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Cleveland Browns Offense Forgets to Show Up for Battle of Ohio
Confidence and spirits were riding high all week as the Cleveland Browns prepared for a matchup that could have propelled them to just a half game back of the Cincinnati Bengals for first place in the AFC North. Instead, the Browns laid an egg as their offense forgot to travel to Cincinnati, and the Browns fell 41-20 to the now Bengals.
This game was honestly a tale of two quarters—the first and the second—as the Cleveland Browns jumped out to an early 13-0 lead in the first quarter. Thanks to two field goals from Billy Cundiff and a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown by Joe Haden (first of his career and one of two in the game), the Browns looked to be in major control of their rivals to the south.
Instead, just like they missed out on opportunities to score touchdowns on both of their first two drives, Jason Campbell and the Browns offense let the Bengals right back in the game at the end of the first quarter. While they could have gone to a more run based attack up 13 at the end of the quarter, Campbell and the offense decided to stick with the pass. Campbell threw a pass that Brandon Weeden would have been proud of into the Bengals line, and James Harrison came up with the interception.
From there, as you know, it was all downhill for the Cleveland Browns.
Andy Dalton threw a touchdown pass, Browns punter Spencer Lanning had not one but two punts blocked thanks to a bad snap and no blocking and the Bengals capitalized with touchdowns off both special teams screw ups. Thanks to three touchdowns in 10 minutes, the Bengals were suddenly up 21-13 and the Browns were stunned.
While the team was certainly reeling, the game was far from over. With the exception of giving up two touchdowns on a short field thanks to the first block and Campbell’s interception, the Bengals really couldn’t do anything on offense. All the Browns had to do with just over four minutes left in the second quarter was put together a decent, mistake-free drive and put some points on the board and they would be in good shape.
Once again, as you all know, they did just the opposite.
In an attempt to throw their way out of a bad field position (on their own 17-yard line), Campbell hit running back Chris Ogbonnaya on a short two-yard pass. Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict jarred the ball loose, picked it up and ran it back for a touchdown giving the Bengals a 28-13 lead. The Browns would get the ball back two more times before the end of the quarter, but instead of running out the clock they would give it back to the Bengals two more times, allowing them to tack on another three points before halftime.
I could continue to break down every series, but you probably lived this moment negatively on your couch or at your local watering hole. The point is, despite putting up an absolutely awful showing in the second quarter by being outscored 31-0, the Browns were not out really out of this game until the fourth quarter.
Yet for some reason the team abandoned the run altogether—like they have all season—and allowed Campbell to dink and dunk his way to completing 27-of-56 attempts for 248 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Yes you read that correctly, Campbell threw the ball 56 times during a game that featured rain and blustery winds on and off all afternoon.
The lone bright spot of the offense came in the third quarter, when Campbell connected with Josh Gordon on a 74-yard touchdown pass to draw the score to 31-20. On a beautifully delivered deep pass—seemingly the only one all day long—Campbell was able to take advantage of the man coverage the Bengals played all game against Browns receivers.
What is mind-boggling, and maybe a different camera angle or explanation from the coaches can shed more light on this, is why the team failed to take more shots down the field?
Outside of Gordon’s big play, the longest pass play on the day was 12 yards for the Browns. Instead of targeting receivers down the field, Campbell seemed more than happy to check down to his running backs, as Ogbonnaya, Fozzy Whittaker and Willis McGahee had 19 targets (according to ESPN). Wide receivers not named Gordon (15 targets) combined for just 13 targets and recorded just two catches for seven yards.
Just two weeks ago against the Baltimore Ravens, Campbell was able to connect with Greg Little seven times for 122 yards (nine targets), Gordon three times for 44 yards (seven targets), Davone Bess three times for 24 yards (four targets) and Armanti Edwards one time for 10 yards (one target). The running backs in that game were targeted just 10 times, recording eight catches for 52 yards.
Maybe attacking underneath was something the Browns saw on film as a weakness against this Bengals defense, but it was obviously one that was not working early in the game. Yet once again—something that is becoming alarming normal for this coaching staff—the team failed to make the proper in-game adjustments necessary to secure the victory.
Coming of a victory against the Baltimore Ravens and a well-deserved bye week, this was supposed to be a statement game for Campbell and the Browns in the AFC North. The team certainly made a statement alright, one that doesn’t provide much confidence of beating a suddenly hot Pittsburgh Steelers team at home next Sunday.
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