April 25, 2014

Browns end ugly road losing streak against Raiders 20-17

“Just win baby!” The famous words of deceased Raiders head honcho Al Davis rang so very true in Oakland today as the Browns faced the silver and black. It wasn’t a pretty game. The rain held off, but the field was mucky just the same. The Browns had some big plays including long passes to Mohamed Massaquoi and a 44-yard TD to Josh Gordon. The Browns also turned the ball over via two ugly, early rising fastballs from Brandon Weeden who was wild early. On the Raiders side, I couldn’t tell you how many balls were dropped by Raider receivers, but it was a noticeably high amount. In the end, the Browns had what felt like one of their better offensive games of the season as they won 20-17.

The Browns ended an ugly 12-game road losing streak. Phil Dawson also ended a not-so-ugly streak as he couldn’t escape the ugly Oakland turf. His impressive consecutive field goal streak was ended at 29. Rather than bemoan the end of the streak, it’s much more important to realize just how impressive Dawson has been. The field goal attempt that ultimately missed was a high snap on bad turf and was ultimately blocked as well. Even in missing his first out of thirty attempts, Dawson didn’t go down easily with a common shank.

The game wasn’t even really as close as the final three point margin. The Raiders had one big play to score a touchdown for 64-yards to Rob Streater over Buster Skrine. The Raiders added a 17-yarder to tight end Brandon Meyers with one second on the game clock, but it was already pretty much over, although not before some tense moments.

The Browns had a miniscule 13-10 fourth quarter lead and were driving near mid-field on the Oakland 45. On third and inches the Browns snuck the ball up the middle and received a horrendous spot and it was called fourth down and inches. After thinking about it, Pat Shurmur elected to use his last timeout rather than challenging the play. The Browns came out and went for it on fourth down and converted, but this is a logic mistake, I believe. The Browns used a timeout rather than just challenging the play. If they won the challenge they could have kept their timeout. If they lost the challenge, they still could have lined up and gone for the first down.

Thankfully for the Browns and Pat Shurmur they converted on fourth and inches and eventually ended the drive with a Trent Richardson rushing TD to make it 20-10. The Raiders got the ball back with 3:27 left and the Browns forced them to bleed the clock before allowing the TD with one second left.

So the Browns won. The Browns won the game from wire to wire even if it wasn’t a blowout. The Browns still seemed to be a bit pass-heavy. They started the game off being careless with the ball. They were fortunate to have the Raiders drop lots of passes. Still, they closed out a game on the road against another power rankings bottom dweller. There are still lots of questions facing Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam as we get closer and closer to passing judgement on this team as it exists today, but it’s also a lot more fun when the team eeks out an ugly win as opposed to an ugly loss.

“Just win, baby!” Indeed.

(AP Photo / Tony Avelar)

  • ATL Elitist

    The past couple games illustrate so much of what optimistic Browns fans have been saying this year.

    1. We are clearly better than the teams that we are usually discussed with, i.e. the Raiders, Jaguars, Chiefs, Titans, Cardinals.

    2. As improved as the Browns are at the core football exercises like running, passing, blocking, rushing the passer, stopping the run; they are really, really terrible at the fringe stuff and intangibles, like putting offense, defense and special teams together, capitalizing on opportunities, holding on to momentum, etc. The losses showed that to a great degree – we went toe to toe with tough teams and always ended up on bottom. But the wins demonstrate it even more – the Browns completely dominated both the Steelers and the Raiders, and barely escaped with wins in both games.

    3. I don’t know if that’s attributable to *coaching* more than the other aspects of the game. Perhaps the improved pass rush and pass protection is equally well due to coaching. But there must be some way to improve on intangibles.

    4. This has been a theme since Haslam bought the team, but it’s getting more relevant each week. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T TEAR THE TEAM DOWN AND INSTALL A FUN N GUN OFFENSE AND 3-4 DEFENSE! Keep the team as it is and bring in someone good to coach. Consider keeping at least Jauron as coordinator.

    5. The Browns have played the top teams in the AFC North tough this year. We’ve always thought it was harder for us than other rebuilding teams because of the consistency of the Ravens and Steelers, but now we’re so close I can taste it. Go Browns!

  • FearTheRoo

    For the first time in a long time the Browns won a game I expected them to win. Maybe the Raiders aren’t the best, but we won.

    I’m a bit nervous for next week. People may laugh because it’s only KC, but with so many former Browns in the building they will be looking for revenge.

