|OAKLAND RAIDERS (5-10)||WEEK 16||CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-11)|
Record-wise, the Cleveland Browns will finish no worse than they did last year during Romeo Crennel's final year as the team's head coach. Granted, going 4-12 or 5-11 is nothing to brag about, but the optimist can certainly be pleased with how the Browns have come together and played at a higher level during the second half of the season, leading to the team's current three-game winning streak.
Let's get to the full review of the game, starting with the game balls for the third week in a row...
WEEK 16 - OAKLAND RAIDERS VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
AWARDING GAME BALLS:
Matt Roth: He was credited with 1.5 sacks, but that figure doesn't account for the other hits he had on Charlie Frye. Roth continues to be an impressive force on defense since the Browns claimed him off waivers from the Miami Dolphins -- so much, that he might even warrant the team's defensive MVP award. In five games with the Browns, Roth has 27 tackles, 4 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery.
Both of his sacks led to positive situations for our defense. On the first one, he combined with David Bowens to bring down Frye for a loss of six in the second quarter, setting up a 2nd-and-26. The Raiders had to punt, which set up our touchdown drive just before half-time.
His other sack game in the fourth quarter. The Raiders started 80 yards away from the end zone, but had plays of 33, 8, 3, and 11 yards to put them 25 yards away from the end zone. Frye was sacked on first down by Roth for a loss of 10; needing a touchdown, we knew the Raiders had to throw the ball. On third down, Brandon McDonald took a chance and stepped in front of the receiver for a 39-yard interception return to midfield.
GOAT OF THE GAME:
Michael Gaines: The Browns executed a beautiful trick play in the fourth quarter in which Joshua Cribbs lined up in the backfield but the ball actually ended up getting to Jerome Harrison; I'm still confused what exactly happened at the snap. The defense bit for it completely though; Cribbs went to the right and more than half of the defense went his way, while Harrison and a few blockers went to the left.
Gaines was the only blocker downfield, and there was only one defender in the area. Gaines clearly blocked the defender in the back, something that was highly unnecessary considering Harrison's chances of being able to avoid one defender. It negated what should have been a perfectly executed touchdown, and two plays later, Harrison fumbled and the Raiders had a shot at coming back.
- Harrison Breaks Another Record: After breaking Jim Brown's record last week (rushing yards in a single game), he broke another one against the Raiders this past Sunday: number of carries in a game. Harrison carried the ball 39 times, which surpassed Lee Suggs 38 carries from back in 2004. I certainly hope that Harrison doesn't end up becoming a footnote like Suggs did, but as long as Harrison avoids the injury issues that Suggs had, I think we have our starting tailback for next season.
Not Enough Carries: What? Am I crazy? I don't really mean that Harrison didn't get enough carries in the game as a whole; Brian Daboll did the smart (albeit obvious) thing in the fourth quarter by running the ball. However, in the first half, the way that Daboll went away from the run drove me nuts (see below).
Shotgun Giveaway from Anderson: I know the threat of a draw play does exist from Shotgun -- it's what allowed us to get a big first down in our two-minute drill. In the first quarter though, the Browns were up 7-0 from our early touchdown drive. The next time we got the ball, the Browns were marching down the field. How?
-9 yard run by Jerome Harrison
-10 yard run by Jerome Harrison
-12 yard run by Jerome Harrison
At this point, the Browns were 27 yards away from the end zone. The Raiders pretty much knew that Harrison was going to run the ball on those downs, but they couldn't stop them. Then, for some reason, on the next three downs, we lined up in Shotgun formation and let Derek Anderson throw the ball. Incomplete. Incomplete. Pass to Brian Robiskie for 3 yards. Field goal.
I don't have a problem necessarily that we pass the ball, but unless we're in a two-minute drill, why give away the threat of the running game that has just gashed the Raiders? I have never liked Anderson's playaction fakes, but it at least can do a better job at throwing the defense off a little bit, and Anderson would probably benefit from not being forced to scan the field ahead of time from Shotgun. Daboll did a better job the rest of the game in these situations, but a blown opportunity is a blown opportunity.
Raider Problems Too: Just as the Browns had a few issues (staying away from the run), the Raiders did the same thing, but at a far more often rate. Considering the fact that the Raiders were never being blown out during the game, there's really no reason that Charlie Frye should've thrown the ball 45 times. Michael Bush, a player many Browns fans have coveted, only had 10 carries that went for 52 yards.
There were situations where we had trouble stopping Bush, but rather than staying committed to the run, the Raiders were pass-happy. I thought Frye made some very good throws against man coverage, but any time there was a zone coverage sneaked in there, he was baited and intercepted. With a stronger commitment to the running game, the game could've ended differently.
Taming Cribbs: Overall, the Raiders did a fair job at taming Cribbs. Compared to other teams, the Raiders would earn a "passing grade" in that sense. Cribbs had a nice reversal of field on a play that went 17 yards, but he was limited to just four yards on his other three carries. The Raiders only kicked away from Cribbs twice, and one time they did pay for it. Jerome Harrison returned the kickoff 39 yards as the upback to open the second half, leading to another field goal.
Considering Harrison is our starting running back and he got the wind knocked out of him earlier in the game on a kickoff, I assume that Chris Jennings will be getting some more work at the upback position this week. Either that, or Gerard Lawson will be active again next week.
