For those Browns’ fans who were panicked that GM Tom Heckert horribly screwed up last April’s draft, you can rest easier today. If you are coach Pat Shurmur, and your team is 0-2, you have to be concerned especially since you have a new boss.
And if you are Joe Haden, you have to feel like you let your team down because a porous secondary and a bad special teams play were the biggest deciding factors in a 34-27 loss to Cincinnati Sunday afternoon.
Usually, the formula that leads to a Cleveland defeat is that they can’t run the ball and can’t stop the run. That wasn’t the case today.
Rookie Trent Richardson showed why Heckert traded up to get him with his first 100 yard rushing game, getting 109 yards on 19 attempts and catching four passes for 36 more yards, scoring two touchdowns.
His fellow rook, QB Brandon Weeden put aside all the jokes about a 5.1 passer rating with a club rookie record 322 passing yards and two TD tosses, one to Richardson and the other to WR Greg Little. He had no turnovers after throwing four picks in his debut.
Meanwhile, the Bengals ran for just 80 yards on 25 carries, a 3.2 average per carry.
However, they didn’t need to run because they had so much success through the air.
The Cleveland secondary, minus their best player in Haden, allowed touchdown plays of 44 and 50 yards through the air, allowing Andy Dalton 318 yards passing.
The Browns leading tacklers for the game were CB Buster Skrine, CB Dimitri Patterson, and S T. J. Ward. What does that tell you? That Dick Jauron’s defense was making a lot of stop after Cincinnati receivers caught passes.
The defense did have six sacks and an interception (three of the former and the pick by MLB D’Qwell Jackson, who was excellent), but allowing the opponent’s QB to complete 24 of 31 throws equals a bad day in the aerial defense department.
Although Cleveland put pressure on Dalton most of the day, hence six sacks, they played very passively in coverage, allowing Bengal receivers an eight to ten yard cushion at the line of scrimmage. That allowed Dalton to hit short passes at will.
The key play of the game was probably the first one in which a Bengal player touched the ball. After one first down on the Browns first possession, Adam (Pacman) Jones took Reggie Hodges’ punt 81 yards for a touchdown. During the run, at least five Cleveland players’ had shots at Jones, but all missed.
It put the Browns in a hole they couldn’t get out off the rest of the day.
A couple of curious things should be questioned and both have to do with who was active for the game. Defensively, Sheldon Brown was active, but didn’t play. With the secondary struggling, couldn’t he and his experience helped a bit? And if not, should he remain on the roster.
Offensively, Brandon Jackson was not active in favor of Chris Ogbonnaya, who caught six passes for 73 yards in a third down back role, but fumbled ending a promising drive in the first half.
It was an odd game in that no statistic really stands out as to why Cleveland lost, but they did.
They outgained Cincinnati. The ran the ball better and stopped the run as well. The Bengals converted only 4 of 12 third downs, while the Browns did better, picking up 7 in 15 opportunities. The turnovers were even.
It really comes down to poor tackling defensively and on special teams.
The Browns showed improvement in a lot of areas in-game two, but now they need to convert that improvement into a victory. A home game next Sunday is a perfect chance for that.