  • Dinner

    The Pat Shurmur haters are probably pleased with the win, but a little irritated in the back of their minds. After all, another win gives Jimmy and Joe less of a reason to hire that “dream” head coach that some of the fans wanted. Don’t be surprised if Pat stays, due to not just the wins, but also how close they were in a number of games that they could have won.

  • Q

    Oakland got home field treatment from the Refs today in regards to spotting the ball. That 3rd and 1 was bad but on the previous drive for the Raiders when they had that third and 4 the refs spotted the ball a good couple feet ahead of where he caught the ball.

  • Harv 21

    Weeden was comically inaccurate early but showed a lot of 4th quarter toughness after Skrine got burned on the long TD. He was getting clobbered the week after a concussion but converted a lot of passes that he needed to in order to extend drives and halt the Raiders’ momentum. He made plays when he had to.

    Josh Gordon is looking smoother and more dangerous every week – he should have had a second long TD on that interception – but I’ve got to hand it to Greg Little. He is now playing strong all-around ball: better routes, no drops and no showboating. The fact that he’s using his size and speed to really lay some blocks shows he’s focusing on the team rather than his dancing. Never thought that if he changed it would happen on a dime. The little peacock is growing up.

    I do wonder: where was our pass rush against an immobile QB? Btw, Raiders, nice trade for Palmer. It may be the most important position, but that means little when your team pretty much sucks. Palmer already looks like he’s on his downside and those high draft picks you traded for him ain’t coming back.

  • TSR3000

    I don’t think this win or any other will save Shurmur. I just hope they don’t blow the whole thing up.

  • cmm13

    “1. We are clearly better than the teams that we are usually discussed with, i.e. the Raiders, Jaguars, Chiefs, Titans, Cardinals.”

    It took us 4 quarters to put up 2 TD’s on the Raiders who had given up 150+ points in the past 4 games…”clearly” is a strong word.

    We are headed in a better direction than the teams you mentioned but there’s still work to do.

  • Kildawg

    KC is not that good, regardless of how many guys they picked out of our trash bin and despite them beating a Carolina team that’s almost as bad. The Browns should win three in a row for the first time since… 2007? 2009? Been so long I can’t say for sure.

  • cmm13

    Close…. horseshoes and hand grenades my friend.

    Not in the NFL.

    In the NFL a competent HC wins the “close” games.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    great takes harv.

    weeden, agreed. ive leaned toward cutting him slack, he is a rookie after all but that was one rocky start today. at this point in season, i’d support game planning for turning him loose to go vertical and accept that there will be picks. he seems a ‘gunslinger’ and i want to see him freed up to pursue that.

    skrine, i like his play overall. but he’s short. unfair to say he was burned on the long td, imo. he’s 5-9 matched against 6-3 streater. it was good coverage; better pass and catch.

    gordon, yes. it felt like a stretch to use our high 2nd rounder on him at the time. but he looks like first round talent from here. happy.

    little, yes. good on him. whether he practiced more or just kept his head up and was mentally strong, either way nice to him bounce back from some bad action. shows a lot of heart.

    rush, yeah srsly. we were getting to batch with a straight four man rush. maybe line was dropping into coverage? maybe steelers line is totally train wreck? maybe they wanted to take the run away? but yes, odd not to see more heat on palmer.

    palmer, man what a bad trade. i suppose that’s what happens after watching too much gradkowski and campbell and jamarcus. fwiw, pryor looked pretty darn good for them in pre-season. i wouldnt be surprised if he emerges for them next year.

    watched game with raiders fan. our problems pale in comparison. how do you fire hue jackson, 8-8 in one year, for a never been head coach before/ one-year as defensive coordinator? was it a money thing? 3rd coach in 3 years. look at this recent draft history. and davis’ son is sniffing around to move to LA too. now that THERE is a mess. regardless of your take on raiders fans, we can all agree that franchise deserves better.

  • Dinner

    No other wins will save his job? What if Shurmur wins his last 4 games, resulting in a 8 – 8 record?

  • Dee P

    Didn’t we win the last four games of the season in a row with Mangini? The year Harrison took off at the end.

  • Harv 21

    On Skrine, agree: his coverage was there, his height was not. I like him – his speed, athleticism and toughness – but he’s going to need serious devotion to film study and a bag of veteran tricks to effectively match up with decent wideouts since he starts with a 6″ – 8″ handicap.

    On the other hand, his fair catch interference seemed like some weird brain cramp, like he mistook the returner for a wedge guy. If we don’t re-sign Cribbs he’ll be a coverage team leader and he cannot be pulling that stuff.

