|CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-3)||GAME #3||BALTIMORE RAVENS (2-1)|
The loss to the Baltimore Ravens this past Sunday was devastating. In a game that could have really boosted the spirits of this football team, I thought the majority of the players on our team played much better than they had the first two weeks of the season. But then, you had Eric Wright, who gave up three touchdown passes to Anquan Boldin. When the final clock showed all zeros, despite the Browns' effort, they are still nothing more than a team in the cellar of the NFL to this point.
With that said, let's get to the review of the game. We'll kick off with the goats and the game balls...
WEEK 3 - CLEVELAND BROWNS VS. BALTIMORE RAVENS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
Goats of the Game:
Eric Wright: First off, let me say that I was also extremely frustrated by the coaching staff's decision to not put somebody else on Boldin after his second touchdown reception. Wright was burned badly all game long, and whenever Joe Flacco unleashed the deep ball, I started getting that feeling that we had just given up a touchdown. Imagine the horror in my eyes when I saw our all-out blitz picked up in the fourth quarter.
After the game, Eric Mangini used the common phrase that "cornerbacks need to have a short memory," or something along those sorts. I suppose that is the philosophy that had when they kept Wright on Boldin, but it was the wrong decision. It's not like Boldin outwrestled Wright for three amazing touchdowns. This was amateur hour, where Wright made Brandon McDonald look like a Pro Bowler.
One key thing here though is that I have not lost faith in Wright's ability as a cornerback. While I think he's a bit overconfident in terms of how good he is, this is really the first time in his career that he's looked as bad as he did on Sunday; it's really kind of unprecedented. I won't start to worry until it becomes a recurring issue.
- Matt Roth: I gave him a game ball last week, but he's a goat this week for what he did on 3rd-and-4 at the end of the game. With no timeouts remaining, if the Browns would have gotten a stop, the Ravens would've punted and given the Browns a slim chance at putting together a game-tying touchdown (it also would've allowed Joshua Cribbs a chance to return a punt). Instead, Roth jumped ahead of time before the play even got off, and the five-yard penalty gave the Ravens an automatic first down. A few kneeldowns later, the game was over.
Awarding Game Balls:
- Peyton Hillis: I already praised Hillis in my Gameball post, so this just reinforces the point for the purposes of this review. Hillis dominated the Ravens' defense, pushing defenders several yards back on every carry. No one could stop him, and while the Browns are 0-3, Hillis' tough effort has actually garnered some positive support for the Browns on the national level. I wouldn't be surprised if several people pick the Browns to win in an upset over the Bengals this week because of Hillis (and the struggles of Carson Palmer).
Impressive Game for Wallace: I was very impressed with the effort given by Seneca Wallace against the Ravens. When I say that, don't take it in context to mean that I thought he looked like Peyton Manning out there or something.
I was worried that Wallace would look terrible against the fast Raven defenders, and while Wallace did have a play or two in which he rolled to the left where the defense wanted him to go, Wallace knew to kill the play rather than force a ball into coverage. He made several impressive throws too, particularly the ones to Ben Watson and Joshua Cribbs (I know, I know, they were his only receivers).
Massaquoi Needs Delhomme: You can tell who had chemistry together during training camp. Wallace only targeted Mohamed Massaquoi once, and when he went his direction the pass was high and one of Wallace's poorest non-deep-ball throws of the game. Massaquoi was effective in the preseason catching slants and being counted on in third down situations when Delhomme was throwing to him. With Wallace in the game, it was Cribbs that fulfilled that role instead.
Aiken to be Cut: First off, to be fair to the newly signed Sam Aiken, I doubt he even had a chance to have one practice with the team. Nonetheless, the Browns activated him and he played on special teams. He had two penalties -- one for a hold, and another for an offsides on the kickoff (crossing before Phil Dawson kicked the ball). Aiken was only signed because Brian Robiskie was out, so I imagine he'll be cut soon.
Davis Bangs Knee: It wasn't a very notable game for backup running back James Davis, who had 4 carries for 9 yards. I thought the Browns utilized him perfectly in substitution for Hillis, and it seemed like a few times there were holes there. The problem was, Davis had two choices -- he could've continued right through the hole on the inside like Hillis kept doing, or he could've tried to use his speed to bounce it outside.
He tried to bounce it outside a few times, but found out that the Ravens' quick defenders quickly sealed the edge off. He also got his knee taken out hard on one of those plays, which pretty much ruled him out the rest of the game. I think we'll see Jerome Harrison back this week against Cincinnati.
First Half Offense: In the first half, the Browns did a great job. They only had three drives, but each of them took time off the clock since there weren't any three-and-outs. Their best drive was their last one of the half, going 11 plays for 83 yards and eating up 5:38 of game clock. The Browns didn't have a third down on the entire drive until they were faced with 3rd-and-goal from the 1 yard line. Peyton Hillis just walked into the end zone on the play.
Pashos Replaces St. Clair: Earlier in the week, I commented that I had wanted to see Tony Pashos play right tackle instead of John St. Clair. With St. Clair going down to an injury early in the contest, Pashos played the majority of the game up against Terrell Suggs. While I didn't pay specific attention to how Pashos did, Hillis seemed to have success running on the right side. If anyone feels Pashos helped make a difference, let us know!
