Browns @ Ravens – Review of Game #16
Well, the Browns gave everything they have in this contest. They had an early goal-line stand and a solid offensive drive leading to a touchdown. However, that was not enough – as the Browns fell once again to the dirty birds. I’m simply amazed at how the Browns can find new ways to blow it to division rivals, but here we are. There was improved quarterback play, and some decent defense – but the Browns are losers again. Let’s analyze…
Offense: I’m really intrigued to see Connor Shaw with this team next season. The undrafted rookie made a couple of plays, and was much better in the pocket than his rookie counterpart. He’s got a ton of room to grow if he wants to be a starter in the future – but it could have been a lot worse. While the former South Carolina star did not find the end zone passing, he was not awful. His early fumble was expected to be a tone-setter, but the quarterback managed to have a decent outing. I’m looking forward to his progress heading into 2015.
Returning back to Baltimore, Terrance West was there to impress. The rookie runner finished the contest with just under 100 yards and the only offensive touchdown. I’m intrigued to see how he and Isaiah Crowell matchup in the offseason and going forward. With better quarterback and offensive line play, the running attack should be solid.
My oh my, Andrew Hawkins is an enigma for the wide receiver corps. He made some nice, shifty plays for the offense – while still dropped a couple of easy tosses. Taylor Gabriel led the group with three grabs for sixty-six yards. Jordan Cameron also had three grabs. This team needs to dump Gordon and acquire a pair of stalwarts this offseason – doing so could lead to a solid group for whoever is under center.
Early on, I thought the five guys upfront did everything they were asked against the defensive line. Mitchell Schwartz made a bonehead penalty and Nick McDonald fumbled an early snap, to kill this offense. I desperately want to see the team get a new right guard and tackle between free agency and the upcoming draft.
Defense: At least the defensive line did not give up over 200 yards on the ground in this contest. They did surrender 119 rushing yards to Justin Forsett, but at least it was an improvement for the orange and brown. There was little to no pass rush upfront, which must be addressed in the coming months. No guy really stood out, even Scott Solomon was locked down on the edge.
Craig Robertson and Paul Kruger each had tremendous outings by the linebackers. The former had a couple of nice stops against the run, and was exceptional in coverage (outside of a few plays). The latter was disruptive on the outside and had a forced fumble, knocking the opponent out of field goal range. Karlos Dansby and Chris Kirksey each underwhelmed, but those things happen in the NFL.
Despite the fact that Joe Haden is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, the veteran gave up the deep toss on the go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter. It’s beyond frustrating, but unless #23 can step it up in crunch time, this will be his Achilles’ heel. Buster Skrine, K’Waun Williams, and Jordan Poyer each had their moments – I think they are reliable athletes who can be a part of the team going forward. Tip of the cap to Jim Leonhard; the newly retiree had a solid career and I wish him all the best (I just wish the Browns had him a few years ago).
Special Teams: Bringing out kickoffs nine yards deep has been killing this offense. The Browns lost the starting field position battle, and it did not help matters. Other than that, the special teams were on par with the Ravens’ – not terrible but not spectacular.
Coaching: Kyle Shanahan called a conservative game plan for this offense and it showed. While they held their own for a while, it was a dagger late in this contest. It was the best as they could have expected but still not enough. Defensively, the coaches could not generate a pass rush all day and it killed the defense. At the end of the day, it was another division loss and a losing season.
What’s Next: After a week break, we’ll look back at this 2014 season and all the excitement around this offseason after that. It is safe to say there are many important decisions to be made by Ray Farmer from now until May 2015.