August 26, 2014

Winds Of Change: Browns Snag 2nd W in Three Games

It wasn’t pretty. The elements played a huge role. There’s more than enough things to key in on that need significant work. But, here we are, for the second time in three weeks talking about a Cleveland Browns win. The Browns leaned heavily on Trent Richardson for 24 carries, and he rewarded them 122 yards and the game’s only touchdown. The defense stepped out and used the elements to their advantage, making plays when they absolutely had to late. The Browns improved to 2-6 and came away victorious by a 7-6 margin.

One week removed from being pulled from a loss against the Colts after just eight timid carries, it was Trent Richardson who shouldered the load on a blustery afternoon that can normally characterize at least two Sundays every season at Cleveland Browns Stadium. It was AFC North football to the core, grinding out yardage on the ground with the offensive linemen opening up holes. No run was more telling of that than Richardson’s 26-yard stroll into the end zone. As Richardson bounced off tackle, “fullback” Alex Smith sealed the edge as a handful of Chargers chased Trent down the line in a lost cause. Trent hit the second level after two jukes to make two more Chargers miss with a bear hug from his guards, Jon Greco and Shawn Lauvao, who, realizing that it was their own running back they were engaged with, gave him a gentle nudge and sent him on his way into the end zone. As Andrew said on Twitter, it’s the kind of touchdown the Browns are apt to surrender rather than score themselves. All of this was done against the 2nd ranked Chargers run defense that understood the challenging passing conditions for Brandon Weeden. Credit the offensive line and tight ends Smith and Ben Watson, who were pressed into service blocking in the backfield with the deactivation of fullback Owen Marecic. I noticed multiple plays where Greco and Lauvao helped open up holes for Richardson to run.

Speaking of those quarterback struggles, it was a combination of overthrowing the receivers and the receivers flatout dropping catchable balls. For Weeden, it was a slightly overthrown ball to Ben Watson in the first quarter that could’ve been a touchdown, a pass that could have (not necessarily should have) been caught by Josh Gordon in the end zone, and drops by Greg Little, Chris Ogbonnaya, and Josh Cooper that stalled drives and forced punts. For Rivers, the most frustrating play of the game for Chargers fans was undoubtedly the sure-fire touchdown that receiver Robert Meachem dropped as he zoomed past T.J. Ward and Usama Young in the third quarter. It was an infuriating game for the franchise quarterback Rivers, who had several outbursts like a toddler whose favorite toy was taken away by a parent.

When you look at Weeden’s numbers, they’re nothing too impressive. But, in between the figures, there was some success in rolling out to the right and finding his receivers on crossing patterns to both Little and Gordon for first downs. The rookie QB was 11-for-27 for 129 yards, but he avoided turning over the ball for the second straight week and has just six turnovers in the last seven games.

After plenty of frustrating games watching the defense get gashed for big plays and multiple scores, it was a relief to see the Browns defense hold San Diego to just two Nick Novak field goals. The defensive effort was outstanding, particular from the safety position as T.J. Ward and Usama Young both stood out. Ward was key in holding Chargers running back Ryan Matthews to under 100 yards (24 carries for 95 yards with a long of 11) and had a blitz late to force Rivers to get rid of the ball preventing a first down completion. Meanwhile, Young nearly had two interceptions as he broke up one deep pass where he came over with Haden giving the receiver a bit of a cushion. On another, Young and Ward were nearly able to bring in another pick. D’Qwell Jackson had 14 tackles of his own as he seemed to never be too far from the play. James-Michael Johnson, officially a permanent starter with Scott Fujita on the IR, had a big day as well, headlined by a strip of Matthews that was recovered by defensive tackle Billy Winn.

There’s certainly plenty of areas that need work. The Browns prevent-ish defense at the end of both halves was atrocious. It led to three points at the end of the first and nearly resulted in three more that would’ve won the game. Ronnie Brown broke free on multiple occasions and was unaccounted for by the Cleveland defense, catching 7 passes for 85 yards, including two huge ones to extend the series on San Diego’s final drive. There was Josh Cribbs and his fear of picking the ball up, pinning the Browns deep in their own territory twice. There was Montario Hardesty’s fumble, quickly recovered by Montario himself, which nearly ruined things. Reggie Hodges was pretty terrible punting the ball for most of the day. All of that didn’t matter, however, when Buster Skrine deflected Rivers’s last pass and Sheldon Brown tackled Malcolm Floyd to the ground.

