I wish I could sugar coat the way the Cleveland Browns played against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday in their 24-14 loss, but you really can't. You can blame the players, the weather, the coaches, the officials, etc, but the fact is that neither team looked very sharp in what is considered the best dress rehearsal for the regular season.
Things appeared to get off to a good start for the Browns. They completed a first down run away on a tough run by Peyton Hillis, but later failed to convert on a third-down and were forced to punt. On the Eagles' first third-down situation, Phil Taylor bulldozed through Michael Vick right up the middle, forcing a fumble that Jayme Mitchell fell on top of to give Cleveland great field position.
That's where things really started to go downhill. We had...
- A catchable pass to the end zone that Peyton Hillis couldn't come down with.
- A blocked 33-yard field goal attempt by Phil Dawson.
- Sheldon Brown accidentally tripping punt returner Jordan Norwood as he was calling for a fair catch, resulting in a muff and recovery by Philly.
- A nice pass to Evan Moore down the sideline being dropped that could have gone for six.
- An offensive pass interference penalty called on Brian Robiskie on a nice diving catch near the end zone.
- Asante Samuel jumping a route to intercept Colt McCoy to begin the second quarter.
- An absurd roughing the passer penalty on D'Qwell Jackson that allowed Philly to sustain a long touchdown drive.
- Penalties and breakdown in offensive line protection preventing the offense from moving the ball.
And, I forgot to mention: it started pouring rain, which is the last thing you want your team to practice in. Most teams don't play in a rainstorm all season; I'd rather see them practice in weather elements they are more likely to see.
The Browns were losing 17-0 at halftime, and were down 24-0 in the second half. They ended up scoring 14 unanswered in the fourth quarter after a fluke touchdown throw by Seneca Wallace, and a decent drive by third-stringer Jarrett Brown to close out the game.
This was not a fun game to watch, but it's also the one I throw away for the most parts. I know it sounds unfair to pick and choose what to take away from this game, but I saw good playcalling in the first half and good throws from McCoy. We had an opportunity for two plays early on that would've led to points, and arguably our two best receivers, Hillis and Moore, dropped the ball. The defensive pressure was very good, led by the likes of Phil Taylor, D'Qwell Jackson, and Scott Fujita. I really liked what I saw out of the front seven today, and I'm even more optimistic about what we can do when our starting safeties return to action.
One more note: the bad play kind of overshadowed the return of running back Montario Hardesty, who finished with 5 carries for 15 yards. The part that matters isn't his performance -- for now -- but the fact that he came away healthy, even with the elements the way they were.
Hopefully we see better results against the Bears next week.