|SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (9-3)||WEEK 13||CLEVELAND BROWNS (1-11)|
Sure, I could lecture the defense on how pathetic it was to give up a 66-yard touchdown pass, mostly via the catch-and-run type. Or, I could complain that despite the amount of time our defenders had to adjust to the jump balls thrown by Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates always came down with them. It wouldn't be fair to complain about our defense though, as the unit is barely representative of the one that started the season. From the first week, I believe only Eric Wright, Abram Elam, and Kamerion Wimbley are healthy enough to stay at their positions.
What bordered on respectability was the play of the offense. Although we only scored seven points in the first three quarters, we had several "threatening drives," which shows progress compared to the numerous three and outs we've been accustomed to.
Let's get to the full review of the game, starting with the goat of the game...
WEEK 13 - SAN DIEGO CHARGERS VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
GOATS OF THE GAME:
- Hank Poteat: While I am not 100% positive that he was in on the plays, I thought I recall him making poor efforts on several of the Chargers' big plays, including Tolbert's 66-yard dash. I always thought of Poteat as a scrub prior to his career in Cleveland, and he's done very little to change that reputation in my mind. Coye Francies, please?
AWARDING GAME BALLS:
Jerome Harrison: Two of our better games this season -- against the Cincinnati Bengals the first time around, and now against the Chargers -- have come with Jerome Harrison at tailback. I was thrilled to see Harrison get the start over Chris Jennings, and although Harrison's YPC average doesn't appear desirable (3.5), he provides the burst to the outside on plays that can help move the chains.
Eric Mangini also praised his blocking, so he is back in the good graces of the coaching staff. I didn't pay specific attention to it, but I recall one play where I saw a blitz come and Harrison stepped up and firmly picked it up. Harrison's biggest contribution was as a receiver, which I will elaborate on below.
- Harrison as the Checkdown: One of Brady Quinn's problems this season is that he has been checking down to wide receivers on very short passes. As much as we try, the wide receiver screens to Mike Furrey at the line of scrimmage won't cut it. Harrison was always in position to be relatively open and the check-down receiver for Quinn, which seemed to make Quinn more comfortable when going through his progressions.
Production Proves It: Harrison came through when Quinn went to him, with 7 catches for 62 yards and 2 touchdowns. The touchdowns both came in the fourth quarter, one of them on a very nifty shuffle pass.
Some fans complained that Harrison had a few drops, but if he had caught those plays, they would've been for short gains and would've kept the clock running. Nonetheless, I'm sure he didn't try to drop them as a football savvy decision, which still means there is a slight underlying problem in catching the ball.
Tomlinson Passes Brown: Maybe I'm just a little cynical, but I couldn't stop laughing at what progressed on the television screen when LaDainian Tomlinson passed up Jim Brown on the rushing list. The play by play announcers were so "in" to it, talking about Tomlinson's and Brown's accomplishments.
Then, when Tomlinson officially passed Brown, he pointed up towards a suite and the announcers commented, "and he appears to be saluting the legendary Brown...," only to have the cameras flash to Brown drinking a bottle of water as if he could care less. Of course Brown congratulated Tomlinson following the game; just how it went down on television brought a chuckle from me.
Robo Shows His Worth: Ah, so there's Brian Robiskie. Arguably, the playing time of Robiskie will be looked back on as one of the most controversial issues of the season because there might have been legitimate points to both sides of the argument.
Robiskie was touted in the draft as "the most NFL ready receiver." But, what if that wasn't the case? What if the coaches were right, and that in reality, Robiskie needed a lot of work?
Either way, what I saw Sunday against the Chargers was a receiver who looked the most polished out of what we have, particularly because when Brady Quinn rolled out, Robiskie rolled with him and caught the ball without issue. In one instance, he even shielded a defender and then ran for yards after the catch, completing a 43-yard reception.
Robiskie, in single coverage on a deep ball in the fourth quarter, also nearly came away with a touchdown. The defender knocked the ball away just as it arrived though. In what I consider to be Robiskie's first "true chance," he delivered. An effort like this against the Steelers would be even sweeter.