I’ll leave you with this. How nice is it to walk into work on Monday morning and talk about a Browns win? Not a meaningless, end of the season, draft-order ruining win at the end of the season against scrubs. Instead, it’s a mid-season win against a team that’s made the playoffs recently. One that has a franchise quarterback and a tough run defense. It’s the second time in three weeks. While hard to quantify, I just don’t feel this is business as usual. The Browns won’t make the playoffs. They may not do much more than double their win total right now. But, how good does it feel when someone asks you about how the Browns are doing to say “We’re building. We’re getting there.” and actually believe it?

 

  • mgbode

    Gameball to Trent.

  • NoVA Buckeye

    Alex Smith should be the permanent starting FB. Much better at blocking.

  • cmm13

    And one to any fans that braved that game. It’s been nasty here today.

  • WFNY_DP

    There was plenty of room to spread out in the Pound. It was EM-TEE.

  • Harv 21

    a few things:

    - today a few key players were initiated into playing in northern autumn conditions. Weeden said he’d never played in this type of game and that the missed Watson pass was because if a wet ball that just palmed off his hand. They need to learn about how to play in and embrace these field conditions, and the worse conditions coming in a month or two, so it will be their home field advantage. He said he feared the game-deciding mistake pass. That’s good, and that’s what kept them in it despite all the three-and-outs.

    - it was important that Gordan had no drops today, to keep the negativity and additional media scrutiny out of his head. When it happened I feared Cooper’s drop was the ballgame. That drop didn’t look particularly weather-related (though the ball was certainly slick). Possession receivers have just got to hang on there, in any weather, with any contact. Let’s not anoint the guy for non-football related reasons. He’s not Brian Brennan until he vacuums up all the passes thrown his way, in his chest, over his head and off his shoetops.

    - San Diego is a mess. Rivers seems like a QB whose parts are greater than the whole. Not a good demeanor for a field leader.

    - The Browns have to win these games, no matter how ugly or lucky. When they do they’ll start believing that they can, instead of getting contagious dropsies and other self-destructive implosions. At this stage any win, any way, is a good start.

  • http://twitter.com/oribiasi oribiasi

    I think we stepped back in time with this 7-6 win. I hope the irony of watching it in HD wasn’t lost on anyone. :)

    But yes, it is better to talk about a victory than a loss.

  • Garry_Owen

    So, 10-6 won’t be good enough to make the playoffs?!?!

  • BuckeyeDawg

    The whole place looked empty in the 2nd half on TV. Honestly, though…there aren’t worse conditions to watch a game in than 40 degrees and a wind driven rain. I would rather it be snowing and/or zero than have to sit through that, so I don’t totally blame people for not wanting to endure that game in that weather.

  • Guest

    Did Gordon drop a touchdown in the end zone? I couldn’t quite make it out from the replay, but I’m almost sure I saw the ball hit him in the face mask. A win is a win and beats the alternative. The game was really boring, though. I was shocked at how many people apparently left the game at the half…certainly the weather was horrible, but if you’ve made the effort to get to the stadium you might as well tough it out and stay for the whole game. Rivers bitching at his teammates and stomping his feet like a petulant first-grader after a drop did provide entertainment. I really do loath the NFL…but like the proverbial bad car wreck, I can’t take my eyes off it. Sort of like this blog…it’s so bad it’s actually entertaining.

  • Big Z

    Thank you, San Diego, for not letting the Browns lose this one despite their best efforts! Gonna be a great week!

  • Harv 21

    just two more:

    - to run effectively a team must commit to the run, not abandon it when a few plays go for losses. The weather forced Shurmur to stick with Trent even when there were a few tackles for losses and a stop on 3rd and 1. And in the 4th quarter Trent started getting nice yardage again when it looked to me like our o-line was finally starting to fatigue the Chargers’ line and their d-backs were no longer so anxious to initiate hard contact with him. That’s what a powerful guy like Trent can do if you let him. Twenty-four carries like today were way more effective than 17 or 18.

    - a big story today was Ward and his good plays in run support and behind the line. But the run defense needed him, it was atrocious early in the game, again. And if that long San Diego pass isn’t dropped we’re criticizing Ward for a long TD, that was his man and his reaction and angle were atrocious. He’s got to work at least until he’s mediocre in pass coverage.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    It wasn’t pretty. The elements played a huge role – two statements putting it mildly.

  • Kildawg

    Smelley should get a shot at FB/TE/H-back, cut the dead weight in Marecic. Smith could be better served in his current role as blocking TE.

