Browns @ Titans – Review of Game #4
Phew, that was a close, and a lucky, one but I will more than take it. Falling behind 28-3, it looked like the Browns were going to get steamrolled. However, the injury to Locker and some second-half touchdowns and the Browns came away with a huge victory. It was definitely a team effort – offense in the first half and the defense stepping up after halftime. Let’s review the dramatic victory…
Offense: Brian Hoyer does it again…another fourth quarter victory for the veteran. He threw his first interception of the season, but was also able to toss for three touchdowns. I expected Manziel to come in to the contest, but the Browns were playing well enough that it was not necessary. Despite missing a few plays, Hoyer made it count when it mattered…once again, I’ll take it.
It was an excellent comeback for veteran Ben Tate. Finishing with twenty-two carries for 123 yards, I was glad to see him return to action. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell finished with fifteen yards on thirteen carries – I haven’t lost faith in the rookies, but they came back to earth – in terms of playing well. I still believe they will get ample amounts of yards going forward however, especially with twelve games remaining.
I might be going on a limb here, but Taylor Gabriel might be the best receiver in this group. The undrafted rookie led the way with four grabs for ninety-five yards and made several huge plays. Miles Austin was next in line with only two grabs – however one an impressive, sideline snare. Once again, this unit has not been great, but good enough to win in the NFL. I was glad to see Jordan Cameron collect three receptions – he will be relied upon heavily down the road.
Brian Hoyer surrendered a sack early in this contest, however following that – the offensive line locked down and played tremendously. I had to rewind a few plays to show others the great blocking of Joel Bitonio; the rookie is making all of us believers. I am glad this offensive line maintains their stability; they have been like good referees. You don’t realize how good they are – until they are not. I cannot wait to see them go into battle the rest of the season.
Defense: For most of the game (once again) it was not a pretty effort by the defensive front, but they did enough to get it done. Paving the way was Armonty Bryant, who finished with six tackles, a sack, and a hit on the quarterback. Phil Taylor left the game in the second half – can Ahtyba Rubin and Billy Winn shoulder the load during the veteran’s absence? I sure hope so; but the defensive line still has miles to go until they become a respectable unit.
As far as linebackers go; none were terrible but also no athletes were dominant in this contest for the Browns. Karlos Dansby and Chris Kirksey combined for fifteen tackles – they were far from excellent but I will take it. Jabaal Sheard was the only linebacker who was able to get a sack for this defense – he has been underwhelming so far in the 2014 campaign but Sunday was a solid outing for the veteran. I believe the linebackers will continue to improve as the season progresses.
I don’t know what to make of the secondary; they have more than a disappointing unit thus far. Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert simply cannot corral receivers – is K’Waun Williams the answer? The undrafted rookie had six tackles, a sack, and a pass defended in this contest. Granted the Titans did not scout for this athlete, but he made the most of his opportunity. I would like to see more of him going forward, but still believe Haden and Gilbert will vastly improve. The safeties were rather quiet, but both Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner were not beat regularly either. On a scale of 1-10, I would give the secondary a 3 but feel great that number could easily be higher.
Special Teams: It was a wise move to remove Travis Benjamin as a punt returner. It took a turnover (which was negated with a penalty) to take him out, but Jordan Poyer seems to be better at that spot. The field goal unit played as expected, which is much better than the group did two weeks ago. Last game was an aberration, and I do not feel bad about any of the groups.
Coaching: While many second-guessed the two fourth down attempts (which failed), I stood by coach Pettine. The offense got another shot and Hoyer took advantage – finding the end zone. The coach might not get opportunities like that more often but for now, I cannot complain. It was a shaky (but needed) win, and now they must get back to business against the Steeelers at home.