I’ll Take a Win No Matter What
It was not pretty for most of the contest, but the Browns did their job in the second half en route to a 23 – 13 win over the Raiders. The home squad forced three turnovers while not committing any – a true recipe for success. I am glad they won the contest, but the Browns are far from a dominant team.
Offense: Brian Hoyer’s struggles continued but at least he eliminated the same kind of turnovers from a week ago. The quarterback completed nineteen of twenty-eight passes for 275 yards and a touchdown. Despite missing a few wide-open targets, he avoided a silly mistake. I look for him to improve drastically in the coming week but time will only tell for the former Michigan State signal caller. I thought Johnny Manziel would get a nod in this contest. That wasn’t the case, but fans should expect it soon – even if Hoyer continues to play well.
The lack of a running attack is beyond alarming. Thirty-nine yards on the ground is not going to win many NFL games, but the Browns were able to do it. I do not care who is caring the football (Tate, West, or Crowell), but they must be efficient in moving it forward. I understand the offensive line is going through some changes, but the rushers have got to improve going forward – and fast.
Two of the smaller wide outs were large impacts for the Browns on Sunday. Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel combined for nine catches, 148 yards, and a touchdown. I like their ability to secure grabs but they must both show consistency. Another concern I have is the durability of Jordan Cameron. The tight end finished with three grabs for forty yards, but left the contest with yet another concussion. If he keeps getting hurt, the offense will not be able to rely on his duties on a weekly basis. The rest of the season is critical for the tight end to prove he is a valuable asset in the NFL.
I hope the lack of a running attack by the Browns was due to the offensive line not being as cohesive as they should be. Nick McDonald got his first start with this group, but the team could not carry the football well. I’m looking forward to the interior to gel quickly, as they have some critical contests in the next few weeks. Struggling on one or two yards to gain is rather upsetting, and the Browns must get past this.
Defense: Well it’s an improvement; the defensive line finally held a team under 100 yards on the ground. Perhaps it was the return of Ahtyba Rubin in the middle, or the solid play of John Hughes (who had four stops). Although Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden’s better days in the NFL are likely behind them, it was refreshing to see them not scurry down the field with ease.
For the first time all season long, Barkevious Mingo finally made an impactful play. The outside linebacker recovered an important fumble – setting up the Browns’ second touchdown. However, Paul Kruger was the best man on the outside; he tallied five tackles and all three sacks for the home team. All three interior linebackers played relatively well. Karlos Dansby finished with eight tackles, while Chris Kirksey and Craig Robertson combined for nine stops and a pass defended. This was a pleasant site to see, and I believe the catalyst for the defense finally turning the corner.
Joe Haden and Donte Whitner were the two stars for the secondary. Not only were they the team’s two leaders in tackles, they combined for the most important play of the game. Whitner forced a key fumble in the third quarter, while Haden grabbed it and ran down the field (setting up the Browns’ first touchdown). Without that execution, this outcome could have been much different. Another game, another interception for Tashaun Gipson; the safety continues to impress this season. I thought Justin Gilbert improved as well, the rookie has a fair amount of room for growth but Sunday was a positive sign.
Special Teams: I thought Travis Benjamin got his swagger back after a nice first punt return of over ten yards. However, he fumbled the ball on the next one and was replaced by veteran Jim Leonhard. Chris Tabor has some more decisions to make this week with his return personnel. I was glad to see Billy Cundiff make a fifty-two yard field goal; his confidence should be building.
Coaching: Leading 6 – 0, coach Pettine finally made the smart move and went for the field goal instead of going for a touchdown on fourth down. The Browns took a 9 – 0 lead and never looked back. I believe he learned from his earlier mistakes and can rely on his defense to win close contests going forward. It was a job well done on Sunday, now the Browns need to keep it up next week.