It’s going to be a long couple of weeks Browns fans. Buckle up.
Pat Shurmur is his own worst enemy sometimes. With the game on the line and facing 4th and 2 from their own 28 yard line and he seemed to want to prove that he’s learned to be aggressive. Never mind that the previous controversial fourth down plays in question occurred at the Browns’ opponent 40-ish yard lines. Shurmur decided to roll the dice for once, and unfortunately for him it was absolutely the wrong call. The Browns ran one of the worst-looking plays of the game with Weeden air mailing Greg Little and the Browns basically handed the Ravens the ball in field goal range trailing by a single score 22-15. Of course the Ravens moved the ball a few feet and made it a two possession game 25-15. Of course they did. That’s the way the final score finished as the Browns lose by ten after leading by one 15-14 with 8:45 left in the game.
In the end, Pat Shurmur might try to take solace in the fact that the Browns had plenty of opportunities to beat the Ravens. He might even make some excuses because the Browns were certainly on the short end of a couple really bad penalty calls. An offensive pass interference on Josh Gordon, and a roughing the QB on T.J. Ward seemed particularly egregious and game-changing. Still, the Browns had the ball with 4:26 left and had a chance to punt with 3:50 and two timeouts on their own 28 trailing only one score and somehow came to the decision to go for it. The way the team “executed” the fourth down play, you probably don’t have to guess that the team was just as confused as the coaching staff that came with two feet down on their “jump to conclusions mat” with that conclusion. So the Browns head into the bye week dropping another game to the Ravens and showing a complete inability to capitalize on the good feelings they had off of an ugly win over San Diego.
The first half started off horribly. The Browns ran the ball twice in their first two series (plus a Trent Richardson swing pass) and didn’t net a first down. That set up the Ravens for two straight touchdown drives. The Ravens, in contrast, rode the running game and it paid dividends. 32 rushing yards for Ray Rice and a TD on the first drive chewed up 5:25. 32 more yards between Rice and Pierce on the second drive resulted in a 14-0 lead for the Ravens chewing up another 6:52. The benefits of the running game are clear. Keeping the opposing defense on the field is useful.
Pat Shurmur eventually got the memo and Trent Richardson finished the first half with 76 yards rushing. Fast forward to the Browns getting two field goals and driving for a third score to end the first half.
In the end I agree with Pat Shurmur’s decision to kick the field goal to end the first half, albeit grudgingly. My initial reaction was that the Browns should have taken one shot at the end zone from just under ten yards away and six seconds left on the clock. In the end, the conservative route to take the third field goal and make it 14-9 was the right call.
That doesn’t mean that Shurmur and the Browns offense are off the hook for criticism. I’m still dismayed that they only had six seconds remaining after getting the ball back near midfield and just over a minute left. A first down delayed run for two yards and 30-plus seconds off the clock was the biggest sin, which begot the decision to kick with six seconds on the clock.
The Browns didn’t have a good day on offense. Brandon Weeden seemed scared for a large portion of the day. It was like the pick-six he threw the last time the Browns played the Ravens lived in his head all week as he failed to pull the trigger on first options and frequently checked down to worse options. Trent Richardson was certainly effective enough with 105 yards on 25 carries and 31 yards receiving on six catches. But it was like going back into a really depressing time machine where Phil Dawson was forced to field goal the Browns to a tight victory or a disastrous loss.
And a disastrous loss it was. Maybe not this bye week as the Browns will probably stay true to their word and not make any changes to the coaching staff until the end of the season. But trust me when I say that this one should be disastrous to a lot of people, and Pat Shurmur most of all. This one won’t go on the positive balance of the scale when Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam are weighing the positives and negatives of their head coach’s season.