|CLEVELAND BROWNS (1-9)||WEEK 11||DETROIT LIONS (2-8)|
I didn't think I could get that "giddy" or "nervous" feeling about the Cleveland Browns again this season, but I did. For the first time this season, our offense came alive -- so much to the point that the team scored 37 points, which seems like more points than they've had all season.
Unfortunately, Rob Ryan couldn't get the defense to perform at a high level, and as the clock read double zeros, the Browns fell to 1-9 while the Lions improved to 2-8.
Let's get to the review of a contest finally worthy of calling a "football game"...
WEEK 11 - CLEVELAND BROWNS VS. DETROIT LIONS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
GOATS OF THE GAME:
Hank Poteat: As frustrated as I was after the pass interference flag was thrown on Matthew Stafford's heave to the end zone, the blame ultimately falls on veteran Hank Poteat. This wasn't the typical Hail Mary heave where eight different players are all colliding with each other in an attempt to catch or knock the ball down. Near Poteat, there might have been three players.
As the ball approached the end zone, the officials had a clear view of Poteat who made contact with Bryant Johnson. If Johnson had been facing the ball, there probably wouldn't have been a call. But, Poteat kept his back to the line of scrimmage, which is just begging for a flag in the NFL.
- Chris Jennings: Jennings dropped what was probably the best play by a Browns quarterback this season. Quinn pump faked short to the sideline, and the second that Jennings had a step on his man, Quinn lofted a perfectly thrown football -- all Jennings had to do was make the basket catch in stride and continue another five yards for the score. Instead, he dropped it, and the Browns could only muster a field goal.
AWARDING GAME BALLS:
- Brady Quinn: Quinn could've played one third as good and it still would've been better than any quarterback performance we've had this year. There was a lot of good things that happened from allowing Quinn to throw the ball down the field, something that took far too long into the season to start attempting. The Browns attacked the Lions' secondary early and often Sunday, resulting in an astounding 24 first quarter points.
- Less Than Two Minutes: With less than two minutes to go and the Lions having no timeouts left, the Browns were faced with a third-and-five situation. Having a six point lead, the Browns could have run the ball -- with the chance of picking up the first down -- and still drained some clock in the need of a punt. Instead, the Browns threw the ball, and the pass fell incomplete. Was it the right decision?
Blame the Formation: I've had problems all season with the Browns going empty backfield in third-and-medium situations. Why remove the threat of running the ball when it can help prevent pressure from getting to Quinn in the event of a pass?
I didn't have a problem with the Browns attempting a pass in that situation. Our defense had been torched all game long, and although the Lions' time would've been limited, a successful pass play would've put the nail in the coffin. We got what we wanted -- Massaquoi was open on the slant, but Quinn threw it to the outside, an area that was also open. As the chemistry builds between the two, hopefully in the future they can execute this game-sealing play and it won't even have to be up for discussion.
- Horrible Pass Coverage: The pass coverage that the Lions had in the first quarter of Sunday's game was among the worst I've ever seen. Seriously -- how do you allow two of our receivers to be wide open by a mile after our offense doesn't even know what the end zone is? Nonetheless, credit to Quinn for putting the throws on the mark, as easy as they may have been.
Later Deep Balls: Later on in the game, Quinn took two more shots down the field, both to Massaquoi. This time, the coverage was better, but no where near being "good." Quinn gave Massaquoi an opportunity to fight for both balls but he couldn't come away with either one.
The first one was understandable since it slipped through the defender's hands first, but the second one was a guaranteed touchdown if Massaquoi could've spotted it sooner or turned the right way while the ball was in the air. After so much success with the deep ball, albeit against the 32nd ranked pass defense of the Detroit Lions, hopefully the message got through to Brian Daboll: call for throwing the ball down the field.
- Stuckey Shows Why He's Here: Make no mistake about it: Chansi Stuckey will never be Braylon Edwards. He finally showed why he'll be a nice piece to the puzzle though as the team's third or fourth receiver in the future -- he can catch the ball and has a knack for getting enough yards after the catch for a first down.
Loving Gaines' Performance: I've known of TE Michael Gaines for several years, but I've really enjoyed the contributions he's made since coming to the Browns (as odd as that might sound). He makes the most of his opportunities when the ball is thrown his way.
On his first catch against the Lions, he bulldozed over a defender for a gain of three. Later in the drive, he continued to roll out with Brady Quinn and caught his pass as the one-yard line before again plowing through a defender and into the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown. Gaines isn't elite, but he's on my radar for a player to consider keeping around next year as depth.
