The Cleveland Browns seemed to have everything going for themselves as today’s game against the Washington Redskins unfolded.
The contest was at home, where the Browns had won three straight games. The weather was a balmy 60 degrees, incredibly warm for this time of year in Cleveland. And Redskins’ QB Robert Griffin III was inactive for the game because of a knee injury.
However, Pat Shurmur’s squad looked at all their good fortune and smashed them with a sledgehammer.
Washington hammered the Browns 38-21 and ended whatever slim playoff hopes this football team had.
One can’t help but think coaching had everything to do with today’s debacle, starting with a total ignorance of the running game.
When the Browns scored the first touchdown of the game following a T. J. Ward interception on a 6-yard run by Trent Richardson, it gave the rookie 24 yards on four carries, with a long run of 14 yards.
After getting a three and out, the next time Cleveland had the football, they ran just once, with Montario Hardesty getting the carry. It was just a three play series for the Browns.
The next possession by Cleveland featured a one yard run on first down, followed by two passes, one a six yard loss to Richardson, the other incomplete.
The Redskins scored after 34 yard punt out-of-bounds by Reggie Hodges to tie the score.
The subsequent possession featured six plays, five passes and a one yard run by Richardson, who now had 6 carries for 26 yards, a 4.3 average per carry.
The Cleveland defense held, but the offense gave it right back on three straight passes, one of which was a nine yard completion to Mohammad Massaquoi.
Meanwhile, Dick Jauron stacked the defense to take away the Washington ground game, which leads the NFL in yardage. Alfred Morris didn’t have a lot of success, but still the Redskins kept giving him the ball to keep the Browns’ defense honest.
Washington took the lead on the next drive to put themselves in the lead at 10-7.
The Browns scored the next time they got the ball using nine plays to go 75 yards. Five of the nine plays were passes, with Josh Cribbs carrying once out of the “wildcat” formation. The last two plays were Richardson runs totally four yards. He now had 9 attempts for 29 yards. He carried just twice more for the rest of the game, and one of those was the first play of the second half.
Weeden threw a terrible interception to open the third quarter which wound up giving the ‘Skins a lead they would never relinquish, but the Browns were still only losing by 3 points.
Richardson’s last carry came with 13:08 left in the third quarter, and the Browns only attempted one other run the rest of the game, that by Hardesty.
Even after another short punt led to another Redskin touchdown, the Browns trailed 24-14, but there were still 22 minutes left in the contest!
After the game, Weeden talked about the problems that occur when the offense becomes one-dimensional, but it wasn’t the Redskin defense that forced that, it was the play calling of the Browns.
Washington averaged less yards per carry than Cleveland for the game (3.5 compared to 3.9), but they didn’t stop giving the ball to Morris. They kept mixing up the play calls.
Meanwhile, Shurmur allowed the Redskin defense to play pass exclusively. It was a weakness going into the game for Mike Shanahan’s team, but when you don’t have to play the run, it makes the job a little bit easier.
It was the same trap the Browns fell into in past games. In the three game winning streak, the attack was much more balanced.
For those begging for the current coaching staff to stay in 2013, today’s game was a cold slap back to reality. The Browns need more imagination on offense. For inspiration, they need only to look at their opponents today.