If the Cleveland Browns front office’s plan was to be bad enough to be able to get their franchise quarterback in next year’s draft, someone forgot to let the players and coaching staff in on the plan.
The Browns scored more points in the first half than they had in the first two games in total, and then overcame their usual second half blahs to win their first game of the season, 31-27 over the Minnesota Vikings.
The offense was much more efficient under Brian Hoyer, playing for an injured Brandon Weeden, converting 6 of 15 third downs and although the offensive line struggled all afternoon, they allowed just three sacks.
It has been reported that Weeden could be available to play next week, but after a win and Hoyer’s performance today, why change back unless the former St. Ignatius star gives the coaches a reason to do just that.
The other dimension that returned to the offense was WR Josh Gordon, the subject of trade rumors by the national pundits before the game. Gordon caught 10 throws for 146 yards and a 47 yard touchdown reception which started the scoring for Cleveland.
Now, many people may say the Browns didn’t miss recently traded Trent Richardson because they emerged with the win, but the offense had no running attack the entire game, although they ran for 103 yards in just 17 attempts.
That’s because Cleveland’s leading rusher was Josh Aubrey, who picked up 34 yards on a fake punt, and Gordon also gained 22 yards later on an end around. Those two plays accounted for more than half of the offense’s rushing yards.
Richardson’s primary replacement, newcomer Willis McGahee, picked up just 9 yards on 8 carries.
Coach Rob Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner showed more aggressiveness in the first half than we have seen all season, pulling out both the fake punt previously mentioned and they also scored a touchdown on a fake field goal with punter/holder Spencer Lanning hitting TE Jordan Cameron with an 11 yard touchdown pass.
Cameron had another outstanding afternoon with three touchdown receptions, including the game winning 7 yard catch.
Hoyer did something in his first Cleveland start that is missing from Weeden’s resume, that is producing a game winning drive, after getting possession at his own 45 with almost three and a half minutes left.
He hit a key third down play immediately, hitting Gordon for 11 yards to keep the drive going after two incompletions.
Still, the lack of a running game is going to come back and haunt this team if they don’t figure it out soon. Cleveland’s last running play came with 1:49 left in the third quarter.
Defensively, Ray Horton’s crew held RB Adrian Peterson under 100 yards rushing (88 total), and added four sacks and two turnovers. The sacks came from DE Desmond Bryant (third straight game, 3.5 on the season), LB Barkevious Mingo (second straight game), Billy Winn, John Hughes, and Jabaal Sheard.
ILB D’Qwell Jackson had seven solo tackles and forced a Peterson fumble and T.J. Ward picked off a Christian Ponder throw.
You can make a very good argument that had the Browns taken care of the football better (three interceptions and a fumble), this game wouldn’t have needed a late game drive to get the victory.
So, the first game coming after a week of turmoil (quarterback change and Richardson trade) was a success, with Chudzinski getting his first win as a head coach.
Now, we can see how the team performs in a more normal week, with a home game against the division favorite in the Cincinnati Bengals.
It was thought the front office was giving up on the 2013 season, but in retrospect, the Dolphins are now 3-0 after beating Atlanta today, and the Ravens blasted Houston 30-9 and now sit at 2-1.
Maybe the Browns aren’t as bad as some people in the organization think.