Cribbs' Utilized More: We still aren't seeing much of the Wildcat or Cyclone, but I thought Brian Daboll timed the usage of Cribbs in the Wildcat perfectly in the third quarter. Two plays after Hillis' 63-yard gain (48-yard run + 15-yard personal foul), Cribbs was in the Wildcat facing a defense that was probably a little tired and shellshocked. Cribbs had a great 19-yard burst down to the 4-yard line.
Cribbs was also the team's leading receiver with 5 catches for 58 yards, and his ability to secure the ball with his hands and position his body continues to further legitimize him as a wide receiver. He didn't have much success in the return game thanks to being kicked away from on punts and Billy Cundiff somehow booting balls six yards deep into the end zone on kickoffs all of a sudden.
Not Everyone Beaten by Boldin: Shifting to defense here, there was one time where Boldin was targeted deep and had the pass broken up. That was courtesy of T.J. Ward, who stuck his hand in at the right time to prevent a touchdown. Through three games, Ward has had an impact in each of them. He almost had a pick six on the first play of the game as well.
As far as Abram Elam goes, it's the exact opposite for him. I literally don't remember a single play of his through three games. Is that good or bad?
Boldin's Final Touchdown, Prevented: On the drive where Boldin caught his third touchdown, it never should've gotten to that point. On a 2nd-and-3 from the 36-yard line, Michael Oher false started and a scuffle eventually broke out. Oher threw a punch at Robaire Smith and should have been ejected, but was only given a 15-yard penalty. That put the Ravens in a 2nd-and-18.
The Browns did a good job on second down not giving up a big play by only allowing Todd Heap a five-yard pass underneath. On the next play though, they allowed Heap open again, this time for 14 yards and a first down. Three plays later, the Ravens went ahead for good. Besides Boldin, Heap seemed to come wide open at inopportune times for the Browns' defense.
Speaking of Inopportune Times: I didn't even think T.J. Houshmandzadeh was playing, but sure enough he picked the right time to deliver for Baltimore. On a 3rd-and-3 on the team's final drive of the game, he ran a pattern to the sideline and caught a pass for 4 yards and a fresh set of downs. I believe Wright was in on the coverage that time.
Lack of Pressure: With the Browns missing their two best pass rushers, Shaun Rogers and Marcus Benard, it didn't help Wright and company that Joe Flacco had plenty of time to deliver accurate throws. Matt Roth and Scott Fujita did the best they could to provide a pass rush, but it wasn't enough as Flacco wasn't sacked once and never absorbed a hard hit.
Dawson Delivers: Faith is restored in Phil Dawson after he drilled a 38-yarder in the first quarter (not that it had ever left).
Hodges Turning it Up a Notch: While I have been nitpicking on some punts here and there from Reggie Hodges, he continues to do a pretty darn good job considering his career up to this point. He had two punts downed inside the 20 and really didn't shank any this week.
Special Teams Coverage: The Browns' special teams coverage continues to do well. The leaders this week were Ray Ventrone and Nick Sorensen, with two tackles each. Mike Adams, Jason Trusnik, and Titus Brown each had one tackle. Brown had a nice-sounding stick on his tackle.
No Turnovers, Similar Points: The Browns' offense did very good this week, but it feels like they should have scored more than the 17 points that they did. Granted, that is good in comparison when you consider it was the Ravens' defense, but with as dominant of a day that Hillis had, I'd usually expect to reach the 20 mark. That was a result of our fourth quarter drives, but not for the reasons you'd expect.
Fourth Quarter Stall: The offense didn't do anything in the fourth quarter, excluding Wallace's one-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the period. On the first drive, Daboll had the right mentality: feed the ball to Hillis again. The Browns had a halfback counter called. Unfortunately, Wallace was thinking "toss" so he pitched the ball behind him. He chased the ball down to the 3-yard line, but the drive was over before it could get started. As good as the Browns were doing offensively, you can't overcome a 2nd-and-27 from the 3-yard line.
On the next drive (and the Browns' last drive), the Browns went to Hillis on the first two plays and it worked. A 3rd-and-2 was set up. Then, I didn't like what I saw. The Ravens had all of their defenders at the line of scrimmage, meaning they'd either be coming all out, or would drop a lot of them back in disguise. Either way, it was exactly the type of look that I thought Wallace would struggle with heading into the game. Sure enough, Wallace immediately threw the ball deep down the sideline when he saw the pressure, but the pass sailed way out of bounds. Given the defensive look, an adjustment should have been made to hand the ball off to Hillis.
Run Defense is...Fine: I don't have a problem with how the Browns handled Ray Rice. He had some nice runs, but overall I've been pleased that teams aren't gashing the Browns on the ground like the Texans did to the Colts in Week 1.
- Brownies: I liked seeing Ahtyba Rubin make a play on Ray Rice when he covered him on a route...Joe Haden had a pass breakup...major props go to our offensive line for Hillis' success on the ground, and for keeping Wallace clean the whole game...the two sacks on Wallace came when he ran out of bounds.
Next up, the Browns come back home to face the Cincinnati Bengals. I said I wouldn't pick the Browns to win again until they actually won a game, but I'm considering changing my tune given Hillis' effort against Baltimore. It might depend on if our injured pass rushers return this week to take down Palmer.