|CINCINNATI BENGALS (3-1)||WEEK 4||CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-4)|
That was about as long of a football game you could possibly get on Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Cleveland Browns 23-20 in overtime with just four seconds left on the clock. If Shayne Graham had missed the kick, the game would've ended in a tie barring a miracle.
For the first time this season, Browns fans were treated to a competitive football game. The team's play over the first three weeks of the season was abysmal, but there were more positives that could be taken away from this game than perhaps the whole season combined. In a sense, the team clicked on all three cylinders -- the offensive, defensive, and special teams units all collaborated for a relatively complete football game. What we lacked was the final knockout punch, something that Carson Palmer was able to deliver for the Bengals.
WEEK 4 - CINCINNATI BENGALS VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
GOATS OF THE GAME:
Braylon Edwards: The change to Derek Anderson at quarterback was supposed to help Edwards, but that wasn't evident against the Bengals. Edwards failed to haul in a single catch, and he set the tone of the type of day he was in line to have on the first series when he dropped a crisp pass right at his chest.
Later on, when the Browns had the momentum after another nice run by Jerome Harrison, Edwards initiated a fight. Sure, he was "sticking up for a teammate", but did the Bengals really do anything wrong? Harrison was picked up and slammed to the ground, but they were just trying to stop the guy. We were fortunate that the official called offsetting penalties on the play.
- Robert Royal: The passes thrown to him were not ideal for a tight end like Royal, but the fact remains that if he's going to be running routes, he needs to catch the ball, even if it's on his back shoulder or coming at him when he turns into his route.
AWARDING GAME BALLS:
Mohamed Massaquoi: This game might have been the best game by a Browns' rookie receiver since returning to the league. After the coaching staff failed to utilize him the first three weeks, Massaquoi was the No. 2 receiver against the Bengals and took full advantage of his opportunity. Most of his receptions came despite tight coverage, and even when he thought he scored his first touchdown, he didn't celebrate like an obnoxious goof.
When the Browns tried to drive late in the fourth quarter, he held onto a pass that he bobbled, a sign of shunning the late-game jitters (although on that play, he should've tossed the ball back to the official quicker instead of posing).
- Shaun Rogers: I know the Bengals' long snapper is the worst in the league, but two blocked field goals in one game? Including an EXTRA POINT on a play that would've given the Bengals the lead with minimal time remaining in regulation? It almost kills you that after Rogers' efforts, we couldn't capitalize with a victory.
The Offensive Line: I can't help but give credit to the offensive line for doing a mighty fine job against the Bengals' defense. Anderson was kept clean, with Antwan Odom's only sack coming after Anderson screwed himself by rolling left when Odom was being held in check by Joe Thomas. Rookie center Alex Mack did not have any bad Shotgun snaps. John St. Clair didn't have any complete whiffs. There weren't any false start penalties that I recall, and the holes in the running game were present more often than before.
- Same Old Derek Anderson: After the low-quality performances by Brady Quinn the past three weeks, the reactions to Anderson's performance today were generally positive. However, the Anderson we saw today isn't anything that should have taken us by surprise. There were so many comments in the game thread with fans gushing over Anderson's performance. Anderson is a quarterback with accuracy issues and can make a few painful interceptions, but he stands in the pocket and is not afraid to throw ropes to receivers down the field. How did that scouting report turn out?
Anderson's Day: He had a 54.2% completion rate, with one interception coming near the end zone after a drive that had been nothing but positive plays for the Browns. He also helped lead the Browns to a touchdown drive in the first and second halves (with some assists from Joshua Cribbs). There were drops by Braylon Edwards, Mike Furrey, and Robert Royal, but Anderson made up for those with the plays to Massaquoi. We're still searching for the day that Anderson leads us to a game-winning touchdown drive as the team's starting quarterback. Two field goals late, instead of touchdowns, ended up being the difference.
Back to Basics Goes Cribbs: Cribbs doesn't need to be a wide receiver to earn a higher contract. Look at the field position he set the Browns up with against the Bengals throughout the game:
-34 yards away from end zone (after a 58 yard kick return)
-38 yards away from end zone (after a 39 yard punt return)
-14 yards away from end zone (after a 50 yard punt return)
Take a look at a team like the Dallas Cowboys, who lost to the Denver Broncos today 17-10. The Cowboys struggled to move the ball all day long, but with the potency they have on offense, how could they be stopped with having one player give them that type of field position all game long? The Browns did not take full advantage of Cribbs' returns as they should have though, which is becoming a very annoying trend in itself:
-1st Time: 75 yard fumble TD return by Bengals
-2nd Time: 1 yard TD pass to Steve Heiden
-3rd Time: 31-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff (after a three-and-out)
10 points doesn't sound bad, but at a minimum there should be a score on each possession -- 1 touchdown and 2 field goals in the very least. In a better case scenario, those kick/punt returns should net more like 17-21 points.
- What a Stretch: In the first quarter, the Cincinnati Bengals ran 22 plays for 145 yards. Then, there was a stretch from the second quarter until past the mid-way point of the fourth quarter that the Bengals' offense literally did nothing. They ran 19 plays for 26 yards over a span of 7 offensive series. That is unbelievable, and although our defense gave up the late touchdown to Carson Palmer, they never quit and they really fought this week to stay in the game.
- Harrison Comes Through: I hope the Browns continue giving opportunities to Jerome Harrison, who filled in nicely for Jamal Lewis the second week in a row. Harrison's longest run was only for 21 yards, making his 4.2 YPC average on 29 carries even more impressive. That's another statistic that stands out -- 29 carries. Who said that Harrison couldn't handle a large load as an NFL running back? I would've like to have seen Brian Daboll rotate Chris Jennings in a little more often. The one time he did so, when Harrison came back in, he broke that long run of 21 yards.
