The Cleveland Browns didn’t lose to another winless team this evening, defeating the Oakland Raiders, 23-13 to run their record to 4-3 on the season. This means they have already won as many games as they did all last year and they still have nine games remaining.
They also demonstrated that Alex Mack may just be the MVP of the AFC this morning, because since he went out, Cleveland has had all kinds of problems running the football. They gained just 39 yards on the ground in 25 attempts, a paltry 1.6 yards per carry.
If the Browns can’t correct this, they will have a huge problem on offense the rest of the season.
In reality, the last two games for the Cleveland Browns were what everyone thought they would be in the off-season, a strong defense and an offense that would put just enough points on the board for victory.
The Browns’ defense had three sacks and three turnovers and two of those turnovers set up the offense for scores on a day where the running games was once again non-existent.
Mike Pettine’s crew had a 9-0 lead as they couldn’t get in the end zone again, and with the Raiders getting two field goals late in the second quarter it looked shaky for the home team.
Three straight three and outs for the offense didn’t exactly inspire confidence, and following a punt, the Raiders started a drive on their own nine, and started moving down the field until the play of the game.
On a 2nd and 6 from the Browns’ 29, Darren McFadden was stripped by Donte Whitner and when the ball popped in the air, it landed in the arms of Joe Haden, who returned it to the CLE 47.
Four plays later, QB Brian Hoyer hit Andrew Hawkins with a 4 yard TD pass and that extended the advantage to 16-6. From then on, the Browns were in control of the game.
Raiders’ QB Derek Carr played up to his norm so far this season, that is to say, he put together a good statistical game, but didn’t put points on the scoreboard. Oakland came into the game one of the worst scoring teams in the NFL.
The Browns defense looked shaky against the run on the game’s first drive, allowing 23 yards on the first two Oakland runs, but after that, the Raiders gained just 48 yards on the next 20 attempts, so the opponents’ running game was not a factor.
Paul Kruger had three sacks and a forced fumble and Tashaun Gipson had another interception, his fifth of the year as he continues to make a case for a Pro Bowl berth.
And Haden was in on nine tackles and broke up several passes in his best game of the year, and first round pick Justin Gilbert also played the best contest of his young career.
Hoyer hit on 19 of 28 throws for 275 yards and the TD toss to Hawkins, but still made a couple of throws that should have been picked off by Oakland defenders, something his critics will no doubt bring up tomorrow.
Hawkins was his main target, grabbing seven catches for 88 yards, and TE Jordan Cameron was a factor early as well (3 receptions, 40 yards) before leaving with a concussion just before halftime.
However, whatever is ailing the running game has to be addressed before next Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay. Although Mack is an all pro, he cannot be that much of a difference in this area. There has to be other adjustments that have to be made to get the running game going once again.
Defenses are stacking men in the box to try to make Hoyer beat them, so it may have to start with short throws on first down to get the opponents on their heels just a bit.
And once again, something has to be done with the punt return unit. Travis Benjamin went back there after a few weeks off, but fumbled his second return.
With another home game next week, the Browns are 4-3 and just a half game out of first in the balanced AFC North. After several years in a losing abyss, that’s a nice thing to say as the schedule moves into November.