Cleveland Browns – 2014 Season in Review – Part II
Now that the team was largely assembled, it was time for the group to finally hit the field. At this point, many national pundits felt the Browns would win just a handful of games and be a large disappointment. However, with the recent draft – they would be the center of the NFL during the summer months.
Training Camp: You could not turn on any television from the months of June or July and miss coverage of the Cleveland Browns. The commentators focused primarily on the duo of quarterbacks – the hometown guy in Brian Hoyer and the rookie icon Johnny Manziel. Who looked better? Who would start the season? Both players’ actions were dissected and discussed – even the press conferences were scrutinized heavily. While it was entertaining to finally get recognition nationally, many knew it was no guarantee of future success.
2014 Regular Season: It all started in Pittsburgh, where the Browns fell behind three touchdowns to their rival in the first half. The season felt to be over already, but Brian Hoyer led a furious comeback, only to fall short. It was disappointing to say the least, but it gave many fans and players alike confidence that the Browns can hang with the best of them.
The next three contests came down to the last play of the game, two of which the orange and brown came out ahead. Hoyer led a game-winning drive, which ended on a Billy Cundiff field goal to beat the Saints. After leading much of the contest, Joe Flacco hit Steve Smith over Joe Haden, and a Justin Tucker kick sent the Browns to a 1-2 record. Another great comeback at Nashville culminated on a Travis Benjamin touchdown, and magically the Browns beat the Titans by a point to get back to an even record.
Then came the high point of the season, where the orange and brown collected five wins in six matchups. They dominated the Steelers at home, and Brian Hoyer led a 31-10 rout. Inexplicably, the team faltered at Jacksonville and gave the Jaguars their first win of the season. Unfortunately, this was a sign for things to come – not playing well against a physical defense.
Following this was the Browns’ three-game winning streak against the Raiders and Buccaneers at home and versus the Bengals at Cincinnati. The two victories at First Energy Stadium were a bit closer than expected, and the Browns were far from dominant against the lesser completion – but nonetheless they left the field as winners. For the second consecutive year, the Thursday night battle was the highlight of the year. The Browns trounced the Bengals 24-3 and took control of first place in the division a few days later. It was a great feeling, but things unraveled quickly thereafter.
A physical beat down by J.J. Watt and the Texans really hurt the psyche of the Cleveland Browns. Hoyer tossed a club-record thirty incompletions and was hit in the backfield repeatedly. A week later, the quarterback tossed three interceptions but managed to narrowly escape the Falcons – after directing another game-winning drive capped by a Cundiff field goal. This would be the final victory of the 2014 season for the team.
The Bills and Colts would defeat the Browns in successive weeks – and the play of the signal caller continued to worsen. The defense did their best to humiliate Andrew Luck, but the opponent was able to guide a game-winning score late and leave with a win. Following four underwhelming efforts, coach Pettine decided to turn to the rookie at quarterback.
Johnny Manziel was an embarrassment in his two starts; he did not find the end zone, had multiple turnovers, and inspired zero confidence that he can be a competent NFL quarterback. After an injury in the second quarter in Carolina, veteran Brian Hoyer was re-inserted into the lineup. There, he tossed the team’s only touchdown – but the Browns still fell to the Panthers.
Over the next few days, both quarterbacks were injured and unable to play in the final matchup of the campaign. Rookie Connor Shaw started the final game in Baltimore. This included a couple of decent throws, some turnovers, and another loss. The season was over and the situation at quarterback appeared to still be up in the air.
Conclusion: It ended on a sour note, but I still take away a few positives of this season. They won some games I did not expect, finished with a much better record, and have a more talented roster overall. Do they have work to do in the next couple of months? You better believe it – but the Browns are a lot closer to where they want to be than they were in January 2014.