Last year, the Cleveland Browns averaged 25 points a game. For our defense to give up just three points in our stadium against the Indianapolis Colts and come away with a loss is shameful. We don't have the most talented group of guys on defense, but every time the unit seems to play a heck of a game (versus Pittsburgh, Washington, Indianapolis), our offense lets them down.
Against Indianapolis, it was even worse. The defense had the lead in the fourth quarter...and they never lost it. They still held -- but all it took to lose the lead was a Derek Anderson turnover for a touchdown. Frustrating.
Let's get started with the goats of the game game balls for Week 13. I always start off with the goats of the game following a loss, but I'm not going to let the offense take away the praise our defense deserves...
Awarding Game Balls (Peyton Manning? Pft...)
Brandon McDonald: I couldn't be happier about how well McDonald has played since his "benched-but-not-really-benched" situation a few weeks ago. McDonald had two huge plays in the game, both of which had to aggravate Peyton Manning significantly. On the first one, he broke up an absolutely picture perfect pass from Manning to Reggie Wayne in the end zone. Then, to start off the Colts' second half, he stayed right with Wayne again on a deep comeback route, turned around, and jumped up for the interception. His tackling was sound on several occasions as well.
Brodney Pool: This was the first time since the 2003 opener that the Colts did not score a single offensive touchdown (yes, they DID score one touchdown in Week 17 against the Titans last year). Ironically, the Colts were facing the Browns in that game -- a contest we lost 9-6. Pool was a contributor in stopping Manning, as he forced a fumble on Manning's fourth-and-goal QB sneak attempt from the one-yard line. Although it looked like Manning wouldn't have made the end zone anyway, he has a big body and may have been able to stretch the ball across the goal line. Pool prevented that, and also had another solid game all around.
The Browns' secondary, including DB Brandon McDonald and S Brodney Pool, caused Colts QB Peyton Manning to not lead his offense to a touchdown for the first time in his era.
Goats of the Game (Bite Me)
Syndric Steptoe: I outlined this as a critical mistake on offense in the game thread. After McDonald picked Manning in the third quarter, the Browns had the ball on 3rd-and-2 from the Colts' 17-yard line. Cribbs lined up in shotgun and took the direct snap. He sprinted to his right, but was taken down for no gain. Why? Because Syndric Steptoe completely whiffed on his block. He didn't need to take out his defender; all he needed to do was get a little chip on him. He failed, and Phil Dawson missed the field goal try. Who knows; if we get the first down there, maybe we eventually get a touchdown to change the outcome of the game.
Jamal Lewis: He wanted the ball. He got it 24 times, but still only rushed for a minimal 77 yards. After another hot start to the game, he had a weak finish. Isn't that supposed to be in reverse order? Lewis was facing a Colts' defense that was without Bob Sanders to start with. Then, they lost Gary Brackett and a few other players to injury during the game. For Lewis to not have been able to get over the 100-yard mark again helped make things difficult on our offense.
RB Jamal Lewis got the touches he wanted, but failed to come through despite an injured Colts defense.
General Thoughts (Random Tidbits on the Game)
Anderson's Final Start: It was another poor outing for Derek Anderson. Sure, maybe you can blame the weather conditions, especially since Peyton Manning had one of his worst outings of the season too. At a critical point of the game though, Anderson was stripped by the Colts, giving up the only touchdown of the game. Anderson is too much of a "confidence quarterback" at this stage of his career. He hasn't led us to any come-from-behind victories in games that he started. He may still get a chance to start next season depending on what head coach comes in, but the chances aren't very good.
- Our Philosophy: After most of us have expressed our disapproval in Jason Wright playing this season, what did we see late in the game against the Colts? With 1:50 to go and down by four, the first three plays were dumpoffs to Wright (one of which fell incomplete) that barely covered and yards and did nothing but drain the clock. You don't do that unless you have three timeouts.
Run Defense Comes Through: The defense's stoppage of the Colts' ground game was more impressive than what they did against Fred Taylor and Maurice-Jones Drew earlier this season. The Colts were held to just 90 yards rushing on 3.1 yards a pop. A bigger test comes against the Titans' duo of Chris Johnson and LenDale White.
Rookie Sighting: Alert: We had a Martin Rucker sighting for the first time this season! During the fourth quarter against the Colts, he caught a 9-yard pass that wasn't as easy as pitch-and-catch play. With Kellen Winslow set to be sidelined with a high ankle sprain, and since the season is a wash, we'd better see Rucker involved with the offense the rest of the season.
Stallworth Non-Sighting: I don't think it's necessarily the fault of Donte Stallworth that he's not posting great statistics. However, another 1 catch, 4 yard type-of-performance is discouraging. We might as well have given Tim Carter a huge contract and asked him to duplicate last season's production.
Zastudil / Cribbs Combo: Punter Dave Zastudil played an important in the Colts' lack of scoring. Zastudil averaged 50.5 yards per punt on four attempts, with two of them being downed inside the 20. Joshua Cribbs amazing efforts as a gunner contributed to the ball being downed or the Colts' returners having no room to run. On his two attempted returns, the Colts' returner averaged zero yards on two attempts.
- Blaming Shaffer & Thomas? Meh...: I wouldn't. We were facing the Indianapolis Colts defense, and for Joe Thomas and Kevin Shaffer to have to deal with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, respectively, for the entire game is a lot to ask for. When you get into third-and-long situations like Anderson did, you have to have a quick alarm clock in your head, or at least some awareness that your pocket isn't going to last. Rather than blaming Shaffer and Thomas, I'll credit Freeney and Mathis, with the only blame going towards Anderson.
Poor Dorsey: Every time Ken Dorsey takes a snap during a regular season game with the Browns, we're backed up to the point where we need to get a pass down the field. That's not his game, and of course, he now has an interception to show for it in the box score.
Cheering for Injuries: Applauding an injury should never happen. Maybe inside you feel good that it forces a position change, but you shouldn't high-five the guy next to you. The fans who did cheer for Anderson's injury live at the game are going to give all Cleveland fans a bad reputation. On the same note, the players themselves took things way too seriously. There was no way that everybody in the stadium was cheering, so they should understand, "hey, that's just how some of these idiots want to react." Then, move on. Don't start talking to the fans and start getting ready to pick a fight with them. Just do what you're paid to do: play football.
- Revenge Factor: Well, we came really close to getting the revenge we wanted to get on the Colts, but it didn't happen. Was that really a big deal to me after the game though? No. I just wanted to win the game; and also, if getting the Colts into the playoffs helps take the Baltimore Ravens out of it, that'd be all the better.
Manning's Passes: Neglect his first Hail Mary interception. Although our secondary did a solid job at not letting Manning explode, he still made several throws that leave you in awe.
- Not Much Else: Unfortunately, in a 10-6 game without a single offensive touchdown, there's not a lot more to discuss in a game review.
Brownies: For the second straight week, we tackled very well...Unlike last week, we combined it with better coverage this week too...Mike Adams blitz to start off the game had some potential, but Manning reacted quickly...Shaun Rogers remains a machine.
Let's go to RB Jason Wright at the critical juncture of the game. Why not? It worked against the Ravens and the Texans!
I can't say the game was a dud like I did in the Texans game two weeks ago. Because Manning and the Colts have a premiere offense, I was so focused and impressed during the game by how well our defense played that I can't say I was bored in the least. Our offense was inept, but they also played a pretty good field position game -- it's just unfortunate that Anderson fumbled in the end.
Up next, we've got the best team in the AFC, the Tennessee Titans, on the road. I'm looking forward to seeing the type of day our defense has against a well-managed Titans offense.