When you come down to it, the Cleveland Browns lost their first game of the season to the Philadelphia Eagles in a most predictable way. They couldn’t run the ball when it counted, and they couldn’t stop the run either.
You could make the argument that if Eagles’ coach Andy Reid had not been so stubborn about throwing the football, the visitors would have won rather easily.
Philadelphia averaged five yards per carry running the football, yet had QB Michael Vick throw the ball 56 times. His four interceptions kept the Browns in the game, and his last resulted in a touchdown return by LB D’Qwell Jackson which gave Cleveland a 16-10 lead.
The Browns ran for 99 yards and a 4.5 per carry average, but here is where statistics are meaningless. 35 yards came on a double reverse by rookie WR Travis Benjamin and 25 more came on QB Brandon Weeden’s 25 yard scamper as the first half ended. On the other 2o attempts to run to ball, Cleveland gained just 49 yards.
After the pick which gave the Browns the lead, the Eagles ran for 44 of the 52 yards they gained to set up a field goal try of 45 yards, which Alex Henery missed giving the home team the ball back with a six point lead on their own 35 yard line and 9:01 remaining in the game.
It was time to run some time off the clock and shorten the game, but in the end Cleveland could only run about two and a half minutes off the timer, and gave Philadelphia and all their weapons the ball back with over six minutes left.
Cleveland ran two running plays and a short pass to pick up one first down, but on the next play, rookie RB Trent Richardson was stuffed for a one run loss, and then Weeden threw two incomplete passes, which of course stopped the clock.
The Eagles then converted the next drive for a touchdown with 1:18 remaining and it took only one play for Weeden to throw his fourth interception of the game and seal the deal for Philly.
The rookie passer has a dreadful day, hitting just 12 of 35 throws for 118 yards, and could not get Cleveland into the end zone.
Of the four pick offs, two were bad. The one that virtually ended the game, and a deep sideline route for his third turnover.
The first was a beautiful throw that WR Greg Little couldn’t hold in the red zone, and the second was a deep throw on third and ten which amounted to nothing more than a punt.
The rookie did fumble twice, which is beginning to be worrisome. He simply has to hold on to the football.
And he was overthrowing a lot. He missed several wide open targets because passes were fired ten yards over their heads.
Richardson had his moments, like when he ran over Philadelphia S Kurt Coleman, resulting in the Eagle’s helmet flying off, but it was curious that offensive coordinator Brad Childress never had the rookie running wide all day. Pretty much all of his carries were between the tackles.
Several people have hammered on Pat Shurmur about not going for two after Jackson’s TD and make it a 17-10 game. However, you can’t assume they will get the two points. If it fails, the score is 15-10, and a touchdown alone beats you. Plus, the Eagles then would have definitely gone for two, which would have meant a field goal would send the game to overtime.
Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron deserves credit for a great game plan, and S T.J. Ward and CB Joe Haden had fine games. Ward caused a fumble and Haden had an interception, both of which resulted in Phil Dawson field goals.
And rookie free agent LBs, L. J. Fort and Craig Robertson both had interceptions as well. Guess the coaching staff was right in not being worried about playing either guy.
The Browns almost won, and losing another close game is tough to swallow. However, remember this team has 15 rookies and nine second year players. They will no doubt get better, and Weeden will play better next week.
As much as it is difficult, you have to keep the big picture in mind.