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Cleveland Browns Week Six: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Rather than a tale of two cities, last Sunday’s Browns game could be described as a tale of two halves culminating in a disappointing loss to the Detroit Lions by a score of 31-17 in front of 70,000-plus at First Energy Stadium. Currently tied for second place in the AFC North, the Cleveland Browns (3-3) missed a chance to tie their longest winning streak since 1999 and now are about face a very stiff test in the coming weeks with games in Green Bay and Kansas City. Here is a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from week six for with Browns with some help from Pro Football Focus.
This might’ve been the best game the offensive line has played this season in terms of pass protection. The line only surrendered eight QB hurries, three QB hits and one sack all afternoon. Hardly an elite performance, but very good considering they were surrendering an average of almost 17 pressures allowed per game coming into play, and they were going against a very talented Lions defensive line. Mitchell Schwartz gave up the most pressures among the five linemen with seven, including a sack. The rest of the line combined only allowed five QB hurries and no hits. It should be noted that Brandon Weeden is credited with allowing the other Lions sack as well as two of the five QB hits on himself. More on Weeden later.
Josh Gordon had another fine day catching the football. Gordon was targeted nine times and hauled in seven catches for 126 yards with a long reception of 36 yards.
After being embarrassed in the Thursday night game against Buffalo, Barkevious Mingo had a solid day in run defense for the Browns. In 21 snaps on run defense, Mingo made three stops and in reviewing the tape did a fine job setting the edge in contain. Undoubtedly defensive coordinator Ray Horton used C.J. Spiller’s 54-yard touchdown run last week as a learning opportunity for Mingo, as he was one of the few bright spots in terms of run defense for the Browns.
Joe Haden and Buster Skrine did a fine job in coverage, allowing only eight receptions on 17 passes into their coverage (Haden saw six passes while Skrine saw 11). Haden spent the majority of the day shadowing Calvin Johnson and outside of a couple pass interference penalties, one of which was very questionable, did a fine job giving up only one reception for seven yards to Johnson. While Johnson’s injury almost certainly played a role, on several drop backs Matthew Stafford didn’t even bother looking in the direction of Haden’s coverage. On the other side of the field, Skrine continued to impress. He still has not allowed a touchdown since week one of the season and Stafford had a QB rating of 54.4 when throwing into Skrine’s coverage.
Weeden, where to start? If you look at things just statistically, Weeden was on par with Stafford. He completed one more pass than Stafford in the same amount of attempts (Weeden 26-of-43, Stafford 25-of-43) and threw for 292 yards compared to Stafford’s 248.
Now only a fool would seriously contend that Weeden actually had the better game. While completing 60 percent for your passes for nearly 300 yards is generally looked at as a good thing, Weeden’s poor decisions are what killed him and the Browns. His day can be summed up on one play. With 5:37 left in the fourth quarter Weeden took a shotgun snap for a five-step drop. Lions defensive end Willie Young beat Schwartz around the edge and was closing in on Weeden. Weeden quickly shuffled his feet in the pocket, avoided the pressure and got the pass off, however that pass was nearly (and probably should’ve been) intercepted by Lions defensive back Bill Bentley. In short, Weeden did some things good and for the majority of the time played well. The problem was that his mistakes not only weren’t minimized, they were game changing. Still more on Weeden later.
After a record setting performance against the Bills, Travis Benjamin was terrible returning punts. His three returns went for -10 yards with a long return of two yards.
The Browns defense generally didn’t play all that well. For starters, the defense allowed the Lions offense to convert on eight of their 14 third downs. While the Lions do boast a solid offensive line, the Browns front seven failed to generate any consistent pass rush on Stafford, only managing pressure on 12 of his 45 drop-backs.
The Browns were flagged nine times for 87 yards. While a couple of these were very questionable, specifically Haden’s first pass interference call and Quentin Groves’ roughing the passer penalty, this many miscues in a game doesn’t put you in best position to win. Jordan Cameron also had two false start penalties, including one to open up the third quarter.
The Browns continued to struggle in their first drive following halftime. For the sixth time in as many games, Cleveland ended the first half with the lead. The Browns received the kick to start the third quarter, got flagged for a false start (Cameron) and three plays later punted the ball to Detroit who marched down the field and scored a touchdown. For the season, the Browns first drive of the second half has resulted in the following: punt, punt, interception, punt, punt and punt. The Browns have struggled mightily to start the second half all season long and last Sunday was no exception.
Craig Robertson continued to be abysmal in pass coverage. He saw 10 passes come into his coverage and allowed eight receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns. He is routinely out of position in coverage and is surrendering almost 9.8 yards per reception. Opposing quarterbacks have a 121.2 QB rating when throwing into Robertson’s coverage. On Sunday, Stafford had a 149.6 QB rating when throwing into Robertson’s coverage.
After two weeks of committing to the run, Norv Turner and Rob Chudzinski abandoned the run in the second half. Don’t let the respectable rushing stats fool you (21 carries, 126 yards) as the Browns were not nearly as effective on the ground as these stats would indicate. That isn’t to say they weren’t having success running, they just stopped doing it. The Lions boast one of the league’s worst run defenses, yet with a 10-point lead to start the second half the Browns only ran the ball four times combined in the third and fourth quarters, one of those being an end around to Gordon. It probably didn’t help that the Browns offense only ran nine plays in the third quarter either.
While it might not be the worst interception ever thrown in the history of the NFL, it certainly was ugly. Weeden probably didn’t lose the game single handedly but he definitely sealed the game with his fourth quarter shovel pass that was picked off by Detroit’s DeAndre Levy. In short, Weeden did absolutely nothing right on this particular pass, however don’t fool yourself into thinking this alone cost Cleveland the game.
The Browns let a potential win get away from them. From costly mistakes, porous defense and lack of adjustments by the coaches this was a true team loss. While he might start the remainder of this season, Weeden surly sealed his fate on Sunday.
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