Not many people gave the Browns a chance this week visiting the undefeated Chiefs. I was not expecting the Browns to thump the Chiefs, but I was very interested to see what this team would like with Jason Campbell under center.
While the Chiefs remain undefeated after they beat the Browns 23-17, it was a lot closer than most people predicted. For most of the first half the game went about as expected. The Chiefs steamrolled the Browns through their first 5 possessions, only failing to score 1 out of those 5 on a missed 52-yard field goal. Cleveland quickly gained some momentum on a flea-flicker and ultimately looked like a different team in the second half.
In the end, the Browns didn't have enough magic and fell to 3-5 on the year. So let's take a look at how the Browns almost pulled off the upset.
As I mentioned above the Browns looked like they had no answer to the Chiefs in the first half. While they were able to hold them to a few field goals, the Browns defense did not look up to the task. Kansas City came out the gates with scoring drives of 9, 11, and 14 plays. Cleveland came out with 3 straight three-and-outs. So clearly the Browns would be playing from behind, down 13-0 early in the second quarter.
The Ryan Succop missed 52-yard field goal really acted as a turning point for the Browns. It took all of 2 plays following the missed FG for the Browns to find the endzone. Jason Campbell found Jordan Cameron for 19 yards, and then on a beautiful flea-flicker found Josh Gordon for a 39-yard touchdown. That put Cleveland on the board, down 13-7.
With a little under 3 minutes to play in the first half, Alex Smith put together an efficient drive that was highlighted by some big Jamaal Charles runs and capped off with a 28-yard touchdown to Dexter McCluster. Kansas City would extend their lead to 20-7.
The Browns would respond well though. On a quick underneath route, Campbell was able to find Josh Gordon who extended the play for 47 yards to put them in field goal range. The Browns couldn't extend the drive from there, and would settle for a Billy Cundiff 44-yard field goal. Cleveland would go into the locker rooms down 20-10.
Cleveland got the ball to start the second half, and Campbell continued to impress. Campbell found Davone Bess for 15 yards on the first play of the half. He then continued to look Josh Gordon's way, Gordon had catches of 14 and 23 yards on the drive. They'd get into the red zone, but would be faced with a 4th and 1. The Browns went for it and Willis McGahee got just enough to extend the drive. On the next play Campbell hit Fozzy Whitaker on a wheel-route out of the backfield for a 17-yard touchdown catch (his first career TD). The Browns would pull within a field goal, down 20-17.
The Browns came out and Campbell found Jordan Cameron for 37 yards, Cameron made a great adjustment to make a heck of a catch. On the next play Willis McGahee broke off a 9-yard rush to the Kansas City 26, but the rush was negated by a suspect holding call on Joe Thomas. Cleveland would ultimately be forced to punt, but would pin Kansas City on their own 1 yard line.
The Browns would again have another strong defensive stand and looked to be getting the ball back with good field position when the Chiefs punted. That's where things went terribly wrong. Davone Bess was back to return the punt , replacing Travis Benjamin who was injured earlier returning a punt. Bess didn't field the punt cleanly and muffed it, Kansas City recovered. I went back and watched the replay, and the CBS broadcast shows the punt from behind in the endzone. Right as Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt punts the ball it looks like he drops his head, immediately knowing it was a short punt. This is reinforced by the fact that the punt was short and Davone Bess has to do a better job reading that and probably should've let that ball bounce. I get that Bess was trying to make a play and could've given the Browns better field position with a return, but he ended up costing the Browns big time with the turnover. Cleveland never really would have a chance to regain the momentum.
The defense would again stop the Chiefs from scoring, and the offense got the ball back with just under 4 minutes to play and with no timeouts. Cleveland was able to get a first down before a sack that put them in a hole. On 4th and 7 on Cleveland's last real chance, Campbell was flushed out of the pocket and threw back across the field to, none other than, Davone Bess. Bess came back to the ball and made a sliding attempt at catching the ball, he was unable to reel it in and the Browns turned it over on downs. The pass was a desperation toss from Campbell and at least was in play, but Bess should've caught the ball. It would've been a tough catch, but when I re-watched the play, the more I think he should've made the catch. I know Bess had a really rough afternoon, but he was brought in to be the sure-handed, reliable receiver for this young team, and quite frankly he hasn't been that all season.
Cleveland did get lucky that the 4th down play stopped the clock with 2:01 on the clock, so they got the 2-minute warning as basically a free timeout. The Chiefs had good field position after the turnover on downs, and the Browns did a good job defensively, but the Chiefs still tacked on a field goal to go up 23-17.
Cleveland got the ball with 17 seconds remaining and ran a crossing route to Josh Gordon, who did not get out of bounds and time expired. Now, I understand that the Browns had only 17 seconds left with no timeouts. I get that it's a long shot and that chances of pulling something off were slim. But I also understand that stranger things have happened. It was just frustrating to watch another "Browns" ending. This was a designed play at the end of the game. Gordon runs a crossing pattern, doesn't get out of bounds, rest of the team looks bewildered, and gets no chance to spike the ball. It'd just be nice for a change to see some non-Browns plays. Even if they hit a 15-yard out route, get out of bounds, and try (and even fail) a 60 yard Hail Mary. No hook-and-ladder, no lateral, nothing? That's all I'm askin'.
- On paper the Browns look fairly even, however it was really a tale of two halves. The Browns could barely muster anything in the first quarter, but the Chiefs on the other hand racked up yards early.