  • Kildawg

    This is one we needed. This win should get us more confidence in close games (which we have plenty of) and momentum when Baltimore comes to town off their bye (and horrible on the road to boot). Maybe we can go for two in a row (and against the division) and a third straight W at home.

  • Jcaesar

    This will mark the 2nd time in a row that we have played a team coming off a bye week…new england did not have any games this year against teams coming off byes….also had a road game against a team today that had a longer flight….very subtle ways the nfl tries to keep certain teams on top.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I’m happy with today’s win, but it also is what makes last week (and Week 1) so frustrating.

    A few thoughts, and I’m watching this all from NYC so perhaps I’m just getting a different perspective:

    Weeden looks better and better, and tends not to make the same mistake twice. A few bad balls today but he erred the right way on those.

    I’d love to see how many runs Richardson has at different yard amounts. Is it just me or do all his runs go either for 0-1 or 6+? It seems like he’s unstoppable if he gets through the first hole, but he has trouble getting that first hole (today was obviously better). Also, it was nice that with Marecic out, the plays were substantially less predictable.

    If Dwayne Bowe is available as someone told me there’s a rumor about, would he not be the perfect piece to add to this offense? If they’ll take a 3rd and a 5th, I’m game.

    Was it just us or does Pat Shurmur remind you of Norv Turner? He has odd yet somewhat predictable (and similar) play-calling, he makes coaching errors that one would expect one’s coach to not make, and he just seems to lose games he shouldn’t be losing all too often, yet also doesn’t get many breaks which are easy to put the blame on, too. Plus, they look like brothers. Anyone else see that?

  • Jaker

    SMELLEYYYYYYYYYY I have long awaited his chance, it’s Time to promote our secret weapon. Him and TRich in the backfield for a long long time, with Weeden and Coooooooper. I’m in love

  • Jaker

    The first thing my Dad said to me when Weeden took the final knee… “We NEVER win this game”

    I had to admit it, I too was waiting for this game to end 9-7 for the entire 4th quarter, but the D stepped up and didn’t allow it. It wasn’t pretty, but good teams win ugly games. Are we a good team? No. Not yet, but this Win is definitely pushing us towards being one, which I haven’t been able to say in such a long time.

    I also have my complaints, watching Ronnie Brown catch and run was infuriating, often leading me to think we need to draft a LB in round 1. but all in all, I have a big smile n my face because the Browns are taking leaps forward this season. 2-2 at home, looking for a third straight at home and 2nd in division play. I have never wanted to beat BAL as much as I do this week.

    Go Browns

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/4EQBAIXA2YA3WH6PA5L4OVMJXE Mike N

    How many more int’s can Usama Young drop this year?
    There was 2 today!

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    This game was exactly the reason why my ideal Browns identity would be strong running game and aggressive defense. Unless Mr. Haslam tosses a roof on the stadium (and I still hope he does not), we’re going to need to be able to grind out games this time of year.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    I’m convinced that no defense drops as many INTs as the Browns defense, for several years now. I’d say that’s why our DBs don’t play WR, but on this roster…
    And don’t get me started on our inability to recover that muffed punt in the 4th quarter.

  • Hopwin

    That was the first time we ever snuck HIGHER UP into the stadium @ the half. Found some shelter under the overhang but I still can’t feel my feet :D

  • Harv 21

    agree that hanging onto INT’s has been a real issue but in all fairness it really improved this season until yesterday. And if both teams’ receivers were dropping perfectly thrown wet balls all day, can’t really blame a DB for doing so given that the DBs are generally receivers with bad hands.

  • mgbode

    well, you can watch Chicago. whatever they do in drafting or drilling to get their DBs to hang onto the ball we sure need to figure out and copy.

    but, I do see a ton of dropped INTs in other games as well.

  • mgbode

    we’re in the AFC. we might just need to get to 8-8 this year :)

    (well, okay, we’re not in the AFC East, so we probably need 9-7. and no, neither is happening but hey, it’s over-reaction Monday, let’s have fun with it)

  • mgbode

    ahem. so am I (when compared to Marecic).

    but, I agree Alex Smith did a nice job. He missed badly once in the 3rd quarter (nitpicking!!!), but overall I rarely noticed him, which is how it should be for a FB.

  • mgbode

    yeah, it looked brutal. when I visit Cleveland, I sort of like it to be nasty (Tenn game last year wasn’t quite as bad, but similar). but, it’s because I get to go back to Texas weather afterwards.

  • mgbode

    we’ve had “good-looking” losses (Baltimore, Indy). i’ll take an ugly win this time.