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Cleveland Browns Poor Defensive Performance Overshadowed by Brandon Weeden Flip
Through the first five games of the 2013 season, the Cleveland Browns defense has displayed one of the biggest turnarounds in the NFL under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton. With exotic looks and key additions in the front seven, the Browns have pressured quarterbacks and forced offenses to really get out of their comfort zone all season long—until Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
The Browns 31-17 loss will forever be remembered for the “Brandon Weeden Flip” as the team was driving with an opportunity to tie the football game with less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. While that was certainly one of the more mind-boggling decisions this writer has ever seen in 28 years of football watching, putting the blame squarely on Weeden for this one is a complete injustice.
Matthew Stafford didn’t throw for 500 yards on Sunday, but his distribution of the ball with elite wide receiver Calvin Johnson essentially playing on one leg was entirely too easy. Stafford connected with seven different receivers, and the Cleveland Browns secondary—mainly linebacker Craig Robertson—made rookie tight end Joseph Fauria look like the next the next coming of Tony Gonzalez. The 6’7” and 255-pound product of UCLA had his own coming out party of sorts, looking three receptions for 34 yards and three touchdowns.
What has been a vaunted Top 10 NFL defense all season (especially in the run game) gave up 366 yards and 31 points to a very good Detroit Lions football team on Sunday. Stafford completed 25-of-43 passes for 248 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. The running game—mainly Reggie Bush—performed very well, racking up 118 yards on the ground on 28 carries. Bush accounted for 17 of those carries for 78 yards (4.6 per carry), and looked as if he could not be stopped by the Browns defense in the second half.
The most disappointing aspect of the defensive performance against the Lions was not the point total given up, but the inability of Horton’s group to get to the quarterback. The Browns racked up just one sack (ironically enough, by Robertson) on the day and just two tackles for a loss (according to ESPN’s game recap). Maybe Browns fans had been spoiled by the play of the defense through the first five games, but if you cannot create negative plays on defense against a playoff team, you usually are not going to win.
All of the focus in this loss will squarely go on Weeden because of yet another performance that left a lot to be desired. However, the Browns defense better be hitting the film room hard this with because there were some major issues against one of the better offenses in the league. And with a trip to Green Bay to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers looming this Sunday, the defense will be in for an even bigger test against one of the elite quarterbacks in the league.
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