The Cleveland Browns were outplayed and out-coached in their final home game of the year against the Washington Redskins. Their record dropped to 5-9 as they lost 38-21. The Browns win streak was ended at three and the Redskins’ was extended to five.
The part where the Browns were outplayed is obvious. Brandon Weeden turned the ball over with two interceptions in meaningful time as he went 21-for-35 while having three more passes batted down. Out-coached? Anyone who watched Kirk Cousins playing in his first start of the year – making decisive throws, changing plays at the line, thriving even as the Browns’ defense mostly shut down the running game while it was still meaningful – would have a tough time coming to any other conclusion.
The Browns came into today’s game with a chance to prove that they made strides against a pretty poor defense. Instead, they looked predictable and ineffective as they turned the ball over too much. Even the bomb touchdown to Travis Benjamin was a gift of an opportunity as Brandon Weeden barely recovered his own strip-sack fumble as his helmet flew the other direction a few plays prior. Incidentally, the fly route for 69 yards from the shotgun was one of the few times where the Browns seemed to play to Weeden’s strengths. Contrast that with the coaching staff across the field that has done nothing but work with the inherited strengths of Robert Griffin III and today’s result is all the more depressing.
On offense, the Browns continue to rely on all their mis-direction pre-snap to cover for them. Instead of mixing up snap counts, looking off receivers and giving different looks, the Browns prefer to have Alex Smith, Ben Watson and Jordan Cameron do the hokey pokey before fifty percent of the plays from scrimmage. It is maddening to watch and apparently isn’t doing much to set up the Browns’ offense for consistent success. Even that being said, it is probably the most consistent thing about the offense: Pre-snap motion of the tight ends.
The Browns had a real chance too. Kirk Cousins hand-delivered the first touchdown for the Browns when he threw into coverage near Pierre Garcon. Sheldon Brown tipped it and T.J. Ward took it deep into Redskins territory for first and goal. Trent Richardson and a convoy of Browns players won the scrum at the goal line and the Browns took a 7-0 lead. The Browns’ rookie runner also secured the rookie rushing TD record for the club with 10, surpassing Jim Brown and Eric Metcalf. Richardson would later add to his lead giving the Browns their 14-10 halftime lead.
That lead wouldn’t hold.
Brandon Weeden opened the second half with a very bad interception when he completely missed the underneath linebacker. That linebacker had an easy one as the ball was returned to the Browns’ 15 yard line. The Redskins needed two plays to make it 17-14, played defense, and added another TD on the next drive to make it 24-14. I say it that quickly because it felt just that fast.
Believe me when I say it’s strange to say the Browns’ defense didn’t play badly. They were owned by Kyle Shannahan’s bootlegs at times and really, how can you say that they played anything but badly when they gave up 38 points and let a first-time rookie starter, Kirk Cousins, beat them? I say it because in the flow of the game it really felt like the Browns defense was holding serve and giving the offense a chance to win. After helping deliver the Browns’ first TD and ensuring a 14-10 halftime lead, the defense was greeted with a short field on Weeden’s interception to start the second half.
The defense sets up the offense, but the offense also sets up the defense. The offense punted six times, turned the ball over twice and went 0-2 on fourth down plays. This, against a team that was not heralded defensively coming into the game. Maybe I’ll change my mind when I look back at this one, but I think the defense can defend the performance somewhat.
In the end, the Browns close out the season at home quieting the talk this past week that maybe the Browns should keep Pat Shurmur for another year in the name of continuity. Also quieted will be any minuscule talk about whether or not the Browns could somehow sneak into the playoffs at 8-8. The talk that will be ramping up in all likelihood will be regarding the NFL draft, Pat Shurmur’s replacement and possibly (okay, definitely) Colt McCoy.
Hey, what do you think it would take to get the Redskins to trade Kirk Cousins? You know they traded most of their draft picks to St. Louis for RG3.
(AP Photo / Tony Dejak)