The Browns ran into a Bengals team with some good offensive playmakers, and ultimately couldn’t stay out of their own way to win it. The three big storylines of the Browns game today will be special teams, replacement defensive backs and penalties even though it could have been Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson. Unfortunately, the Browns weren’t able to overcome their mistakes on special teams and defense.
Special teams cost the Browns a gut-punching 81 yard TD to Adam (not Pacman) Jones in the first quarter. It was a foretelling play as Browns players missed arm tackles left and right. It would be indicative of what we would see all day from the Browns’ secondary.
Say what you want about Sheldon Brown (and many of his naysayers feel free) but the Browns missed him. Brown was active, but didn’t see the field a week after a neck stinger. Combine that with the high profile suspension of Joe Haden and the Browns secondary was forced to test its young depth. While I’m not giving up hope on young guys like Trevin Wade and Buster Skrine, there’s no doubting that they hurt the team today. A.J. Green, Andrew Hawkins and Brandon Tate all made the Browns defense look silly at times.
Lastly, penalties just crushed the Browns. False starts, holds, offsides on key plays and by cornerbacks, etc. cost the Browns over 100 yards on 10 penalties. That’s absolutely ridiculous.
But even with all that the Browns had a chance. They scored a late touchdown to bring the game within a score 31-24. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to hold, giving up a field goal to Mike Nugent with an insurance field goal. The Browns drove and got a field goal of their own before failing to get the onside kick.
Still, even with a wider margin of victory for the Browns decidedly weaker opponent, compared to the Eagles, I’m not left with the same feeling of despair that I had last week. The Browns’ defense was frustrating, but losing your two top corners from week-to-week is an understandable degradation.
More importantly, Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson showed a glimpse of what Browns fans were dreaming of before last week’s nightmarish output. Richardson showed that he might just be the first Browns offensive superstar since Kellen Winslow, and he could very well surpass any memory of Winslow in a hurry.
Richardson finished the day with 109 yards and a TD on the ground to go along with 36 yards and a TD in the passing game. Brandon Weeden erased the fears of another 5.1 QB rating as he amassed a 114.9 rating with 322 yards on 26/37 passing and two TDs. All day long, Weeden showed the ability to throw into tight spaces.
There will be plenty of things to talk about this week, but in the end the Browns lose 34-27 to a Bengals team that isn’t as good as the Eagles, and yet, I feel a lot better than I did last week. There’s a lot of work for this Browns team going forward, but at least this feels like a building block of a team to mold into something. We’ve seen what the defense can do in week one. Now we’ve seen what the offense can do in week two. Three more weeks until Haden gets back. A few more weeks after that and Phil Taylor might be back. Maybe just maybe the end of the season won’t be like an away game in Cleveland Browns Stadium.