A Review of Game #8 – Browns vs. Buccaneers
Another subpar performance by the Browns’ offense, but another win for the team. It was yet again an ugly win, however I will never complain about those. Brian Hoyer and Terrance West did enough for the offense, while the defense put down their clamps in this contest – they are playing tremendous as a team. Let’s breakdown what occurred earlier today…
Offense: I was rather surprised to read that Brian Hoyer tossed the ball for 300 yards against the Buccaneers. At times during the contest, the quarterback struggled mightily heaving it to his teammates. The two things that come to mind are the interceptions thrown (two) and the sacks surrendered (three). However late in the game, Hoyer was able to get his team into the end zone and put his guys ahead for good. You can say many things about the signal caller, but a winner is still accurate.
It was not a whole lot better, but the running attack for the Browns improved a bit on Sunday. Terrance West was the leading gainer with forty-eight yards on fifteen carries; some of his best plays were in the second half when the team needed him most. The rookie’s touchdown reception gave me faith that they can continue to do this with their running backs going forward. Ben Tate had a rough day (three yards on ten carries); I know he is a consummate pro but it’s time to see Crowell get some touches starting on Thursday. Maybe the benching will help Tate’s focus and intensity the second half of the regular season.
It was Taylor Gabriel’s first career touchdown that won the game for the Browns. The rookie hauled in five catches for eighty-seven yards – he continues to amaze despite his small frame. Miles Austin only secured three grabs, but the veteran made some key ones and those plays are the difference between wins and losses. Although Andrew Hawkins’ output took a step back, he is still a playmaker for the offense. Even when Josh Gordon returns, I expect the veteran to be a viable part of the offense.
Nick McDonald got dominated often in this contest, but the center continued to fight on. I would love to see him get to Alex Mack’s level, but he’s got some strides to make before that happens. Gerald McCoy found Brian Hoyer in the backfield on a few passing plays. Should McDonald correct his mistakes and make a push downfield, then the Browns’ run game will be back in synch. Hopefully he and Mitchell Schwartz can return to form on Thursday – they need their offensive line to be reliable in order to win games.
Defense: Baby steps occurred for the guys upfront. The defensive line did not surrender a 100-yard rusher, but Bobby Rainey made some nice moves during his nineteen carries (for eighty-seven yards). Desmond Bryant, Simone Fua, and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen had three tackles apiece – while Ahtyba Rubin had two. There is still ample room for improvement, but maybe this is the game where the team finally makes strides in stopping opponents from running the football with ease.
Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo each collected a sack in this contest – neither player was extremely dominant but they provided a strong pass rush for the Browns. Karlos Dansby had five tackles for the defense; his leadership on the field is persistent. Craig Robertson’s biggest play was on special teams, but he fought hard all contest long. Either he or Chris Kirksey need to step up going forward – they had some success earlier but were not spectacular in today’s contest. The linebacker corps continues to feature up-and-down performances, Sunday was a down one.
It was a brutal day for cornerback Buster Skrine. The veteran got picked on with regularity, whether it was by Vincent Jackson or rookie Mike Evans. He surrendered a few scores, and could not make a big play given the opportunity. Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner each collected interceptions for this defense. Both have been somewhat inconsistent this campaign, but those types of huge plays are needed by this defense. Joe Haden is finally playing like a dominant cornerback; he excelled at slowing down receivers and tipping away passes. Hopefully Justin Gilbert’s injury is not serious – otherwise K’Waun Williams will be given a larger role next Thursday.
Special Teams: For the first time this season (maybe the second, if you count Tennessee), the Browns won a contest due to their special teams. A blocked field goal and a blocked punt were a part of the repertoire for the Browns’ units. More importantly, they did not surrender a turnover and were smart when it counted. This is the type of play I have been hoping for all year long.
Coaching: Surprisingly, I felt the Browns strayed a bit from running the football during the contest. Nonetheless, Pettine and Shanahan were able to get the most from the offense – and that group simply got it done. Jim O’Neil’s defense is starting to shine; my only gripe is they need to blitz more frequently. At the end of the day, the Browns are 5 – 3 and have a good shot to make the playoffs.