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Analyzing the Game: Tomlinson Runs Wild

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Heading into the game, it was pretty clear that this was a game we weren't supposed to win. This season, the San Diego Chargers have showed signs of being a Super Bowl caliber team, while the Browns have their enormous share of obvious problems from questionable coaching, to injuries, to positional battles. However, everyone knows that upsets in the NFL occur all the time. In fact, before our game even came on the television, there were already two major upsets in the morning games: the Miami Dolphins shocked the Chicago Bears, and the Detroit Lions defeated the Atlanta Falcons. The Chargers were poised to become the third team to be upset, but unlike the Dolphins and the Lions, the Browns failed to do one thing: capitalize.

Weak Points(Why We Lost The Game)

  1. Goat of the Game: Charlie Frye. I am fully aware that if the Browns actually gave Frye some time to throw the football, he would be able to play much better than what we saw against the Chargers on Sunday. However, with the exception of Frye's deep pass to Joe Jurevicius early, Frye was erratic all game. He cost us a touchdown by fumbling right near the Chargers end zone, and was intercepted on a dropped pass by Braylon Edwards. The blame can go either way on that play, but do we really want Frye throwing the ball high for Edwards over the middle of the field with several defenders right next to him? There are several other things I could mention - from missing Northcutt on a pass down to field, to running that stupid playaction fake that doesn't fool anyone. Overall, it was not a good day for our quarterback, but don't get me wrong - I'm not one of those guys saying that we need to look for a new quarterback.
  2. Tiring Defense: During the second and third quarter, I was actually getting frustrated with the Chargers in a way. I knew that if they simply decided to run the football with LaDainian Tomlinson, they could probably put the game away, or at least take a larger lead. However, they waited until the end of the third quarter, and it's my belief that our defense was simply tired/out of shape. I give a lot of credit to Tomlinson, but I don't think our guys could handle the 89 degree heat, and despite being on the field busting their ass all game, they just couldn't do it anymore.
  3. Defensive Injuries: People can "diss" Willie McGinest all they want, but having him in the game still makes a difference on the positive side. Not having Orpheus Roye, Daven Holly, and Leigh Bodden really hurt us down the stretch, because on some of those runs by Tomlinson, at least one of those guys probably would have had a good shot at Tomlinson.
  4. Reuben Droughns: Put Droughns in a good offensive line system, or even an average system, and he is effect. Droughns is known as a guy that can grind plays out, but he is a very slow runner. When he is met at the line by two defenders, he can't do anything. He's supposed to have a good line so that once he gets to the second unit, he only has one defender to take on. The Browns need to give more playing time to Jerome Harrison, because at least his quickness will give the running game more potential of simply running past defenders.
  5. Only Good Thing is Blown: Since the season started, our offensive line had one good thing going for them: basically zero penalties per game. The past couple of weeks, including against the Chargers, that hasn't been the case. We had at least three false start penalties against San Diego I believe, something our already struggling offense cannot afford.
  6. Middle Linebackers: Overall, our middle linebackers - Andra Davis and D'Qwell Jackson - didn't do one productive thing.
  7. Playcalling: One thing always gets me: what is the purpose of balancing your playcalling when you can't produce in a certain area? The Chargers linebackers were basically all out, and we couldn't run the football to save our lives because we couldn't even get past their defensive line. When we tried throwing the football most of the game, the routes were heading towards the Chargers' secondary, where they are very strong. Where were all the playcalls to counter the absence of their linebackers? They came in the two-minute warnings of both halves. Ironically, that is when the Browns had the most success against the Chargers. It's as if we are outthinking ourselves rather than sticking with what works. The Chargers ran the same run play with Tomlinson, on the same side, three times in a row because it was working. It paid off for Tomlinson, who hit pay dirt three times on the night.
  8. Backed Up: So, the Browns ran the same play three teams at the two-yard line while in danger of a safety. If we were going to do that, then why didn't we just send the punt unit in right away and save the risk of Droughns fumbling? Honestly, the result would've been the exact same thing. Remember the Jeff Garcia 99-yard touchdown pass? Or, remember how any other decent team in league can run a basic route to the tight end for a gain of five at least?
  9. He Was IN the Pocket!: Clearly, the Browns were screwed on the referee's call in which they ruled that Phillip Rivers was out of the pocket, thus did not intentionally ground the ball. I'm sure some of you are thinking, "Well, the Browns got what they had coming after the Jets got screwed" or "it didn't really matter, we would've lost anyway." If you thought either of those, you're wrong on both accounts. This play is challengable, but for some reason, Romeo Crennel didn't even appear to give it a thought. And, it definitely could've made a difference in the game, because every little difference can change a whole game in the National Football League.
Strong Points(Why We Were in the Game)
  1. Player of the Game: Dennis Northcutt. Welcome back, Mr. Northcutt. Northcutt made everyone forget (not literally) his dropped pass against the Panthers with an 81-yard punt return down to the 10-yard line. Although we didn't score a touchdown on offense from it, we still put points on the board. Every time the Chargers punted, it felt much more comfortable having Northcutt back there than Joshua Cribbs.
  2. Special Teams: As I mentioned with Northcutt, our special teams unit was definitely back on track against the Chargers. Phil Dawson was 6-of-6 on field goals, and Dave Zastudil had some pretty nice punts on the day. Joshua Cribbs had his nice kickoff return, and our coverage was solid the entire game. The only complaint would be that two of Dawson's attempts were blocked, but both of them went through still due to how close they were.
  3. Jurevicius' Hands: He had his issues a couple of weeks ago, and didn't have any catches last week against the Jets. However, he was probably our best offensive weapon on Sunday (more so than Winslow). His concentration on the deep ball scramble was nice, and his over the shoulder catch on Frye's quick toss was just as good. Jurevicius also frustrated his man by drawing several penalties on the day.
  4. Sean Jones/Brodney Pool: The playing abilities of both safeties were noticeable on our defense. Jones' safety blitz was the best-timed blitz I've since the Browns run since our return to the league perhaps. It actually looked like the type of breakdown I see other teams create, not something a Browns defense would create. Pool was involved in forcing Keenan McCardell's fumble near the end of the first half.
  5. Truly a Soldier: Why we waited to even attempt to throw Winslow the football is beyond me. Winslow made 11 catches still, most of it coming during our hurry up drills. He did have a blemish in which he fumbled, but Steve Heiden had the nice recovery. Strangely, when Jerome Harrison fumbled, it also went right to one of our guys, Jurevicius.
Take a quick glance - the negative's section is about twice as long as the positive's section. That's not a good thing, but in the end, we were still in the football game, and I think that's what makes things worse. If Tomlinson would've ran over us all game and then the Chargers just played conservative at the end, we probably wouldn't be as angry as fans, because we would've been beaten by a well-executed gameplan on the road. However, we were beaten by a team that had so many 15-yard penalties, and we actually had the lead for about half of the game. We travel to Atlanta this week, and then come back home to face the Steelers the next week. I've been calling it, but just a reminder for those who haven't heard: I'm banking on Joshua Cribbs throwing his first pass of the season against the Steelers on a trick play. It's the only logical explanation for not running the play yet...