Several Bizarre Plays Hurt the Browns in Opener, as They Lose to Bengals 27-17

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 11: Halfback Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals scores a touchdown as he is chased by defensive back T.J. Ward #43 of the Cleveland Browns during the season opener at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

I was sitting in the stands after a roller coaster of emotions. The clock was running down in the fourth quarter, and the Browns' defense had forced two negative plays in a row, both of which had the crowd excited at the snap of the ball, to set up a 3rd-and-11. The Bengals had done nothing offensively since the first quarter. They weren't going to do anything either -- the game was in the bag. (continued after the jump)

CINCINNATI BENGALS (1-0) GAME #1 CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-1)
VS.
27 17

WEEK 1 - CINCINNATI BENGALS VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)

  1. Shellshocked: The crowd had not even started cheering yet. I wasn't even looking at the play, but at the scoreboard for a second to see updated scores around the league. And then, I looked at the field to see the defense confused, A.J. Green calling for the ball as he is wide open, and Bruce Gradkowski throwing him the go-ahead touchdown.
     
    No. frickin. way. I looked around for a flag, but did not see one. I was shellshocked, dumbfounded, in disbelief, or whatever other synonyms express that type of feeling. Even as I exited the stadium through the streets of Downtown Cleveland, I couldn't believe what happened. This wasn't as stupid as Dwayne Rudd's helmet toss, but it was pretty bad. The thing is...I should have so it coming, and so should someone on the Browns staff.
     
  2. A Recurring Issue: I forgot when it happened, but for at least two other plays in the game, I was scared when I looked at our defense. The Bengals' quarterback(s) had lined up under center, and I could see defensive players on our team still talking. Both times, at least one receiver was uncovered for a brief period of time. Both times, the ball wasn't snapped, and our defense set up prior to the snap.
     
  3. Goat of the Game: P Richmond McGee - Thank goodness this guy will not be punting for the Cleveland Browns again if the reports are true. We didn't need a stud to replace Reggie Hodges, we just needed someone who had decent hang time and rarely shanked his punts. I'll talk more about the field position battle later, but McGee failed all day long.
     
    Even on the punts that went longer, his hang time was terrible. Compared to the Bengals' punter, Kevin Huber, McGee was so far behind, it's not even funny. Usually I kid when I say, "I could've gone out there and done that," but this time, I'm not. There are probably a lot of people who could've gotten off of their couch and punted the ball better than McGee did. Even after McGee had done pretty well in the last couple of preseason games, I made it clear that I was still worried about him.
     
  4. Awarding Game Balls: KR Joshua Cribbs - We have our returner back. The Cribbs we saw on Sunday is the one we loved from two years ago. He was definitely frustrated after the first two kickoffs sailed out of the end zone. On the third one, I got pumped up as I watched Cribbs anxiously await the ball. He quickly peaked back to check his back foot, and saw that it was just barely going to stay in play. Bang. A 51-yard kick return that finally did something to counter McGee's shanks, sparking our offense to get back into the game. Cribbs tried to win the game with a punt return for a touchdown, but Greg Little accidentally annihilated the punter into Cribbs.
     
  5. Awful First Quarter: On Colt McCoy's first pass of the game, his pass was tipped and he caught it himself. It was kind of funny at first, until you realize he lost five yards. Then, you follow that up with a false start from Shawn Lauvao and a 20-yard punt by McGee. That's an easy way for Andy Dalton to get comfortable on his first drive -- in Browns territory without doing a thing.
     
  6. Doesn't Get Much Better: On the Browns' next drive? Another false start by Lauvao. An offensive pass interference call on Owen Marecic, who I assume was blocking down the field in anticipation of a McCoy scramble. A false start by Joe Thomas. An anomaly. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty...on Pat Shurmur. McGee got off a decent punt length-wise, but the poor hang time allows for a good return, and the Bengals again start at the 41-yard line. Cleveland's next drive? A three-and-out.
     
  7. How Often Will That Happen? Funks happen. Teams have those, "Are you kidding me?" stretches of penalties maybe once or twice a season, even some of the good ones. You just don't expect it to be the first quarter of the first game of the season at home. I hope a stretch like that doesn't happen again, especially if we get a new punter in. We spotted the Bengals ten of those 13 points. When Cleveland finally forced the Bengals into average field position, they held them to a just a field goal the rest of the way, until the "second funk" happened to close out the fourth quarter.
     
  8. McCoy's Strong Second Quarter: The Browns had a nice mix of running, passing, and aggressive playcalling in the second quarter. The whole stadium saw Benjamin Watson break wide open on the first touchdown pass, and I was thankful to see him recognize it just in time. McCoy's bomb to Mohamed Massaquoi while on the run was an unbelievable throw too. At the live game, I thought there was no way he'd get the ball down the field with how he was being pursued. The tight touchdown pass to Evan Moore into what was originally a double coveraged area was great too.
     
  9. Stagnent for Too Long: For as much as I could complain about the Bengals running a quick-snap touchdown, it's the Browns' fault offensively for not putting the game out of reach in the third quarter. Their first drive of the third quarter went well after good starting field position, but it was a little surprising to see two one-on-one pass situations called from the three-yard line when you have Peyton Hillis, a guy who thrived in those situations a year ago.
     
