If Brian Hoyer were so inclined to listen to sports talk shows in Cleveland, he had to be thinking there would be overwhelming support for his back up after his last interception, his third of the game, this one to Dezmen Southworth, set up Atlanta with excellent field position to take a 24-23 lead with under a minute remaining.
However, the Falcons kicked the go ahead field goal with :49 remaining and their defense had been a sieve the entire game.
So, much like his first start as a Brown last season, which coincidentally was WR Josh Gordon’s first game back from suspension in 2013, Hoyer ignored the three picks and put Cleveland kicker Billy Cundiff in position to win the game from 37 yards out.
Cundiff converted and the Browns are now 7-4 on the season, and continue to be in the chase for a playoff spot in the AFC.
While the Manzealots will continue to call for Hoyer’s benching, there is no doubt he will continue to start and play until Mike Pettine’s crew is mathematically eliminated from post-season consideration.
Make no mistake, Hoyer’s two interceptions in the fourth quarter in a game that the Browns needed to win were horrible throws and decisions.
The first one in the end zone, a back leg throw picked by Desmond Trufant, came on first and goal from the Atlanta six yard line. The smart play, the obvious play is to throw the ball into the stands. Hoyer couldn’t or didn’t get it there, and a chance to build on a 23-21 advantage went out the window.
The defense held that time, giving Cleveland the ball on their own 16 with 3:46 left. The way Atlanta’s defense had performed all day, it was certainly an amount of time where the Browns could run the ball and run out the clock.
Instead, following an eight yard run by Isaiah Crowell, and a false start on rookie guard Joe Bitonio, making it 2nd and 8, the Browns’ QB threw a deep throw over the middle to TE Gary Barnidge that was almost picked off, and did throw an interception on a sideline throw on the next play to Southworth.
Too many unnecessary risks taken by Hoyer and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
Particularly when the Browns were gaining 5.6 yards per average running play. Crowell ran for 88 yards on 12 attempts and fellow rookie Terrance West gained 62 more on 14 carries.
Why not continue to run it down the throat of the Falcons, they couldn’t stop it all day?
We believe the hardest thing for pro offensive coordinator is to NOT pass the ball.
Atlanta threw the ball 43 times plus three sacks, so they called 46 passing plays compared to 23 runs when the Browns weakness on defense is running the football.
Granted, the Falcons only gained 63 yards on those 23 attempts, but they really made no attempt to established a ground game either, and with their defense, it would be in their best interest to keep the pigskin in their hands.
The big news coming into the game was Gordon’s return and he did not disappoint, grabbing eight throws for 120 yards and reminding everyone what a beast he is. He picks up a ton of yards after the catch because he is tough to bring down.
His presence made things easier for everyone. The ground game picked up and Andrew Hawkins (5 catches, 93 yards) and Miles Austin (6 catches, 64 yards)
The banged up defense responded somehow with three sacks of Matt Ryan, two by Paul Kruger and an interception by Joe Haden. Unfortunately, the Browns could only turn the two Falcon turnovers (a fumble caused by Kruger’s sack) into two Billy Cundiff field goals.
Cundiff responded from his horrible miss last week with four field goals, included the game-winner. Spencer Lanning punted just once, after the first drive of the game.
So, it’s on to Buffalo (or somewhere) to play the Bills and another week of people saying Manziel should be the starting quarterback.
However, if it were Aaron Rodgers who did what Hoyer did today, it would be reported how he overcame a bad game to lead his team to victory. That will be heard with deaf ears in Cleveland.