- Tuck the Football: Someone still needs to teach Eric Wright how to secure the football when returning an interception. While he did a good job getting the most yards possible on his first quarter pick, if one defender had caught up from behind, the ball would've been extremely easy to poke out for a fumble.
- WR Screen to Cribbs: The 35-yard catch-and-run screen pass to Joshua Cribbs was amazing, and it represents another type of play we should've been running all season; not these awkward attempts to Mike Furrey. Cribbs caught the ball and looked as explosive as he does on kick returns. He appeared to step on a falling defenders face during his run though, which made me feel his pain through the television. Yikes.
- Direct Snap to Lewis: Since it was unpredictable, props to the team for calling the direct snap to Jamal Lewis to convert the two-point conversion (although the two-pointer really wouldn't have made much of a difference). Speaking of Lewis, considering Quinn's performance and some of the holes he had, he should have produced a tad better than he did.
- Dawson's Fake FG Pass: Who would've known that Phil Dawson is a lefty, and that he can throw a good enough spiral? Given the fact that we ended up trying a shorter field goal out of it might make the play have seemed stupid, but getting closer wasn't the point (something that Randy Cross and Don Criqui were so confused about). It was an unexpected play, and we were probably hoping Mike Furrey wouldn't be recognized hanging out on the sideline.
- Good Punting: He wasn't known for getting punts inside the 20 before coming to Cleveland, but Reggie Hodges did it well against the Lions. Four of his six punts were downed inside the 20, one of which helped lead the Browns to recording a safety on Stafford.
- Speaking of the Safety: Upon seeing the replay, if there had been a receiver in the vicinity and there wasn't a holding call, I still think we would've challenged the play and won. It appeared as though Stafford's knee touched the ground before he threw the football.
- Pathetic Defensive Effort: I held off dissing the defense too much until the thirteenth bullet point. I don't even know how to explain what went wrong with our defense. The pressure on Stafford was minimal, and the coverage on receivers was minimal. That led to Stafford's 422-yard, 5 touchdown performance. Brandon McDonald was reportedly replaced by Mike Adams at the start of the game; odds are McDonald will be back as the starter next week?
- Bowens Does Well Again: I continue to be impressed with the outings that David Bowens is having at inside linebacker, more so than I was with Eric Barton at inside linebacker. LB Jason Trusnik also did well at the outside linebacker position again, but Kamerion Wimbley has seemingly disappeared the past two weeks.
- Picking Something Up? On two consecutive plays, NT Shaun Rogers was flagged -- once for being offsides, and once for jumping before the snap. As the announcers said, he might have found a "tell," but it didn't pay off.
- Limited Return Yardage: The Lions were kicking the ball short to Gerard Lawson early on, although he should've let one of the kicks bounce out of bounds for a penalty. For the game, the Browns enjoyed limited success in return yards, but kicking it short made up for it.
- Pool Out-leaps Johnson: After a Dawson kick in the fourth quarter went out of bounds and the Lions tried to come back, Brodney Pool bailed the Browns out with an interception over WR Calvin Johnson. Granted, Johnson was triple-covered on the play, but it was a play our defense desperately needed at the time. It's a shame it wasn't the game-winner.
- Mangini's Timeout: I really wish Eric Mangini wouldn't have called a timeout to allow Stafford back into the game. You might say, "but don't you want a cripple-armed quarterback throwing there?" No. I assume with Stafford's adrenaline and the short throw required, that he still could've made it, which he did. I doubt Daunte Culpepper had many practice reps though, and I believe there's a good chance he would've flat out muffed the snap. The play would've probably been a quarterback sneak, which I think our defense could've stopped.
- Quinn QB Sneaks: Twice, the Browns ran a quarterback sneak on 3rd-and-1 with success. Those were smart plays since the Lions didn't stack the interior and because we didn't wait until the last second so snap the ball.
- Brownies: I didn't "diss" our defense as much as I should have, but I wanted to feel positive after a game review for once...I didn't think play-by-play announcers could refer to the Lions as the Browns or vice versa so many times, but Randy Cross and Don Criqui proved me wrong.
Next week, the Browns will take on the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that was just upset by the Oakland Raiders. We took Cincinnati to overtime the last time we met, but this time Quinn is in charge of the offense. I'm not getting my hopes up about our offense, but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing whether we can actually build upon our confidence, or if the breakout performance was merely indicative of the lowly Detroit Lions.