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Analyzing the Game: Thanks A Lot, Dennis

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From an optimistic point of view, the Browns only lost by eight points on the road to a team that many projected to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this year. The bad news? We continued to shoot ourselves in the foot, and have to live with that for two week until our next game against the Denver Broncos. Not many people expected the Browns to defeat the Panthers, and although the final score was by eight, it should've been a lot closer at the end. Here's the breakdown of the Browns vs. Panthers game:

Weak Points(Why Lost The Game)

  1. Goat of the Game: Dennis Northcutt. The Browns' biggest concerns during the week were having to deal with our injured secondary against a pair of great receivers, and trying to contain Julius Peppers. To our surprised, our defense survived the first drive, and our offense moved the ball the most we've seen this year in the first quarter for three points. After another defensive stop, all of our momentum was killed 100 percent by Northcutt's drop that deflected right into the hands of Richard Marshall, who took it in for six. For those of you blaming Charlie Frye for that play, give me a break. And, for those of you insisting that Northcutt be cut immediately, give me a break. And, for those of you insisting that Joe Jurevicius be moved ahead of him on the depth chart...I completely agree.
  2. No Pressure Whatsoever: This one is tough to classify as a weakness, because I have a feeling that if we would've blitzed heavily, Jake Delhomme would have had Steve Smith in one-on-one coverage too often, which is too dangerous. On the same note, the main reason that Carolina loses their games is due to Delhomme fumbling after a surprise blitz, or throwing a stupid interception off his back foot when someone's in his way. Besides the ridiculous "contacting Delhomme's head" call, I don't remember Delhomme having to evade us too often.
  3. It Was a Fumble: When Richard Marshall fumbled on the punt return, the call should not have been reversed by the referee. When our player touched Marshall's helmet, his knee was not on the ground yet. If his knee had touched the ground sometime after the hit, and he had held onto the football, he would've been down. The problem was, on the replay, there was not a clear shot of where the football was when his knee did hit the ground. The call should've stood as called on the field due to no visual evidence.
  4. Kick it Sooner: Near the end of the game, if you're down by two possessions, it's always smart to kick the field goal and give yourselves a chance at scoring something on the next drive with a big play. However, when you waste all your time driving only a little bit closer and still kick a field goal, at least 30 seconds are wasted. It may not seem like much, but when you take a look at a play like the pass interference call against the Eagles near the end of their game against the Cowboys, the chances of the Browns having something like that happen would've been possible with more time on the clock.
  5. Dropped Passes: This really goes back to Northcutt's drop primarily, but Braylon Edwards should've made that tough sideline catch over the defender. Granted, it was a tough play, but something a first-round draft choice should be able to pull off. Edwards didn't have the big day on Chris Gamble that some fans were hyped up for.
  6. Containment of Peppers: I understand that containing Julius Peppers is easier said than done. However, it seemed like the Browns refused to make the adjustments needed to compensate for his skill throughout the game. Tucker kept getting beat, so we continued to let him get beat. If we needed to, an extra tight end should've been in to block him on every single play. Of course, the rest of the line wasn't too good either, especially Hank Fraley's holding call on the fullback option pass.
Strong Points(Why We Were In The Game)
  1. Player of the Game: Daven Holly. Against Steve Smith, in his first career start as a cornerback, Holly deserves a passing grade. He did give too much cushion to Smith on that screen play over and over again, but he made some nice open field tackles several times, until the one near the end of the game. Smith had several drops, but in the end, Holly was not the disaster that could've been. Speaking of cornerbacks, Brodney Pool was on top of Keyshawn Johnson all day long. Unfortunately, he didn't look at the ball twice, despite being in almost perfect position to turn around and make a play on the football. One resulted in a touchdown, the other turned into a big pass play.
  2. Special Teams Galore: Yet again, Joshua Cribbs brought a spark to the Browns with two great returns - one on a kickoff, the other on a punt return. Cribbs could be a legitimate AFC Pro Bowl contender as a kickoff returner if he keeps this up, although he could get beat by someone who permanently double duties. Besides Cribbs, Phil Dawson kept drilling his kicks into the end zone and making field goals, we almost had a forced fumble on special teams, and our tackling was solid.
  3. Fullback Option Pass: The play didn't work, but I not only liked the call, I liked the time of the game in which we used it. Who expected us to run that play on 3rd-and-1? Granted, you could say something like "yeah, they wouldn't have expected a hail mary pass to an eligible offensive lineman either, but you don't run the play!" Had it not been for Fraley's holding call, we would've been able to probably pick up the first down on fourth-and-1.
  4. Great Hands: Doesn't Joe Jurevicius look like a guy who will catch any pass thrown to him, no matter how tight the coverage or hard he's hit? Wouldn't that have worked much better than Northcutt, who has problems holding onto the football as a starter? If this change isn't made after the bye week, I think all Cleveland fans will continue to be puzzled. It should benefit Northcutt too, who is much better suited for the slot.
  5. Safety Help: Both Sean Jones and Brian Russell continue to make great plays in the secondary, part of the major reason we have not been torched in the passing game despite being without our top three cornerbacks.
Over the next two weeks, I'll have the following articles for you to look forward to: personnel moves the Browns should be make before the Denver game, positional reviews to start the season, and a projection of what we'll do for the remainder of the season.