Last season, the only game I chose not to do a game review for was the season finale, a game in which the Cleveland Browns defeated the San Francisco 49ers. All of the anticipation following that game was on the Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans contest -- and after how depressed Cleveland fans felt after seeing the Colts roll over and die in that game, it didn't feel worth going back and analyzing our game.
Similarly, I didn't really feel like analyzing the loss to the Baltimore Ravens this past Sunday for several reasons. First off, its a short week, and we need to get prepared for tomorrow's game against the Denver Broncos. Second, with the team announcing QB Brady Quinn as the team's new starting quarterback, the direction of the team from the Ravens game should be much different than the direction of the team against Denver.
Nonetheless, I'm sure some of you were still looking forward to a review. With it being a little more brief than usual, let's get started with the goats this week...
Goats of the Game (We Hate Them This Week)
Braylon Edwards: A perfect , momentum-changing play was right in Edwards' hands to be made, and he dropped it. The drops have plagued Edwards all season long -- this isn't the type of thing the Texans worry about with Andre Johnson or the Cardinals worry about with Larry Fitzgerald. A quarterback change might help Edwards catch softer passes up close, but it won't help him catch balls such as this one. If he makes that catch, you can almost be assured that Anderson would be set to quarterback Thursday. If you really wanted Quinn to play, maybe to some fans this was a blessing in disguise in terms of still being "excited" for Browns football this year.
- Sean Jones: This was one of the worst games I've ever seen Jones play. I was thrilled to have him active before the game, but obviously his knee injury still had some lingering effects. He was the culprit for several of the Ravens' big plays, something our secondary usually prevents.
- Rob Chudzinski: I have to go with a third goat this week, because it is a tagline in the article name. "Prevent Offense". Ugh. More on this in the general notes section.
Awarding Game Balls (Gold Stars to Put on Their Locker Door)
Joshua Cribbs: It took him long enough, but Cribbs finally had his first complete special teams performance of the season by looking like the Cribbs of old on return duties. With the Browns trailing 10-0 early on, Cribbs returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. He also had a punt return for 32 yards, which allowed Anderson to be in position to fire a touchdown pass to Edwards on the first offensive play. After the Ravens kicked a go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter, Cribbs had a 38-yard return to put us at the 40-yard line. Despite the loss, Cribbs' effort will not be overlooked -- this is a big reminder that the team will need to rework his contract in the offseason.
Phil Dawson: The special teams unit gets both of the game balls, eh? After a well-executed two-minute drill (with much less time than that) in the first half, the Browns were in position for a 54-yard field goal. Dawson had missed two 50+ yarders already this season, but he drilled Sunday's attempt with so much power and accuracy that it definitely would've been good from 60 yards. He also had a crafty kick towards the sideline that almost resulted in an onside kick recovery for Cleveland.
KR Joshua Cribbs was unstoppable against the Ravens, as he returns a kickoff here for a 92-yard touchdown.
General Thoughts (Random Tidbits on the Game)
Run, Run, Pass: This is the path to doom when you're facing the Baltimore Ravens defense. Sure, I respect the fact that Jamal Lewis wants his carries. But...facts are facts -- Baltimore's secondary was playing poorly, but up front, they still have the No. 1 run defense in the entire league. And yet, in the fourth quarter, run, run, pass was called on two consecutive possessions while we had the lead. On the third possession, we still ran the ball on first down despite it not having worked on the previous two drives.
- Why Such a Bad Idea: This season, Derek Anderson can barely complete 50% of his passes. With the Browns facing 3rd-and-long situations and the Ravens' defense definitely expecting the pass, that completion percentage is going to be even lower. The gameplan was nothing but a setup for failure, and Rob Chudzinski absolutely deserves the blame for not understanding that beforehand.
Declining the Penalty?: While he is a solid veteran kicker, I'm sure everyone will agree that Matt Stover is past his prime. Expecting him to connect on 40+ yard kicks is a risk in itself, and 50+ yarders turn the odds in your favor. Facing a 41-yard field goal, Romeo Crennel had the option to accept a 10-yard holding penalty. Sure, the Ravens would've re-played third down, but it would've been something like 3rd-and-21. Maybe they run a draw play and still get enough to kick a 41-yarder. But, maybe they don't. It just didn't make sense to decline the penalty unless you truly have no faith in your own defense.
Defensive Collapse, Too: It wasn't just Chudzinski's horrendous offensive calls that cost us the game: Mel Tucker deserves his share of the blame too. After we build a 14-point lead in the third quarter, our defense was extremely fired up and had the Ravens backed up to their own 15-yard line facing a 3rd-and-16. Much like the secondary had given up all day though, Joe Flacco fired a 20-yard strike to receiver Derricterk Mason. My best friend, Terry Cousin, appeared to be in coverage on the play. After that, the Ravens just kept on running draw play after draw play after draw play for positive yardage.
Screen Pass, Picked Off for TD: Another sign of the horrid game called by Chudzinski was the fact that he didn't call a screen pass until late in the fourth quarter. And, on top of things, it was Jason Wright in the game as opposed to Jerome Harrison. As much blame as I'd also put on Wright on the play, the fact is that Anderson still had the option to throw the ball away and hope for a fourth down play. Even a failed conversion on fourth down would've kept us in the game, but a pick six removed all hope. What a shame.
Winslow Back and Focused: For as much off-the-field trouble he had two weeks ago, Kellen Winslow will never have a problem catching the football. His catch to prevent a possible interception (which was called offensive pass interference) represents the type of effort every player on this team needs to give.
- Flacco Was Okay: I usually don't review other teams' players, but I'll make an exception here. Joe Flacco played a solid game against the Browns. The reason he was more successful than Anderson was in the end? The offensive playcalling. Everything the Ravens ran offensively made sense to counter our defensive approach.
Steptoe Ineffective: When Syndric Steptoe fumbled, it ended a three-game span in which the Browns were turnover-free. Donte Stallworth has taken a lot of heat from Cleveland fans, but I think some fans have attacked him the wrong way. He is not a "pussy" or "weak" player because he isn't out there playing. Some people are injury prone, and it's a shame that they can't do anything about that. The correct way to go about it is to just be frustrated that the Browns invested so much into a guy who had a history of injuries.
- Jamal Lewis: 19 carries, and a Browns loss. For some reason, I don't think we would've won if we had given him one extra carry in this game (referring to the commonly mentioned 20-carry theory). Again, that goes back to the frustration with Chudzinski.
- Too Much Commitment: I love the safety blitz, but what is with bringing nine men against Flacco late in the game? He just pitched the ball quickly to Mason again, who only had to make one move for a walk-in touchdown. Why can't our linebackers be trusted to drop back into coverage after a fake blitz?
- Brownies: In limited time, Seth McKinney filled in well for Eric Steinbach...Shaun Rogers, though not mentioned elsewhere in the review, was our defensive MVP again...the cornerbacks played way too far off the Ravens cornerbacks for the first half of the game.
The Derek Anderson era is over for now -- and I do say that as somewhat of a cliffhanger, because starting quarterbacks go down with injuries all the time. Quinn is the new leader of this team though, and I'm sure he's ready to inject some life back into the offense.