Can We Please Have Some Moore? I promise
notto overuse that tagline for as long as Evan Moore is producing as a member of the Cleveland Browns. Promoted from the practice squad, I hardly expected Moore to even see the field Sunday. Instead, he was in the game early and often, showing extremely impressive hands and solid route running ability for a tight end. It's way too early to deem him any form of a savior at the tight end position, but he can suddenly be added to the mix of "players to look forward to" the rest of the way.
- Close Enough Redemption: When Phil Dawson missed a 45-yard field goal early on in the first quarter, it ended up hurting. However, we have to remember that 45 yards is still not a chip shot. Dawson came back later and redeemed himself by drilling a 49-yard field goal to give us a chance at another onside kick. Both of Dawson's onside kicks were executed very well; Tomlinson just did a good job fielding the second one and the Chargers' blockers did their jobs on that play.
- Quinn's Mistakes: While shined, he did have two big blunders. There was one pass where he went for a quick slant over the middle and failed to see the linebacker coming across. The defender only deflected the pass instead of having a possible pick six. Quinn then held onto the ball too long when we were threatening to score in the first half and was stripped of the football, taking more points off the board.
An Entire Series: It was interesting the way Brian Daboll used Joshua Cribbs on offense Sunday. I've been an advocate before of using Cribbs in the Wildcat throughout the game at varying instances. Instead, during the fourth quarter, Daboll suddenly pulled out a series which used Cribbs in the Wildcat. On first down, Cribbs took off for 30 yards. On the next first down, he was stopped for a 1 yard loss.
On second down, Cribbs ran the option play and pitched it back to Chansi Stuckey who ran it for 6 yards. On third down, Cribbs took off for 2 yards, setting up a 4th-and-3. Enter Quinn again, who fired a high pass past the first down marker to Cribbs. Cribbs, in a catch I usually don't expect from him, leaped up and caught it, hanging on for the first down. Several plays later, Harrison had one of his two touchdowns.
- Rubin's Hit: I believe that Darren Sproles was the victim. He caught the ball, made a few defenders miss by the sideline, and then turned right into a spearing Ahtybin Rubin, who had quite the momentum coming from the spot he did.
- Too Many Big Plays: If Rob Ryan needs to focus on something the rest of the way with the players he has at his disposal, it has to involve limiting the number of big plays by the opposition through the air. The Chargers had passing plays of 56, 66, 31, and 41 yards, and some of those were catch-and-run.
- Still Intrigued: On defense, the only player I really seem to be following now is Matt Roth. He had half of a sack and continues to employ a bull-rush strategy.
- We Should Try That: I hope that Daboll took note of the play in which Naanee received a pitch and then quickly threw the ball (as opposed to selling the reverse across the entire field and then throwing it). Naanee hit a wide open Tomlinson, and we were lucky that one of our defenders was still in the vicinity to prevent the play from going the distance.
- Still a Mixed Bag: Good footwork by Mohamed Massaquoi on his touchdown in the first quarter, but he and Quinn just don't seem to be on the same page still. Throughout the game, Quinn seemed much more in sync with Moore, Harrison, Stuckey, and Robiskie.
- Good Strategy: I don't know who tried to push the Chargers player into the football on the punt, but whoever did that, props to them. Had Abram Elam's foot not barely touched the ball upon replay review, the Browns would've had a chance to tack on a field goal just before the half.
Brownies: It looked like Mike Furrey was at safety quite a bit, but also on the targeted end of some of the Chargers' big pass plays...it's a good thing that after the Bye, I've felt better about this Browns team overall...for the first time in 35 games, the Browns scored an opening drive touchdown.
Thursday, the Browns take on the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are vulnerable right now, having lost four straight. It's been awhile since a Browns coach has been able to defeat the Steelers, and Mangini has the opportunity to officially put a dagger in Pittsburgh's playoff hopes.