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Cleveland Browns Week Eight: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
There are no such things as moral victories in the NFL, either you win or you lose. Having said that, Sunday was as close to a moral victory as there could be for the Cleveland Browns, as they played well enough to win against the Kansas City Chiefs in a losing effort. Avoiding the blowout loss some feared, Cleveland fell to the Chiefs 23-17 and came within a couple plays of a potential upset against the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL this season. Here’s a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly from last Sunday’s Browns loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Jason Campbell showed he is capable of running the Browns offense for the remainder of the year. If last Sunday was an indication of what Campbell can do, then Brandon Weeden will only be seen holding a clipboard on the sidelines. Against a Chiefs defense that was only allowing an average of 195 passing yards per game coming into play, Campbell completed 61% of his passes (22/36) for 293 yards and two touchdowns. He also didn’t throw any interceptions, not bad considering he was running an offense he’s had limited first team reps with going against a secondary that leads the league (entering play) in passes broken up and interceptions, while showing the ability to escape pressure and pickup yards on the ground, something Weeden has been unable to do in his short career. Campbell also showed poise under pressure. Of his 40 drop backs, 18 of them were under pressure. He ran the ball three times for 14 yards and completed 8/14 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown while being pressured.
The offensive line did an outstanding job against a very ferocious Chiefs pass rush. Joe Thomas and company only allowed 13 total quarterback pressures (only one sack and two QB hits) against a Chiefs defense that had managed to sack opposing quarterbacks 35 times coming into play. The offensive line also wasn’t aided by super quick decisions by Campbell as he took an average of 2.98 seconds to throw on Sunday, making this unit’s performance all the better. For comparison, Weeden is (was) averaging 3.06 seconds to throw this season.
The defense played very well in the second half of the game, holding the Chiefs to only three points (which came on the final drive for KC) and 31 total yards combined in the third and fourth quarters. The defensive also got back to pressuring the quarterback this week, sacking Alex Smith six times and pressuring him an additional 15 times. Smith did complete 67% of his passes while under pressure, but only for 36 total yards. In coverage, Joe Haden and Buster Skrine played well in the secondary for the Browns. In 12 passes combined into their coverage Haden and Skrine only allowed six receptions for 57 yards and zero touchdowns. Haden also broke up two of Smith’s pass attempts.
The Browns lost wide receiver and return man Travis Benjamin for the season with a torn ACL. Benjamin was averaging 11.7 return yards on his 22 punt returns this season (seven fair catches) including a 79 yard return for a touchdown. Benjamin also returned three kickoffs for a total of 146 yards, including one for 86 yards. Benjamin was a threat to return a kick/punt for a touchdown at any time and helped a struggling offense attain better field position. His absence will be a noticeable one.
The Browns had a terrible first half of football.
The Browns defense was as bad in the first half as they were good in the second half. They allowed Kansas City to amass 281 total net yards and the only time the Chiefs didn’t score in the first half on offense was due to a missed field goal and a kneel in the closing seconds of the first half. The Chiefs also converted on 75% of their third down opportunities in the first half (converting 9/12 times) and 54 of Jamaal Charles’ 74 rushing yards came in the first half.
The offense mirrored the defenses struggles in the first half, only accumulating 125 total yards on five first half drives. The Browns offense went three-and-out on their first three possessions of the game, managing to score on their final two possessions of the half. While these numbers aren’t pretty, Campbell’s inexperience working with the first team offense is undoubtedly partially to blame for the early struggles as this unit, like the defense, clicked in the second half.
The Browns continued to struggle on third down. The sixth worst team in the league at converting third downs (34.1 percent including last Sunday), the Browns only converted on three of their 12 attempts.
Davone Bess might have had his worst day as a professional athlete. Bess did Campbell no favors, dropping three passes (only two according to Pro Football Focus) and fumbled while returning a punt. The fumble was especially painful as he caught the punt (before fumbling) at midfield with only 7:03 remaining in the fourth quarter with the Browns down by three points. Bess also dropped what would have been a first down on a third down pass from Campbell on a potential game winning drive for Cleveland late in the fourth quarter.
Craig Robertson is becoming a reoccurring theme in this section. Robertson continued to struggle in pass coverage allowing all six passes into his coverage to be caught for a total of 70 yards and a touchdown. Robertson also missed two tackles in pass coverage, bringing that total up to 5 on the year.
The Browns gave the undefeated Chiefs all they could handle, but costly mistakes along with a slow start ended up being the Browns Achilles heel as they fall to 3-5. Cleveland played well enough to win and should be encouraged that with Jason Campbell under center the offense has the ability to move the chains and score points.
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