- In order for the Browns to actually win these types of games, they must start faster. Cleveland had three straight three-and-outs to start the game, while Kansas City scored on their first three possessions.
- The Browns had 283 yards passing, and a large part of that can be attributed to the offensive line. QB Jason Campbell was only sacked 1 time on Sunday. It was more than just the lack of sacks, but the pocket was clean for the most part and Campbell (unlike Weeden) looked comfortable when he was pressured and made quick decisions. The improved o-line play, paired with Campbell's poise, clearly was a move for the better.
- Cleveland still had struggles rushing the ball, they ran for just 57 yards on 15 carries (3.8 YPC). Willis McGahee had 28 yards on 9 rushes (3.1 YPC). Jason Campbell actually scrambled a few times, rushing the ball 3 times for 17 yards.
- The Browns defense struggled in the first half, but cleaned it up in the second half. The Chiefs had 281 yards of offense in the first half, but the Browns clamped down and held them to just 50 yards in the second half. As mentioned earlier, they must start faster, defense included.
First Downs and Conversions:
Clearly the thing that jumps out here is that the Chiefs were much more efficient than the Browns on third downs. The Chiefs converted 10-19 on third down, whereas the Browns converted just 3-12.
As mentioned above it was a poor first half and good second half, the same can be said in terms of third down defense as well. The Chiefs were 9-12 in the first half on third down. In the second half however, the Browns held the Chiefs to just 1-7. That was a key to the Browns getting back into this game.
The Browns continue to struggle on offense converting on third downs. Cleveland was able to convert just 25% of their third downs, which is below their season average of 34% (28th in the league).
The Browns also went for it on fourth down twice on Sunday, converting once. Their two attempts on Sunday brought their season total to 17 fourth down attempts, good for first in the NFL. The good news is they also lead the NFL in conversions at 8. But, their conversion percentage is just 47% (15th in the NFL).
Miller's Random Observations:
Josh Gordon - PLEASE DO NOT TRADE HIM.
Ray Horton - DC Ray Horton vowed last week that we'd "see a different kind of Cleveland Browns defense" over the next few weeks. I must say for the first half of the game Sunday, they looked no different than in weeks past. Horton has stressed third downs the past few weeks and we haven't seen the kind of improvement we'd like to. On Sunday the Browns D couldn't get off the field, but did force three field goal attempts. The defense improved vastly in the second half and I hope that's the defense we're going to see going forward.
Jordan Cameron - Cameron had yet another solid day, 4 catches for 81 yards. The only issue was that he was only targeted 4 times. Cameron and Gordon are the Browns only realistic playmakers on offense, so Cameron should be getting twice that number of targets, if not more.
- Jason Campbell - showed good pocket presence, a couple times showing his ability to scramble for positive yardage. He was only sacked once on the day. Campbell finished the day 22-for-26 for 293 yards and 2 TD's. Those numbers are VASTLY improved over Weeden's. Obviously it's one game, but if Campbell can right the ship as he did Sunday, this team will be very interesting to keep an eye on.
- Penalties - Again with the penalties? This team continues to shoot itself in the foot with penalties. The Browns had 9 penalties for 70 yards, giving the Chiefs two first downs because of penalties. Joe Thomas had two penalties that killed two drives. Arrowhead Stadium is a tough place to play, so hopefully a return to Cleveland will clean this up.
- Travis Benjamin - Terrible to see another guy go down to a season-ending injury. I've been lobbying for weeks for Benjamin to see more time on the field on offense, so it's tough to see a playmaker go down. Benjamin has the explosion this team has been missing, so losing him is a blow to an already playmaker-free team. I will say that while I dislike the idea of Davone Bess returning punts just due to the recency of Sunday, the idea of the Browns considering putting Joe Haden back there to return kicks/punts terrifies me.
- Pass Rush - We haven't seen the Browns pass rush much since the first few weeks. Cleveland was able to sack Alex Smith 6 times on Sunday. The first half they also had some opportunities to get to Smith, but he evaded them and was able to scramble for 33 yards on 4 carries. Smith only had 2 carries for 7 yards in the second half. The Brows upped the pressure in the second half and it was great to see.
- Davone Bess - I'm not going to sugar-coat this, Bess was AWFUL Sunday. I could've lived with the drops, but the pile up of the drops with the muffed punt is just too much. Bess was brought in to be a safety net on third downs and provide leadership, on Sunday he had a downright terrible game. I do like that Bess owned up to it after the game, but he needs to take ownership on the field.
I didn't expect the Browns to go into Arrowhead and knock off the undefeated Chiefs, so while I don't believe in moral victories, I do think this game was a step in the right direction. I've said for a while with at least average QB play this team can surprise people, and they did just that Sunday. There were still a few errors that cost the team actually pulling off the win, but they are still improving. There's still areas to improve, specifically on third downs both offensively and defensively, as well as playing consistently for all four quarters (list could go on forever).
I think if Jason Campbell can do what he did Sunday and keep this team in it, they still can make some noise this year. The Browns get to head home now after two tough road games in Green Bay and Kansas City, so it'll be a nice respite to be back in Cleveland. After they take on the Ravens they'll get the bye, a win would be some positive momentum heading into that bye. The Ravens are coming off their bye and lost to the Steelers last time out. Cleveland should have a good chance Sunday, and we can only hope they'll put the pieces together this time.
ESPN stats were used in the compilation of the charts in this article.