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Cleveland Browns Week Nine: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The Cleveland Browns managed to hold on and win this past Sunday over their division rival Baltimore Ravens by a score of 24-18. This win was the first for the Browns since October 3rd and gives them a 2-1 record in the AFC North (4-5 overall). This was an important win on several different levels for Cleveland, especially entering a bye week. As the Browns enter their bye week here is a look back and the good, bad and the ugly from this past Sunday.
The Browns ended two losing streaks. Coming into their game against the Ravens, Cleveland had lost three games in a row (to Detroit, Green Bay and Kansas City). On a larger scale, the Browns finally beat Joe Flacco and the Ravens. Before last Sunday’s contest the Browns were 0-11 against Baltimore and had never beaten Flacco. In the days leading up to the game Joe Haden made comments that this was not the same old Ravens team, insinuating that this was also not the same old Browns team. While this was hardly a statement win (Baltimore was only 3-4 heading before the game) it can certainly help to change the culture of the team and get’s the proverbial monkey off of their backs. At worst, it was a solid win against a division opponent.
Jason Campbell played very well against the Ravens. Campbell completed 65.7 percent of his passes (23-of-35) for 262 yards and three touchdowns. He was not intercepted at all and was again solid under pressure (8-of-10 for 100 yards and two touchdowns in 14 drop-backs under pressure). Campbell also added four carries for 20 yards. All of this resulted in Campbell being named AFC Player of the Week. Since taking over the starter role, Campbell has completed just over 63 percent of his passes for 561 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Surly he isn’t the quarterback of the future, but Browns fans are getting a taste of what this offense is capable of with a competent quarterback under center.
Greg Little had himself a ballgame. The up and down wide receiver hauled in seven catches for 122 yards, including 63 yards after the catch and a long reception of 46 yards. While he didn’t find the end zone, Little played tough and made several difficult catches in traffic. More importantly, he didn’t drop a pass all afternoon. More on Little later.
The Browns defense was once again stout against the run, only allowing Baltimore to gain 55 yards on the ground. They held the struggling Ray Rice to a measly 17 yards on 11 carries. Flacco was the Ravens best rusher, scrambling for 25 yards on three carries. The defense also managed to sack Flacco five times and pressure him an additional 11 times.
In the air, Haden and Chris Owens were solid in pass coverage. Combined they were targeted 14 times allowing only seven receptions for 91 yards, the long reception coming at the end of the first half as Torrey Smith managed to get between Haden and safety Tashaun Gipson for a 46-yard gain that ultimately led to a Ravens score. Pro Football Focus is crediting Haden with allowing the reception and while a review of the tape shows he was the primary cover, it’s clear he thought he had safety help over the top in Gipson. Gipson, who appeared to be trying to take away the sideline for Smith, was way out of position and offered no help to Haden. This blemish aside, the secondary did well enough against the passing attack as Flacco was not able to get anything going in the air.
The Browns once again were unable to get anything going on the ground. While they did managed 73 yards rushing, Willis McGahee only gained 31 yards on 21 carries with a long gain of seven yards. It ended up not hurting the Browns, but this is a part of the offensive attack that has left a great deal to be desired.
It’s not all on the running backs, however. Both Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders ranks Cleveland’s offensive line 27th overall in the league in terms of run blocking. Guard Jason Pinkston is set to return to practice and might see playing time following the bye week, however he hasn’t been a huge asset in the run blocking game historically for Cleveland.
While the Browns did manage four scoring drives, six of their eleven drives (not counting their two-play, nine second drive before halftime) resulted in a punt. The offense went long portions of the game not only without scoring but without moving the ball.
Cleveland’s second touchdown of the game came around the 10 minute mark in the second quarter. They didn’t score again until there were five minutes remaining in the third quarter. Between those two drives they punted twice, fumbled and saw time expire in the second quarter while only managing 11 total yards. The silver lining is for the second week in a row the Browns managed to score on their opening drive of the second half, marking only the second time all season they’ve done this.
Brandon Weeden cemented his reputation as a first-round bust. Weeden entered the game at the end of the first quarter in relief of the injured Campbell to a chorus of boos from the home crowd and went one for two for -2 yards. Worse than the stats was the feeling of doom that took over the game, even just for a series. Barring an injury, Weeden will probably not start another game for Cleveland. While fans might be rejoicing this fact, it only means that Cleveland has yet again wasted another first-round pick.
The Browns continued to be miserable on third down, converting on only 4-of-15 chances while allowing Baltimore to convert on 7-of-16 third-down opportunities.
Little played an impressive game on Sunday, possibly his best in a Browns uniform. Little set a personal best in receptions (seven) and amassed the most receiving yards in a game since Week 15 of the 2011 season (five catches, 131 yards). However his game is being overshadowed by two 15-yard penalties, and to a point this is not only understandable, it’s a warranted concern. While it’s probably true that both of Little’s penalties should’ve been followed up with similar penalties for Ravens safety James Ihedigbo, Little’s actions could’ve hurt the Browns efforts.
In an effort to end an 0-11 streak against the Ravens every yard is important, especially in a close game (the score was 7-3 Cleveland at the time). Both of Little’s penalties set the offense back 15 yards, the second taking them out of the red zone. This is being swept under the rug (by some) because the Browns won, but what if Little’s antics came in the fourth quarter of a game in which the Browns were down by four or more points? And it’s not like Little has never acted up on the football field before , or off it for that matter. As is the case with the drops, Little’s greatest obstacle continues to be his mental lapses.
This might have been the best game the Browns played all season start to finish. They made plays when needed, overcame obstacles (penalties) and held on at the end, bleeding the clock in the fourth quarter. Most importantly, they finally beat the Ravens and now move into second place in the AFC North.
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