- A Shame of a Season: While Harrison and Cribbs have received their opportunities to shine, it's been a rather wasteful season for Brian Robiskie. Robiskie didn't get off to a bad start against Oakland, hauling in two passes for 16 yards. His second reception went for 13 yards on a 3rd-and-8 in the second quarter, as he did a nice job of catching the ball shy of the marker and then turning upfield for the first down. Robiskie injured his ankle on the play though and might not play against Jacksonville.
- Still Liking Moore: If management does change at the head coaching level, I hope that Evan Moore is not lost in the mix. He caught a nice fastball from Anderson early on, and then when he lined up in a jump ball one-on-one situation down the sideline, he nearly hauled in the reception and showed genuine frustration at not being able to pull it in. With a little more development in the offseason, I don't think I'm being too optimistic in believing that Moore could eventually become one of the AFC's better receiving tight ends.
The Greatest Drive of the Year: I wasn't sure how many moments I'd be able to fit on my upcoming "best of 2009" list, but I think I found one against the Oakland Raiders. Backed up at our own 7-yard line with 1:46 to play in the half, with the lead, the last thing I wanted to see was Derek Anderson try to force the ball down the field. I would've been content with running the clock out with Harrison (not kneeing it though, since Oakland had timeouts).
Several plays alter, Derek Anderson threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Massaquoi on what was easily one of Anderson's best throws of the season. How did we march down the field so quick? Both teams lost their cool, but the Raiders lost it more so with two 15-yard penalties that quickly allowed the Browns to get out of their own territory and into Oakland territory.
The part I loved about the scuffle was when Anderson was walking around the pile of players brawling, and all of a sudden he finds probably the smallest defender on the pile, goes up to him and grabs the back of him and just throws him to the ground. Then, Anderson turns his back to the player as if to expect that there will be no retaliation whatsoever.
Then, after the touchdown throw, Anderson rips his helmet off and sprints to the sideline; on replay, you can see Blake Costanzo jump back in surprise as Anderson almost collided with him on the sideline. I couldn't tell who he did it to, but Anderson is delivering fake elbow drives and high fiving players over the sideline as if he threw the game-winning pass. Too funny.
- Sebastian Janikowski Drills It: When the Browns squibbed the kickoff short after their touchdown, I didn't understand it. The Raiders' returners looked awful; they kept on doing stationary juke moves at the 20-yard line for five seconds, allowing five of our defenders to close in and tackle them. I knew Janikowski had a strong leg and I definitely had confidence that he could hit a 60+ yarder. Nonetheless, given the need to hit it just right without the kick getting blocked from that distance still requires everything to go right, and it did. It was the fourth-longest kick in league history. Eric Mangini needs to stop looking as if he is going to kill someone as half-time begins though.
- Massaquoi's Strengths: Over the past few weeks, it's become evident that Massaquoi has at least shown one strength this season: the slant pattern, one that doesn't require the most talented route runner. He did a nice job pulling in an Anderson pass that was behind him and then ran up the field. On his touchdown reception, it was a route that didn't require much finesse either; sprint up the sideline and hope the ball hits you in your breadbasket. He still has a lot of work to do in the offseason if he wants to become a legitimate starting receiver in the league though.
Dropping Back: Frye kept on looking for the quick hitter when we blitzed. Although he got picked off on the first play of the game by David Bowens (due to dropping back from the line), there was a long stretch in which the Browns stopped doing that. I was particularly surprised that we didn't have anyone in that position when the Raiders were at their own 1-yard line. We blitzed about three players from the right, and Frye tossed it to the fullback on that side for a wide open first down.
- Mixed Game for McDonald: At first I considered Brandon McDonald for the "goat" position, but he redeemed himself. The "goat" play was when he ran into the Raider punt returner trying to make a fair catch, costing us 15 yards and ultimately leading to the Raiders starting a drive just 30 yards away from the end zone. Later on though, McDonald teamed with Cribbs to save a punt at the 1-yard line and then went on to intercept a pass from Frye.
- Stuckey, the Unsung Hero: I still rate Chansi Stuckey as the Browns' top wide receiver, despite only have one catch for three yards. Anderson had an opportunity to hit him for a big gain in the first quarter, but the pass was behind Stuckey. Later on, Anderson threw it deep again and should've been intercepted, but Stuckey did a very good job at becoming the defender and breaking the pass up.
- Evaluating Anderson: At this point, I think Derek Anderson is done in terms of the Browns trying to evaluate him; the only quarterback we should be evaluating heading into next year is Brady Quinn. Despite having a QB rating of 90.6 against the Raiders, this wasn't exactly the type of game Anderson would want to showcase to other teams either, as he had some plain out awful throws. He'll probably find some situation next year though where he'll be a backup behind a young quarterback and will have a chance to start when they struggle.
- Ooooooookaayy: Thank you, Tom Cable, for running four passing plays with Charlie Frye when you had the ball on 1st-and-goal from the 2 in the fourth quarter. The Raiders turned it over on downs.
Brownies: The CBS announcers were full of mistakes during the game, from "Ethan" Moore to calling Phil Dawson's field goal just inside the right upright as being "right down the middle."...Frye was sacked four times in total, with the other credit going to Marcus Benard (1) and Mike Adams (1)...Eric Wright's first attempt at an interception at the goal line was an admirable one, considering he wasn't the receiver on the play.
Next up, the Browns take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the final game of the regular season. It'll be a long offseason for Browns fans, but at least we've had a pleasant December to reflect back on.