When the NFL season began this year, we talked about not judging the Cleveland Browns based on wins and losses, but rather, on the progress being shown weekly by the team.
One thing Hue Jackson’s crew is not improving on is giving up the big play on defense. Three of Cincinnati’s four touchdowns today came via this method in a 31-17 loss in the Queen City to drop Cleveland to 0-7 on the season.
Last week, Tennessee had four plays of forty yards or more, today the Bengals scored on plays of 44, 48, and 74 yards. If the Browns want to get in the win column at some point this season, Ray Horton’s defense has to prevent big plays.
To be fair, without Joe Haden out there (groin injury), there aren’t any solid experienced plays on that side of the ball. We can’t believe there is no one better than Tramon Williams on the waiver wire.
At least on offense, Jackson has Joe Thomas, John Greco, and Gary Barnidge on the field to help the youngsters.
And yes, we know we said we go young after last season.
So, here are the positives, negatives, and officiating gaffes from this week’s game.
Positives. The Browns have had problems the last two weeks running the ball, but they accumulated 180 yards on the ground today, led by an unlikely source.
Jackson must have found something in the Cincy defensive scheme showing they were susceptible to the read option, because the Browns unleashed reserve QB Kevin Hogan with it, and he ran for 104 yards on seven attempts, including a 28-yard touchdown run.
Isaiah Crowell also had a solid day with 63 yards on 12 carries.
Barnidge had a solid day as the outlet receiver, making 6 catches for 66 yards.
Before he left with a concussion, Cody Kessler played like we’ve come to expect him to play, hitting 9 of 11 throws for 82 yards.
On defense, Emmanuel Ogbah had his best game as a pro, recording two sacks. Christian Kirksey and Carl Nassib combined for a third sack of Andy Dalton.
The Browns were also penalized just five times today.
Negatives. Giving up 559 yards in an NFL game may be the biggest negative you can come up with. The defense gave up big play after big play.
Ibraheim Campbell took a horrific angle on Jeremy Hill’s 74 yard TD run, turning an 8 or 9 yard game into a touchdown.
And those two aren’t even the worst of it.
With 0:05 left on the clock in the first half, the Browns trailed 14-10 and were poised to get the second half kickoff.
That’s when Dalton hit A.J. Green for a 48 yard “Hail Mary” pass and suddenly the Browns were down 11.
There had to be five or six Browns around Green, yet no one could knock the pass down. Green tipped it to himself for the score.
Officiating. Ed Hochuli’s crew appeared to miss an offsides by Cincinnati with the play clock running down, calling a delay of game instead, when it appeared the Bengal defender was in the neutral zone when the play clock hit zero.
They also missed what appeared to be a helmet to helmet hit on Kessler on the play he suffered a concussion.
At least the schedule starts to see some home games for Jackson and his team, and it starts next week with a contest with the Jets, which should be a game the Browns can win.
But who will be the quarterback? Can Kessler recover enough to play next week? Or will it be Hogan in his first NFL start? Or will veteran Josh McCown go back out there?
It’s always a QB question in Cleveland.