The Cleveland Browns were looking good Sunday afternoon against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants as they were ahead 17-10 and driving with 4 minutes to play in the first half.
The game suddenly turned on them in a hurry.
Coach Pat Shurmur called a pass play on 3rd and 1 at the NY 25 yard line. Trent Richardson was not on the field for the play. The Giants knew the Browns were going to throw the ball at that point and Stevie Brown picked off the pass and returned it to the Cleveland 40. Two plays later, the Browns advantage was erased and the score was tied.
After six more plays were run, the Giants were on top 24-17 following a fumbled kickoff return by Josh Cribbs.
At the very least, Shurmur’s crew could have extended the lead to 10 points. Instead, they trailed by seven heading into the locker room.
It was a strange play call to say the least. If you are taking your best offensive player out of the game (while he was having a great deal of success, mind you), then surprise New York by running Chris Ogbonnaya. As said before, when the rookie from Alabama came out of the game, the Giants knew a pass was coming.
Even so, you can blame the play calling all you want, and judging by talk shows after the game, that was the focus of fans’ discontent, but the real culprit was a terrible defensive showing by Dick Jauron’s crew.
You simply cannot win in the NFL giving up 502 yards of total offense, especially with 243 of it coming on the ground.
For all the hand wringing done about defending Eli Manning, more focus should have been given to stopping Ahmad Bradshaw, who carried 30 times (note that Browns!) for 200 yards.
This enabled the Giants to win the time of possession battle by over 10 minutes.
Remember our familiar refrain about the Browns? Can’t stop the run. It was never more evident than today.
That’s not to say the secondary is blameless. Manning looked at times like he was running a 7 on 7 drill in practice, just sitting in the pocket and picking out open receivers.
The Cleveland defense could not put pressure on Manning, as he wasn’t sacked at all on the day. With the Browns’ defensive backs being either very young or very old, they couldn’t stop the aerial assault either.
New York had a whopping 30 first downs for the game, and they only had to punt twice.
It’s tough to say any Cleveland defensive player stood out, but rookie DT Billy Winn continues to impress and S Usama Young had an interception. That’s about it.
Offensively, the coaching staff seems to resist the temptation to give the ball to the rookie from Alabama more often. Richardson had just 17 carries and caught five passes, far short of the at least 30 touches he should get. He averaged almost five yards per carry.
QB Brandon Weeden came up just short of his second straight 300 yard passing performance, throwing for 291 on 22 of 35 completions. He threw two TD passes to rookie WR Josh Gordon, but threw two interceptions as well, the ill-fated pass mentioned earlier and another was picked off in the end zone with the Browns trailing by 14 early in the fourth quarter.
WR Greg Little took a goose egg on the day, but Jordan Norwood responded with nine catches for 81 yards, and Ogbonnaya caught three balls for 54 yards, including a 38 yard gain.
And besides the fumbled kickoff return, Cribbs returned six kicks for an average of 36.8 yards.
So now the Browns come back home at 0-5 and a return date with Cincinnati, who is coming off a disappointing loss to the Dolphins.
At this point, you have to wonder when a victory will come, because it is becoming obvious that this group has forgotten how to put one in the win column.