  10. Almost...AGAIN: How frustrating is this? After netting only a field goal on the previous drive, Cleveland's offense went back to work and were moving the ball. A reverse was run to Joshua Cribbs and there was a ton of room. I think it very well might have gone for a touchdown. One defender from behind just barely tripped him up for the stop.
     
    On the next play, we stay aggressive and go deep for Evan Moore, who appears open but it seems as though he misjudged the timing and was too busy trying to still shield off the defender. The next play is a sack, taking us out of field goal range [important]. Then, we seemed like a great stop on the punt by Cribbs at the one-yard line is overruled, resulting in a touchback. For those who say the offense didn't do well in the third quarter, they were in position to do well -- just way too many "almost" plays that could've gone our way on another given Sunday.
     
  11. Rain, Rain Go Away: This team cannot play well offensively in the rain. How can we fix that? By praying it doesn't rain on gamedays, as silly as that sounds. Colt McCoy lost his ability to throw a good ball in the fourth quarter, and the receivers didn't seem able to hold on to what were potentially catchable passes. It's almost like the also progression of the game had things going against the Browns left and right.
     
  12. Right Tackle...Not Good: I was at the game with my brother, and when the starting lineups were being announced, I looked at him and said, "I hope they say 'Tony Pashos'' name when they announce the right tackle. Instead, I heard "Oniel Cousins" and shrieked in horror. Not good. I didn't realize during the game that Cousins and Artis Hicks were rotating, but I just know that the position was definitely a vulnerability the entire game. Why did Billy Yates have to retire? We could've had Yates at left guard and Pinkston at right tackle.
     
  13. DQ is Back, and He's a Playmaker: What a breath of fresh air it was to see D'Qwell Jackson flying all over the field. He finished the game with 11 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 tackle for a loss. Fact: prior to Sunday, in his entire career, Jackson had a total of three sacks and one forced fumble. I don't think this is a fluke game for Jackson, who looked very good in the preseason as well. My confidence level in our linebackers has gone up.
     
  14. Haden Up to the Challenge: I think cornerback Joe Haden showed that he wasn't going to fold to the pressure of being a top cornerback like Eric Wright did. For whatever reason, the Bengals' quarterbacks kept trying to challenge him. Haden responded with an incredible five passes defended. I don't know if I've ever seen an individual game number that high. Haden also had a sack, which I don't remember.
     
  15. Taylor's Debut, Impressive Too: I thought Phil Taylor had a good game too, finishing with two tackles for losses and six tackles altogether. We'll see how the rest of the year goes, but so far he has a high approval rating from me. I didn't see how Ahtyba Rubin did really since I've been reluctant to re-watch the game, minus the quick snap part, on my computer.
     
  16. Picking on Mike Adams: If there was a vulnerability on defense, it seemed to be at the safety position, where Mike Adams and Usama Young rotated. That is understandable given the fact that the team chose not to invest in a top safety there this offseason. Adams has had difficulty covering tight ends in the past, and the Bengals exploited that right off the bat.
     
  17. Special Teams Tackles: Thank you, Pat Shurmur, for allowing Cribbs to be a gunner on punts again. The Browns had five special teams tackles and looked quite good in coverage. Rookie cornerback Buster Skrine had two tackles, and Owen Marecic, Joshua Cribbs, and Marcus Benard each had one tackle.
     
  18. Reps for Hillis and Hardesty: I thought the approach was a good one for the most part in terms of giving carries to Hillis and Montario Hardesty. Hardesty had two series that were dedicated for him exclusively during the game, and Hillis took the rest of the workload. It only resulted in 17 carries, but we had a lot of good passing situations that were not capitalized on. Really, the lone regret I had was not giving Hillis at least one more crack down near the goal line in the third quarter.
     
  19. Moore's Physicalness: I saw some questions regarding Evan Moore's toughness. Here's the thing: he's not a guy who is going to lower his shoulder or plow through someone. For his size, he is kind of brittle and unorthodox. He usually knows how to use his size to shield off defenders without physical play though, and we saw that on the touchdown grab. I didn't like the fade to Moore because I feel that requires a good amount of contact while not allowing Moore to have enough time to shield a defender, since he is the guy backpedaling. I like how often we used Moore on Sunday, but I think we should use him at the tight end position a little more than split wide, especially down near the red zone.
     
  20. Brownies: The final touchdown run by Cedric Benson was a dagger, but he probably should've slid down at the one-yard line to guarantee a victory...Phil Dawson's kickoffs didn't go out of the end zone, but the coverage was great on two of them...McCoy did a nice job spinning off for a first down on one scramble...Brian Robiskie was targeted three times, but failed to notch a reception because he could not get separation...not sure what McCoy was thinking we he tried to dump the ball off to Alex Mack, except that maybe he thought a white guy in front of him and in a Cleveland uniform must be Peyton Hillis...another if only is, if only Dimitri Patterson had made that circus interception before the quick snap touchdown.
     

Up next, the Browns take on the Indianapolis Colts, who looked worse than the Browns did this past Sunday. Hopefully Cleveland has a solution at right tackle though, because it could get ugly if the Colts' pass rushers go up against someone besides Pashos.

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