  • Dinner

    True, but my concern is Jimmy and Joe may decide, after their full evaluation analisys, that they may already have a competent head coach in Shurmur, and then decide to go on ahead and draft or sign key players that would get the Browns over the hump and win those “close”games.

  • Henry Brown

    I don’t think anyone has said “we’re there.” But blowing it up now is not the right move. It was good to Shurmur be slightly more aggressive on the 4th down even if he did it the wrong way.

  • Henry Brown

    Or more than trying to draft a silver bullet decide that young players and young coaches who are close will get over the hump with more experience together.

  • Jaker

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the Win. I have to be, considering we only win once out of every three games, and that’s a good rate compared to recent years. But that performance was a let down, and frankly, somewhat disappointing. Now, that does say that we have raised our expectations, which is good, but I was ready for an offensive explosion, which I realized will never happen with this coaching.

    The way we manage a game, the ‘shorten the game’ concept, yes it will keep us in many games and prevent us from getting blown out, but it will also prevent us from ever putting up an offensive explosion (40+ points) and blowing out a team. This is because shortening the game puts a premium on possessions, meaning executing on drives and not turning it over. We lead the league in Interceptions thrown, meaning we give away too many possessions in an offense that already gives us less possessions per game.

    Now I don’t want to model Tampa, but I saw what they did in Oakland, and I see the talent they have, and I thought, why couldn’t we do that? We have a better RB, a better OLine, We should have roasted The Raiders, instead it was a close game till the end. The reason: we dont spread it out, and we turn it over too much. The turnovers will go down, but the spread it out thing, won’t change under Shurmur. So as long as he is our HC, expect more frustrating timeouts and close finishes.

    With all that being said, GO BROWNS

  • Jaker

    Agreed. We are better, but we stink at proving it

  • Jaker

    First time since 1987, or so it feels

  • Jaker

    Nah, they see the same problems we all see. Shurmur will go. I hope Jauron stays

  • ATL Elitist

    I addressed that in the rest of the post. Weeden threw for 365 yards today, and we had about 450 yards of offense. We got to the red zone four times and got 13 points out of it. I agree that we haven’t put it together; my point is that the task ahead is putting it together – scoring touchdowns on trips to the red zone and on turnovers, not giving up big drives after holding stout the entire game – rather than learning to play football the way the task was under, well, Lerner.

  • Webster

    I still don’t know what to make of Buster Skrine. Every time I start to come around on him, he either makes a boneheaded play (today’s fair catch interference) or gets clearly outmatched size-wise in coverage. Last week a buddy of mine commented, “He’s got two gears: Beast and Bust.”

  • Harv 21

    I’ve shared your sentiment earlier in the season but not the last few games. It’s not true that conservative play calling kept our points down today. Our rookie QB left points on the field. He underthrew a sure TD that was picked and overthrew another pass for a pick at the goal line. Our kicker missed a chip shot 28-yard FG. Add those to our 20 points. Would 37 points been a sufficient explosion? Because we were staring right at it and not getting it had nothing to do with Shurmur.

    The play-calling was good today and has been way better the last few games.

  • saggy

    i, too, agree. it’s amazing what catching the ball when it’s thrown your way will do to a team’s productivity.

  • saggy

    i still have a problem with player management and play calling. in the fourth quarter we ran hardesty an awful lot. it wasn’t like trent was bad, either. why did we draft a guy at #3 overall if we aren’t going to use him in crunch time. you won’t see Ray Rice splitting carries in the 4th quarter of close games.

    Also, we were throwing an awful lot in the last 5-7 minutes with a lead. Can’t argue with the fact that it worked, but just wondering if it’s a product of good play-calling or lucky plays.

    Oh yeah – and PAT SHURMUR IS AN IDIOT! everyone knows that you challenge the play on 4th down instead of calling a time out. how can this guy be an NFL coach?

  • WFNY_DP

    Our RBs averaged 4.5 ypc, but only got 25 carries. That’s on Shurmer. Even though it worked out today, I know for one I was mad as hell on that first drive INT. We were straight up GASHING their run defense, and then three back to back horrible passes.

    Maybe it’s a stepping stone to win two weeks in a row when you don’t play your best, and maybe it’s still my homer glasses, but this team could do so much MORE if their head coach would just stop thinking he was so much smarter than every opponent.

