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Analyzing the Game: Palmer Torches Cleveland

Against the New Orleans Saints, we had hope that it may have simply been a fluke. Against the Bengals, not many people expected us to win, but we had hope that we could stay competitive for the majority of the game. Unfortunately, for the most part, we saw the same problems that we saw last week, with very little improvement. Things didn't look good at all after the Bengals' first drive of the game, and that was only a taste of what was to come in a 34-17 loss. Here's a breakdown of the Browns vs. Bengals game:

Weak Points(Why We Lost The Game)

  1. Goat of the Game: Ralph Brown. Who was my goat of the game last week? Ralph Brown. If you win that honor two week in a row, your playing time better be cut dramatically, or you better be cut period. I projected it before the game: our defense would look awful simply due to Brown not getting the job done. Time after time, when a Bengals' receiver caught a pass, all I had to do was see No. 20's jersey to know who it was. Kelly Washington had a breeze against him all-day long. If Daylon McCutcheon was in on coverage, maybe Carson Palmer would have thrown more to Chad Johnson. With how good Leigh Bodden did against him all day, that wouldn't have been such a bad thing.
  2. Braylon Edward's Drops: Last week, his drop was partially excusable just because "things happen". However, when you drop three passes against a team like the Bengals, all of which he was pretty open on, that only contributes to an offense heading downhill. Granted, his long-ball catch was an exciting play that restored some faith in him, but you can't overlook the plays he missed when we were still in the actual game.
  3. Situational Play Calling: Last week, I complained that we didn't run any screen plays or draw plays. That changed against the Bengals, but we only took baby steps, since the plays were typically called during poor situations. When we were not even a threat in the passing game early in the game, we ran a draw play on third-and-eight. You only run that play if you're an outstanding offense, have a commanding lead, or only have four yards or less to go. The screen plays involved Reuben Droughns instead of Jerome Harrison, another sign of poor personnel managing.
  4. Virtually No Pass Rush: Yes, I understand that we were able to record four sacks against Carson Palmer. However, those sacks didn't really seem to come on plays where we actually executed a solid pass rush, until the fourth quarter. Palmer had all day to throw early on in the game, a major reason the Bengals got off to such a fast start. Some of that may have had to do with the absence of Willie McGinest.
  5. Reuben Droughns: He ripped off a nice run after a catch, but besides that, it was pretty much the same as last week. Granted, he can only do so much for the little time our offense is seeing. But, if you're going to claim you want the football more often, you've got to produce. Droughns was in too much at times against the Bengals, where I felt Harrison would have been a much better fit. Also, the deflected pass off of Droughns later in the game doesn't help matters, and now we hear that he may have an injury.
  6. No Screen Plays: Why weren't there any screen plays called? And, like I mentioned above, the draw plays, which were most effective during the preseason, seemed to be erased from the playbook. The only play we seemed to attempt over and over again was the slant, which becomes too predictable after the tenth time.
  7. Defensive Response: When you take a look at the final score, we lost by 17 points. However, in the fourth quarter, we still had some hope, like last week against the Saints, during the fourth quarter. We were down by only ten after Droughns' touchdown run, but on the ensuing drive, the Bengals put us away with a rather easy touchdown as Rudi Johnson mauled our defense. That does to show you: when the Browns' offense can't stay on the field, it really benefits a team like the Bengals later in a game, because Johnson can easily pound through our tired linemen at that point.
Strong Points(Why We Were In Game)
  1. Player of the Game: Leigh Bodden. With the exception of a slant play later in the game where he was out-juked, Bodden pretty much covered Chad Johnson perfectly all game. The stats don't look that way, but when Johnson made his catches, they were in zone coverage. On Johnson's touchdown route, Sean Jones was too late getting over with safety help, although Johnson deserves credit for a nice catch. Bodden also made a nice read on an interception later, which promoted a sick hit on Johnson by Brian Russell. Hey, at least that hit gave the Browns some positive media attention for once.
  2. Utilizing Dennis Northcutt: Although we had him in as our No. 2 receiver, we used Northcutt today on plays that would be well suited for him in the slot. Northcutt caught the same play three times, and picked up some decent yardage each time. He also made one of our biggest plays of the day on an end around, showing the proper patience and burst of acceleration when needed.
  3. Special Teams for MVP: If any unit has come to play so far this season, it's Phil Dawson, Dave Zastudil, Mason Unck, and a few other special teams players. Zastudil placed his punts beautifully, including one at the one-yard line. Dawson drilled his first field goal of the season, and his kickoffs forced the Bengals to only average 13.3 yards per return.
  4. Coming Up With a Big Play: After things looked hopeless to begin the game, Andra Davis made an outstanding adjustment on a tipped pass to intercept Palmer and nearly score a touchdown, had Reggie Kelley not grazed him. Later in the game, Davis was in position to intercept another pass, but dropped it. That was a shame, because there was not a Bengals player even close to the sideline, meaning they would've had to of hustled to stop him from scoring a touchdown. Nonetheless, he's been our best linebacker in drop-back coverage so far. Speaking of linebackers, Chaun Thompson still seems a little more polished than rookie D'Qwell Jackson.
Another loss in the books, as we start the season at 0-2. Look on the bright side though: the Dolphins and Panthers are both 0-2, and many picked them to go to the Super Bowl. Next week, we face the Baltimore Ravens, in a game I believe we can legitimately win with the right playcalling. The Ravens' defense is still winning them their games, while their offense is only getting it done after being set up with good field position. On our home field, and after Winslow speaking out, the tempo definitely needs to change. A win against the Ravens, who were 0-11 in their past 11 road games before Week 1, would restore faith in our team, giving us a chance to get to 2-2 in facing the hopeless Oakland Raiders the following week. I'm "hoping" for a lot, but if you're not at least partially optimistic heading into the game, then you've given up too early.