- ...But he Fumbled: The 75-yard fumble was a downer, but because it happened early on, Harrison received the opportunity to redeem himself and he did just that. Fumbling has been a concern for Harrison (despite his lack of in-game fumbles), so this will be something he'll have to continue focusing on improving upon. Did anyone remember to pay attention to Harrison's blocking ability during the game? That was something that I neglected to look for during the game.
- Billy Cundiff's Range: After not being in the league so long, I give Billy Cundiff credit for hitting his kicks of 26- and 31-yards straight down the middle. However, in that fourth quarter where we settled for field goals, there was an instance or two where we ran plays on third down to get in closer field goal range rather than going for a first down. If we had Phil Dawson (who the staff would presumably have more faith in), would the offensive call(s) have been more aggressive on third downs?
The Decision to Punt: With 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Browns decided to punt the ball on a 4th-and-10 from the 40-yard line. It would have been about a 57- to 58-yarder for Cundiff. Cundiff doesn't have a weak leg, as he was once brought in by the New Orleans Saints as a kickoff specialist. The past two weeks, he has also boomed kicks into the end zone on kickoffs for the Browns.
His accuracy has historically been an issue though, and if Cundiff would've missed the long field goal attempt, Carson Palmer would've taken over with about 15 seconds left at the 47-yard line. With two timeouts, he would've had two cracks to get about 15 yards for an attempt at a Graham field goal. I don't argue with Mangini's call in this situation, but if we had Phil Dawson, I would've gone for it.
- Props to Brodney Pool: I nitpicked last week about Brodney Pool not standing out last week, but he was all over the place against Cincinnati. He saved a touchdown on a play in which Chris Henry broke free, coming over at the last possible second to break it up. He also had the team's first interception of the season when Palmer tried to catch the secondary off guard with a deep ball.
- The Mike Adams Train: His "start" at cornerback really didn't last past a quarter, but he had arguably his best game of the season with several key tackles on special teams and a few big individual stops on third down. Those individual plays helped prevent the Bengals from sustaining drives after the first quarter.
- Can Stand Ya: The addition of Blake Costanzo on special teams continues to be a positive one, as he recovered a fumble on special teams again (the ball sort of "slipped" right to him as he went to the ground). He had a "late hit" call a little later, but this might have been a case of him not realizing Cribbs was down yet, especially with the fact that the "late hit" only seemed to occur a second after Cribbs was down. Not a bad call by the officials either, though.
- Not All Good: Looking at all the points above, it must sound like we had a tremendous football game, which I'm sure has to do with the delight of finally seeing positive results in an otherwise dismal season. So, let's address some more of the negative plays now...
- Stopping the Late Runs: Again, our defense shut down a running back like Cedric Benson early on. When Bernard Scott, the Bengals' newly-discovered change-of-pace back came in the fourth quarter, he changed the tone with back-to-back 11-yard and 16-yard rushes. Without those plays, who knows if Palmer is able to produce a touchdown on the drive. In overtime, Cedric Benson got himself together with runs of 12- and 21-yards. Our defense couldn't use the excuse of being tired as they had been the previous weeks.
- Palmer's Scamper: I'm tired of seeing Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, and now Carson Palmer take off on plays that end up contributing to their team's victory. On 4th-and-11 in overtime, the Bengals didn't want to settle for a tie, so they went for it. If the Browns would've stopped Palmer, Derek Anderson would've had a chance to drive 30-35 yards in 1 minute to get into field goal range. Instead, Palmer took off for 15 yards and a first down. Our defense was completely caught off guard, but it was also a heads up and ballsy play by Palmer, knowing that the game was on the line.
- Furrey at Safety: It was interesting to see Mike Furrey doubling up and playing safety. He didn't register a tackle, but he had a pass deflection. I heard announcer Rich Gannon say we were thin at safety, but I know that all four of our regular safeties were in action. Speaking of Gannon, it's Steve Heiden. Stop saying Eric Heiden!
- Overtime Playcalling: I was the first person to trash the playcalling the first three weeks of the season. Despite our lack of ball movement in overtime, I don't think the playcalling changed much in crunch time. We didn't run it too often to be considered conservative, and Anderson mixed in a shot deep down the field to Massaquoi that didn't pan out. It just happened to be that both defenses continued fighting until the very end.
- Bad Challenges: There was no doubt about Chad Ochocinco's first offensive touchdown, so choosing to challenge that play was a waste. CBS failed to give a good replay of Anderson's interception by Jonathan Joseph, but the announcers seemed to indicate that there was no doubt about it either. I fault Mangini less for challenging this second play due to the impact it could've had. Timeouts were also a concern, but as I mentioned in the gamethread, if they prevent Anderson from being confused and making a dumb throw, then take the timeout.
- Brownies: Credit to the fans for showing up to the stadium despite an 0-3 start. There would've been nothing more depressing than seeing the stadium empty and hearing a pindrop when the Browns scored a touchdown. D'Qwell Jackson had 13 tackles, which led the team...Joshua Cribbs on a reverse should be done at least once a game...Corey Williams made the only notable impact of his Browns career in overtime...Kamerion Wimbley is going to have more sacks than he did all of last year.
Up next, the Browns face the Buffalo Bills. As bad as the Browns quarterback situation has been, I think I'd take ours over having Trent Edwards. Can Jerome Harrison have another big run against the Bills this year? We shall see.