    The numbers going in said RUN THE BALL AND KEEP RUNNING IT. Richardson and Hardesty combined to average 4.5 yards per carry. And yet here we are with a 36-30 pass/run split, and five of those “carries” were Weeden.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    If the Browns go 8-8, Shurmur should stay, and I’ve been one of the biggest Shurmur detractors around. If they go 8-8, it would mean they beat several quality opponents to end the year. It would also mean they beat Pittsburgh twice and finished 3-3 in the division.

    That’s improvement enough to keep him, in my opinion. However, they need to do it first.

  • REEPJP

    Is it just me, or did anyone else feel like OAK was utilizing Cleveland time management skills at the end of the game? With big leg Janikowski, kick the fg as soon as you get inside his range. You have to convert an onside kick whether you get the TD or FG first. Since they went for the TD first and wasted about 30-60 sec, they essential eliminated any chance of winning the game. I’ve often heard analysts mention that every coach has a card with all the different end of game scenarios, but it seems that 50% of the coaches still find a way to mess it up….puzzling.

  • Jaker

    But that is my point exactly, we cannot afford EITHER bad play calling OR turnovers with our offense. One day its bad play calling, another its 3 turnovers (i consider missed fgs as a turnover, FWIW). Today we had decent play calling, but the two picks were crucial. Also the missed fg actually should have been 7.

    The point I am trying to make is that If we continue to turn the ball over in these shortened games, we are going to endure many close finishes, either good or bad. But when we finally get a rhythm on offense, I’d like to have a somewhat aggressive coach at the helm.

    Kudos for the 4th down guts though, that was a welcomed change.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    Trent was in on the game clinching drive. The way Hardesty has been running the ball, I didn’t mind giving Trent a blow early in the 4th. Yeah, he’s our feature back and 1st round draft pick…but that doesn’t mean we have to run him into the ground when Hardesty has been running well this season. I actually liked mixing some fresh legs in there to save Trent for the final drive.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    I disagree totally. A strong finish saves Shumur’s job. Especially if we end the season with a win in Pittsburgh. If you had said prior to the season that we would win 6-7 games, with 2-3 of those in the division, I think most of us would have called that progress. I don’t particularly care for Shurmur as a coach, but the players apparently do. They are playing hard with basically nothing to play for. I think we all get the sense that we are very close to turning the corner. You can make the case that this is despite Shurmur and not because of him, and in a lot of ways I wouldn’t argue. But making huge changes at this stage would be a huge risk. Shurmur is making it harder for Haslam with the way things are developing.

    If they can bring in someone better without blowing the whole thing up, I wouldn’t be against that. Trouble is I don’t know if that’s possible. I’d rather give Shumur’s another year than blow it all up at this point. And this is coming from someone who was calling for his head 6 weeks ago.

  • brownstown

    No way should we keep Shurmur… Play calling is what it is… People are always going to complain about that but no way can you over look the game management or lack there of… 2 examples off the top of my head. Running a play before the 2 min warning in Dallas that ultimately cost of that game and the last TO yesterday. Those aren’t marks of a super bowl winning coach

  • WFNY_DP

    Yep, they beat Pittsburgh, KC, Oakland, and Jacksonville to close the season. Those first three are an interesting coincidence, considering the past two weeks’ and this week’s schedule.

  • porckchopexpress

    I don’t think I’ve been as conflicted about a coach since the Mangini era (chuckle). The team certainly seems to play hard, and they have been competitive and “close” in every game this season.

    On the other hand he does such inexplicably dumb things. If you are going to take the timeout after the failed 3rd and inches, why not challenge the spot? You’re going to get the same timeout time to discuss 4th down options if the challenge doesn’t work, and he might have actually won the challenge. I honestly can’t figure out how some of the most elementary decisions completely escape him every single week. I shared DP’s frustration watching the running game work and watching Shurmur ignore it.

    But thats too much complaining for a team on a “winning streak”.

    On the third hand, this really wasn’t a “3 point win”, it was a two score win with a meaningless touchdown at the end. The defenses job on that last drive was to keep recievers in front of them make tackles and chew time, and they did it perfectly. Yes the Raiders got a TD with ONE Second on the clock which make it meaningless.

    Finally how desperately do we need a second corner? And how nice is it that while there are ways to improve the team, this is the only position that is now dire. Big change from a few years ago when you could make a case to draft ANY position on the field and fill a glaring need.

  • ATL Elitist

    For all my optimism, I am not conflicted at all about a coaching change, so long as they don’t now bring in Banner’s friend’s nephew in lieu of a real NFL coach. But if they can find someone who runs a similar set of schemes and has positive NFL experience*, get that guy. A coach must be answerable for both the quality of the play, and the result, and while the quality has been much improved this year, the result is not even close to what Shurmur should have shown to keep his job.

    must….control….urge to say…. Andy Reid…. darn.

