The Cleveland Browns traveled to the west coast for the second time in three weeks today, and it appears they left their alarm clocks at home.
Actually, they’ve left them home all season long, because the team treats the first quarter of games like it’s nap time. And once again, it cost them today in a 20-10 loss to San Francisco.
The 49ers dominated the first half, and the opening quarter in particular. It’s a disturbing trend that needs to be addressed.
So does the offensive game plan. It is understandable that there are growing pains with a new head coach and a new west coast style of offense, but after six games, do you think some of the kinks should be worked out?
On the second play of the game, the Niners’ Ahmad Brooks blew past T Tony Pashos for a sack/fumble by Colt McCoy, which led to an early 7-0 SF lead.
It was the first of an amazing four fumbles by the second year quarterback, who finished 22 of 34 for 241 yards with a touchdown pass of 45 yards to Josh Cribbs and a horrible interception into double coverage.
The defense had no answer in the first half as the 49ers ran the ball with ease, and QB Alex Smith hit easy short throws that had the Browns on their heels.
Only Jim Harbaugh’s ego, going for it on fourth and goal with Cleveland having nothing positive going for themselves, kept the game close, with the score being 17-3 at halftime. It could have easily have been 20-0.
At halftime, defensive coordinator Dick Jauron made some adjustments and held San Francisco to just a field goal after the intermission. And without LB D’Qwell Jackson’s facemask penalty, they may have pitched a shutout.
RB Montario Hardesty’s thigh injury didn’t help the attack, but the offense settled for too many short throws, and the offensive line had McCoy running for his life most of the time.
Check out the stats of the wide receivers besides Cribbs: Jordan Norwood had 5 grabs for 32 yards, Greg Little 4 for 28, and TE/WR Evan Moore 2 for 17. That’s 11 throws to guys who are supposed to make plays for a paltry 77 yards. Even the mathematically challenged can figure that comes to seven yards per reception.
Then, Pat Shurmur decided to attack downfield and McCoy hit Cribbs for a touchdown and suddenly the Browns were in the game.
Whether it is the quarterback not being willing to throw downfield, or the coach limiting his ability to do so, the lack of deep throws in hampering the Cleveland offense.
If you were playing defense against the Browns, is there any reason to worry about any player who goes 20 yards past the line of scrimmage?
Also, there is has been no creativity as of late in terms of gimmick plays. Meanwhile, SF coach Jim Harbaugh threw passes on a tackle eligible and to a defensive lineman lined up at fullback.
In both games in the Bay Area, Cleveland was being horribly outclassed, yet had a chance late in the fourth quarter. How? No idea, except to say that the players do not give up.
With Hardesty out, RB Chris Ogbonnaya did an acceptable job, carrying 11 times for 37 yards and catching five passes as well.
Jackson had 10 tackles, but Cleveland was outgained on the ground, 174 yards to 66. Can’t run the ball, can’t stop the run has been the theme since 1999.
This team needs Peyton Hills to make a quick recovery, and perhaps some changes on the offensive line should be looked at as well. It couldn’t hurt.
Again, no one figured the Browns to be a playoff team in 2011, but some improvement would be good to see.
On the other hand, the Niners were the best team Cleveland has played thus far, and they had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.