A Review of Game #9 – Browns @ Bengals
What a total team performance by the Cleveland Browns! All three phases played extremely well, and the elements were not an obstacle for the visiting club. I was really proud to be a Browns fan in the stadium – we were loud, obnoxious, and took control of Paul Brown Stadium. Let’s take a gander at what went down…
Offense: Brian Hoyer was very efficient in this contest; the quarterback did not toss a touchdown but he led three touchdown drives and did not turn the ball over. If going fifteen for twenty-eight for 198 yards is good enough to get wins in the NFL – then I’m all for the way Hoyer is being utilized in this offense. The Browns’ offense has the formula for success, and the leadership by the man under center spearheads this.
It’s not often that three running backs all carry the ball into the end zone. However, that was the case as Terrance West (ninety-four yards), Isaiah Crowell (forty-one yards), and Ben Tate (thirty-four yards) each scored touchdowns. The Browns tallied 170 yards on the ground on fifty-two carries; I liked the game plan by this offense and, more importantly, their execution. It now comes down to repeating this type of performance.
No Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron, or Andrew Hawkins – no problem for this receiving corps. The ball was spread around to five different targets, all of which had more than one reception. Miles Austin continues to be a consistent chain mover, especially on third downs. I was glad to see Gary Barnidge and Travis Benjamin get into the action – totaling five grabs for ninety-two yards. I cannot wait for this group to be completely healthy, but for now this performance will do.
The offensive line definitely stepped its game up Thursday night. In addition to opening holes in the running game, they kept Brian Hoyer clean in the pocket. Granted Nick McDonald got beat badly by Geno Atkins, but those things happen. I am really pulling for this game being a stepping-stone for solid play by the offensive line going forward. If it is, then the sky is the limit for his offense.
Defense: Desmond Bryant was the star of the defensive line; he finished with six tackles and two sacks – and looked dominant in the process. It was a welcomed sight by a guy who has not been consistent since signing with the Browns. Billy Winn and Phil Taylor each put in solid performances; they did not excel but were good enough in limiting Jeremy Hill to just fifty-five yards on twelve carries.
It was status quo for linebacker Paul Kruger; the veteran notched another sack this season. I have enjoyed his transformation from an underachieving free agent acquisition to a defensive leader. After a quiet season, Jabaal Sheard finally came to play. He had five tackles and was swarming to ball regularly. The only disappointment was Barkevious Mingo, who did not register any stats for this game. Craig Robertson’s interception set the tone for the game; he and Chris Kirksey are holding it down next to Karlos Dansby. The former Cardinal had a team-high eight stops and continues to show his leadership.
Buster Skrine had a pair of interceptions and three tackles. I was a bit surprised to see him play this well, but I will gladly take it. Joe Haden shut down A.J. Green to the tune of three catches for twenty-three yards. Both safeties performed well, but I was disappointed to see Tashaun Gipson drop an easy interception (his forced fumble on Hill made up for it though). Whitner had four stops and was great in run support. This secondary is finally coming around, and I believe they can win tight games with this group.
Special Teams: The only blunder for the Browns was the fumble by Jim Leonhard early in the contest. I guarantee he will only be catching punts from now on, but the Browns have to have faith that a guy can bring back punts. Other than that, the special teams were once again spectacular.
Coaching: An all-around great coaching job by the Cleveland Browns. They ran it down the Bengals throats, made Andy Dalton make plays, and let the weather dictate play calls. I hope they bottle this game plan up and use it later in the season (and maybe the postseason). But for now, I’m going to enjoy this win and the Sunday off without the Browns.