  • Erick “porckchop” Yehle

    If this point was deleted once I guess it won’t hurt to do it again. The use of the term “retarded” is being used in this post to insult Shurmur and or his offense, by comparing him and or it to a person with cognitive disabilities. Had Jim compared Shurmur’s “stupid” offense using a derogatory term for African Americans his post surely would be deleted. I do not think he means to directly insult people with cognitive disabilities, but that is all the more reason to call attention to it. “Retard” comments have become the last bastion of stereotype insulting in the country. As a group persons with cognitive disabilities suffer mental, physical, and sexual abuse at greater rates than anyone else. Much of this abuse can be attributed to a culture that view them as “stupid” or less then equal.

    Think about Jim’s comment for a minute; “Retarded-Shurmur-offense” What makes the comment an insult towards Shurmur? The word retard does, which means to Jim being a “retard” is a bad thing something, worthy of derision. Persons with Cognitive disabilities do not control their condition any more then gays, African Americans or any other commonly stereotyped group controls theirs. We have taken great leaps to respect those groups, it is time to add one more.

    In the end is it really that hard to simply call someone stupid if you think they are? Is the quality of your life harmed in any way by not insulting a group that for the most part cannot defend themselves?

    I make this pledge to anyone currently eye rolling and complaining about the “PC police”. Go one week without using the word retard. If you really feel like the quality of your life has been diminished we will make arangements for you to contact me, and I will pay you some form of reparations.

    If this post is deleted, and Jim’s language is allowed to stand you should probably go ahead and delete my IP as well. I would ask that you visit the Special Olympics “Spread the Word to End the Word” site http://www.r-word.org/. Perhaps they can articulate better than I why this type of language needs to stop.
    Thank You

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    my sister has down syndrome. my mother has a masters in special education.
    thanks for the sensitivity lesson. get back to me when youve lived with down’s syndrome in your family for 40 years.

  • EY

    I wasn’t picking a fight with you, I even said I didn’t believe you were intentionally using the word retard to insult persons with CD. The fact that you have a sister with Down Syndrom doesn’t change the fact that it is an inappropriate word for educated intelligent people to use.

    I do in fact have a five year old daughter with Down Syndrome, and I also hold a masters in special education, although I’m not teaching now, I will return one day. Here in Portage county we are blessed with both the Hattie Larlham school and Happy Days, and my wife and I volunteer as much as possible, in addition we support the Upside of Downs financially and by taking part in whatever programs they offer that we can attend. In fact last year my wife ran a softball tournament that ended up being one of the larger donations to Upside (still couldn’t beat Henry’s Hikers, those people must be a cash machine). Finally I left teaching 5 years ago to spend days at home as my daughter’s full time therapist/teacher/dad. I tell you this so you know that I go a little further than “like button activism”.

    I’m sorry that you think this is some attempt on my part to “assert control and superiority on others”. I come from a genuine place, I live each day with the knowledge that someday I will be dead and to some extent my daughter’s well being will be dependent on the care of others, hence I try to help in whatever way shape that world to one that is accepting and understanding of her.

    To you it is just a word, obviously you aren’t actually saying Shurmur is “retarded” and you don’t think using the word affects persons with CD. You are not everybody, and many people particularly children use the word retard to bully and intimidate persons with CD. Its a word that employers use to margalize and limit the job prospects of persons like my daughter and your sister. And it is places like this that it is most strongly reinforced, people -again kids in particular – read the insults thrown around in the anonymity of the internet, and bring them back to the real world, and they use that word to attack people like my daughter.

    Everytime you use the word retard you reinforce to the lowest common denominator that it is acceptable make fun of persons with Cognitive Disabilities. I can’t believe that your mother is a teacher of Special Education and would approve of you throwing “retard” around, and if she does, she can thank her stars she does not teach in my district.
    You can call me anything you want, you can think whatever you want about me, but know these two truths; When you use the word retard you make the world a worse place for your own sister. I don’t care how little you think of me, I don’t care if you think I’m preachy, and self-righteous, and 1000 other things. My duty in life is to see that word relegated to the ignorance trash heap, and if that means something as small as calling attention to a momentary lapse of intelligence in the comment section on a local blog then thats what I do.

  • Derek

    Ray Rice didn’t get a single touch in the 4th quarter yesterday.