A Review of Game #2 – Browns vs. Saints
They didn’t look superb in all facets of the game the entire contest – but one thing was for certain. The Browns were simply good enough to win an NFL game, against a tremendous opponent nonetheless. I definitely felt some highs and lows in this contest, but let’s take a glance at what went down at First Energy Stadium.
Offense: Efficient and game manager are valid applications for Brian Hoyer in this game. The signal caller just went over 200 passing yards for the game, but also failed to make the huge mistake – he did make a couple horrific incompletions though. All in all, Hoyer led a game-winning drive when fans weren’t so sure he could (starting inside their own ten yard line). Hoyer hit nine different targets and didn’t let the Manziel “package” faze him. This outing is likely the ceiling for the veteran, but it was good for a win over the Saints. “Just good enough” works for me – at least for the time being.
I really enjoyed seeing the running attack not missing a beat. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell combined for 122 yards on thirty carries and found the end zone once. Both run hard, and while their styles differ, they both know how to find holes in the defense. My guess is that Crowell will be worked more in the game plan as the season continues to wear on, but Terrance West is doing a fine job as the feature back.
The Andrew Hawkins acquisition continues to look like a shrewd move by Ray Farmer. The former Bengals led all receivers with seventy yards on six grabs, and had the huge catch to set up the game winner. I was happy to see Miles Austin get involved in this matchup. He hauled in six tosses for forty-four yards and had a touchdown. The growing pains are evident with the wide receiving corps, but perhaps this two-minute drive could be something that can be built upon. Like Hoyer, this group was far from exceptional but was “just good enough”.
None of the five guys upfront stood out in a negative way, and that’s a good thing. Mitchell Schwartz is always under scrutiny and he fared well against a unit that is not known for their tenacity upfront. However, there is nothing to complain about and that is refreshing. They opened holes for the running game and gave Hoyer time to throw. It was a job well done by the offensive line of the Cleveland Browns.
Defense: The return of defensive end Desmond Bryant gave me a ton of confidence that the home team would shut down the rushing attack of the Saints. 174 yards later and that was not really the case. It was rather frustrating seeing Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson take handoffs and dart down the field. However, when it came to the red zone the Browns stopped their opponent from running one in. I expect this group to get back on track next week with Bryant having a full game under his belt – but for now this was “good enough” to win.
Not having Barkevious Mingo limited the speed of the linebackers greatly, and Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard could not fill in the voids. Kruger had a sack, a hit on the quarterback, and a pass defended. Sheard had six stops and a pass defended – it was a decent outing but the guys (on the outside) were far from exceptional. Karlos Dansby led all defenders with twelve tackles and made a huge sack to prevent the Saints from going up four points late in the contest. Overall the linebackers made some plays and played well enough to seal the win.
Outside of a Tashaun Gipson interception return for a touchdown, the secondary for the Browns did not do anything exceptional. Joe Haden had the unenviable task of covering Jimmy Graham and surrendered a pair of touchdowns along the way. Justin Gilbert and Buster Skrine were rarely beaten deep, but the Saints always seemed to convert a third down and long – especially in the second half. Donte Whitner has become invisible in this secondary, is veteran Jim Leonhard going to steal some snaps from the Cleveland native?
Special Teams: It was a solid improvement by the special teams units by the Browns. They did not allow any large returns from the kickoff and punt units and Billy Cundiff’s field goal was the difference. That’s about all you could ask for these guys – to not be the reason why the team lost. I figure this will continue a majority of this season, and I won’t have to worry about the performance of the special teams.
Coaching: This was a great win for coach Pettine. He stuck to the run game, knew the offense’s capabilities, and orchestrated a blitz that led to only needing a field goal to win. I am glad this coaching staff earned their first win and got “the monkey off their backs” – many victories should follow down the road. They now play at home again versus a familiar foe, as my confidence in this team continues to increase.