over the final two weeks, and this is the start of several good outings.
Defense: It was a tough game for the Browns’ run defense as they were gashed for more yards than they have all season. Matt Forte and Michael Bush totaled 171 yards on just twenty-seven attempts and a score. For a unit that regularly stops opponents on the ground, this was a huge step back in their 2013 resurgence. The leaders in tackles on the defensive line were John Hughes (who also had a hit on Cutler) and Billy Winn – with a pair each. Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor each had a tackle but was rarely involved when opposing rushing attempts. The Bears’ offensive line has come a long way from the past few seasons, and this contest was an example. Hopefully the defensive line can play better beginning next week.
Not surprisingly, D’Qwell Jackson was tied for the lead in tackles for the defense. The inside linebacker continues to dominate in taking down the opponent; however, his coverage skills have not improved. The athlete gave up a quick strike to Martellus Bennett and never locked down any offensive target. I thought Craig Robertson had a nice game, following a few games missed due to injury. He finished with four tackles and swarmed around the football on multiple occasions. Barkevious Mingo had a better performance than he’s had as of late. The former LSU star acquired three tackles and was able to find the backfield on passing attempts – despite not notching a sack. Paul Kruger’s disappointing season added another chapter on Sunday. His contest without a tackle is unacceptable, and just getting a hit on the quarterback and defending a pass isn’t going to cut it.
Entering this contest, the Browns’ secondary faced a difficult battle with the opposing receivers. Joe Haden tried his best against Brandon Marshall, but the offensive weapon hauled in six grabs for ninety-five yards and a touchdown. To make matters worse, Haden left the game with a leg injury and his status going forward is up in the air. Buster Skrine and Tashaun Gipson had the task of blanketing Alshon Jeffery – which was unsuccessful. The duo yielded five receptions for seventy-two yards and a deep touchdown (in double coverage). Gipson did return an interception for a touchdown (and had another pick) however, so his performance did have its high points. I believe both Juilan Posey and Leon McFadden had admirable outings filling in for injured players. The pair combined for a sack and put a hit on Jay Cutler, things could have been way worse for these guys. However, at the end of the day, the secondary could not come up the big play and the team suffered.
Special Teams: Once again, the special teams battle between the two was relatively even. Devin Hester had marginally better returning yardage (against both punts and kicks), while Spencer Lanning outdueled his counterpart in the punting game. This part of the game did not determine the outcome and breakdowns on offense and defense hurt the Browns much more.
Coaching: After a game with great quarterback play, Chud decided to keep Jason Campbell throwing a great deal. It was somewhat successful, with a glitch here or there. Picking up a younger, quicker running back and the Browns employed Edwin Baker more than they would have Willis McGahee. I thought the coaching staff did a fine job, considering they were out-manned on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball (and also dealt with in-game injuries).