In the aftermath following the disaster that was Johnny Manziel’s first start...
Cleveland Browns Week Eleven: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
After an important divisional win against the Baltimore Ravens in week nine, the Cleveland Browns entered their Week 10 bye with a shroud of optimism that carried all the way into their week eleven matchup. That shroud was torn off however as the Browns lost to the AFC North’s first place Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 41-20 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Cleveland now finds themselves in a three way tie for second place in the AFC North while their playoff hopes, as slim as they might’ve been, have now been reduced to a prayer. Here is a look back at what lead to the Browns (4-6) losing their fourth game on the road in this week’s good, bad and ugly.
Despite the Bengals scoring 41 points, the Browns defense actually didn’t play that bad. Cincinnati’s offense only accumulated 224 total yards of offense and while Andy Dalton did throw for three touchdowns, he only completed 48.1% of his passes (13 for 27) for 93 yards while throwing two interceptions. The Bengals offense benefited from field position, as well as non-offensive touchdowns (Bengals returned a fumble and a blocked punt for a touchdown).
Leading the defensive charge for Cleveland was none other than Joe Haden, who again did a fine job in coverage on A.J. Green. While surly Green’s struggles on the day were aided by a struggling Dalton, Haden blanketed Green all afternoon. Haden only saw two passes come into his primary coverage, both while on Green, and only allowed one reception for three yards. Not bad, especially considering Green already has more than 1,000 yards receiving on the season. Haden also intercepted two passes from Dalton, returning one for a touchdown (the first of his career) while the other pick set the Browns up to eventually kick a field goal.
In addition to Haden, Buster Skrine continued to play good coverage football on the other side of the field. Skrine only allowed one reception for five yards on five passes into his coverage.
D’Qwell Jackson had one of his best games of the season. Jackson had nine total tackles, five stops (defined here) and didn’t allow a reception on two passes into his primary coverage (including one to Green). Jackson also accounted for one of the measly eight quarterback pressures on Dalton the defense managed to generate.
The Browns offensive line did a solid job Sunday against a talented Bengals front seven. While Jason Campbell was sacked four times, the offensive line only allowed two of those four sacks, both credited to guard John Greco. In total the offensive line allowed 23 total quarterback pressures, however only four of those were actual hits on Campbell. While 23 pressures might be a little on the high side, the Bengals defense (playing with a big lead) was able to rush Campbell at will with no regard for the Browns “run game”. Only allowing four hits in 60 drop-backs on Campbell is a solid job considering the situation in the eyes of this writer.
Finally, the Browns third down defense actually did a good job this week. Ranked towards the bottom of the league in third down defense, the Browns only allowed Cincinnati to convert on 1-14 third down opportunities.
The Browns third down offense was as bad as their third down defense was good. Cleveland had 18 third down opportunities and only managed to convert on four of them. In addition to this, the Browns offense went 0-3 in the red zone. Following a punt, the Browns next two drives resulted in red zone field goals, including a field goal four plays after Haden recorded his first of two interceptions.
The Browns defense allowed Giovanni Bernard to rank up 86 total yards of offense (45 rushing and 41 receiving) on only 14 touches (ten carries, four receptions). Bernard, who was injured late in the second quarter but returned in the second half, is one of the few running backs the Browns have faced to have some success. On the season Bernard has 161 total yards (82 rushing, 79 receiving) on 30 touches (20 carries, 10 receptions). The Browns did manage to keep Bernard out of the end zone.
While the Bengals defense (specifically their secondary) did a fine job on Sunday, the Browns offense was absolutely terrible. For starters, despite passing for nearly 250 yards, Campbell completed only 48.2% of his passes (27 for 56) and threw three interceptions. The Browns only big offensive play of the day was a 74 yard touchdown strike to Josh Gordon in the third quarter. Beyond that, their longest pass play only went for 12 yards (Chris Ogbonnaya did have a 43 yard carry early in the first quarter) as the offense failed to get anything going and only accounted for one touchdown on the day.
To understand just how bad the Browns offense was, consider this. The Browns offense had 17 possessions on Sunday. Seven of those drives resulted in a punt (one of which was blocked and returned for a touchdown while the other was tipped), three resulted in an interception, three ended in the Browns turning the ball over on downs and one ended in a fumble. The only successful offensive drives were the 74 yard touchdown reception and two first quarter field goals, which were both kicked in the red zone. Buckeye State Sports’ Bob Evans talks more about the struggles of the offense here.
Despite what ended up being a lopsided victory for Cincinnati, the Browns were up early and had control of the game – that is until the second quarter started. The Browns took a 13-0 lead on the Bengals in the first quarter before surrendering 31 unanswered points to Cincinnati in the second quarter, which set a franchise record for most points in a quarter.
Don’t be fooled though, the Bengals offense didn’t march up and down the field. Instead the Browns just handed over the football.
Offensively, the Bengals only amassed 53 total yards in the second quarter, their longest drive going for 38 yards (resulting in a touchdown). The Bengals success in the second quarter was a direct result of sloppy play by the Browns. Cincinnati blocked a Spencer Lanning punt and returned that for a touchdown (Tony Dye), then returned a Chris Ogbonnaya fumble for a touchdown (Vontaze Burfict). While Dalton threw two touchdowns in the second quarter, both were the result of excellent field position courtesy of more Browns errors. Setting up those touchdown drives (which went for 22 yards and 38 yards) were a Campbell interception and a nine yard punt from Lanning, which was tipped by Cincinnati. This second quarter fiasco ended up being a death sentence for Cleveland.
Turnovers and miscues ruled the day for Cleveland, as they had three interceptions, two fumbles (one lost) in addition to the one blocked punt and another partially blocked punt. The Browns out gained the Bengals in yardage 330 to 224, yet still lost by 20 points. While the offenses inability to score touchdowns or make big plays didn’t help, it was their inability to protect the football that doomed them. With the way Cincinnati’s offense played, the Browns likely would’ve won if they didn’t play such a sloppy game.
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