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Wide Left: John Kasay's Miss Saves Jake Delhomme in Browns' 24-23 Victory

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CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 28:  Kicker John Kasay #4 of the Carolina Panthers misses a fourth quarter field goal against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 28 2010 in Cleveland Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 28: Kicker John Kasay #4 of the Carolina Panthers misses a fourth quarter field goal against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 28 2010 in Cleveland Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
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A couple of days after the Cleveland Browns' 24-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers, I slowly find myself taking a little bit of joy in the fact that the Browns won this past Sunday. That does not change the fact that I am still extremely frustrated by how the game went down, particularly in the second half, but at the end of the day, it improves our chances of getting to .500 and playing a role in our final two home games of the season against Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Let's get to the review of this week's game, starting with the game balls and then the goats...


Awarding the Game Balls:

  • Reggie Hodges: After receiving a two-year contract extension earlier in the week, Hodges didn't disappoint Sunday against the Panthers. In the second quarter, the Panthers ran a punt back 32 yards before Hodges got in the way of the returner, allowing T.J. Ward to clean up the play and save a touchdown return.
    His next big play came with the Browns down 23-21 and just under three minutes to go in the game. Ryan Pontbriand had a very high snap on a field goal attempt for his standards, but Hodges calmly grabbed it and put it down for Phil Dawson to kick through the uprights.
    Shortly after that, Hodges executed the coffin corner perfectly, as his punt went out of bounds at the five yard line. Considering what ended up transpiring after that, thank goodness the Panthers did not start any closer.
  • Peyton Hillis: In the first half, Hillis did his damage as a running back, totaling three touchdowns. If it isn't clear that he should get the football in the red zone with Lawrence Vickers in front of him, then Brian Daboll is overthinking things. Hillis had 26 carries for 131 yards on the day.
    Although Hillis was denied on a couple of key runs in the fourth quarter, do not underestimate how huge he was in the passing game. After Jake Delhomme's meltdown, he needed someone to rely on for safe throws. On the Browns' game-winning field goal drive, on 3rd-and-10, Delhomme checked down to Hillis over the middle who plowed forward for 12 yards and the first down.

Goats of the Game:

  • Chris Gocong: I don't have a clue what Gocong was doing on the Panthers' final drive of the game. Facing a 3rd-and-10 with 41 seconds on the clock and no timeouts, Jimmy Clausen had pressure in his face. All of his receivers seemed to be down the field, except for running back Mike Goodsen near the left sideline. Gocong was fine at first -- he had Goodsen in front of him, ready to make a safe tackle in the event Clausen threw it that way. If Goodsen is tackled in bounds, a ton of time would be wasted and the game is over.
    Instead, as Clausen is getting pressured, Gocong inexplicably jumps the route before the ball is even thrown, acting as if the Browns need a pick six to have any chance of winning the game. Gocong, who is now on the wrong side of Goodsen, has to run back the other way with his back to the quarterback, hoping to deflect a pass. The pass ends up being complete, and Gocong then whiffs at the tackle. The comedy of errors continued after that, but Gocong could have prevented it from the get go.
    I was also frustrated by Gocong earlier in the game. On a big run ripped off by Johnathan Stewart, Gocong appeared to engage a blocker at the same time that Stewart was hitting the hole just to the left of Gocong. I guess Gocong was content with just watching Stewart go by for 31 yards before Abram Elam could bring him down.
  • Jake Delhomme: I'll talk about Delhomme more below, but the pick six gets you listed here. When they are completely your fault and a play doesn't need to be made, you're going to be a goat.

General Thoughts:

  1. Closing Out the Game: I might be jumping around a lot in this review rather than going in chronological order like I sometimes do. Right now, I want to talk about the Browns' offensive series after Joe Haden's interception. If Cleveland gets one first down, the game is over. I agree with pounding the ball with Hillis three times, because even if you do not get the first down, Carolina's chances are slim with no timeouts and less than a minute to play.
    Nonetheless, it was disappointing to see Cleveland fail to get the first down. In games against Cincinnati and New England, Hillis closed things out with big runs. In both instances, the plays went to the outside. Throughout the game against Carolina, some of Hillis' best runs went to the outside. Unless I don't remember the plays correctly (I did not rewatch the game yet), I think all three of Hillis' carries at the end went up the middle. I expected the second down play to be the pitch play, but it wasn't. We're supposed to be a very good running team, and in a situation like that against a 1-10 Panthers team, Cleveland should be able to finish the game with kneeldowns.
  2. Jake Delhomme (Part 1): I truly wanted to come away from this game having a good feeling about the way Delhomme played against his former team in his return game. In the first half, for the most part, we got the "good" Delhomme. Let's not forget that he finished the first half 12-of-18 for 149 yards. Half of those completions went to wide receivers, and in total, eight different receivers were targeted.
    There were some nervous moments -- namely a throw as he was about to be sacked that was almost a repeat of the Tampa Bay game, and the fumble just before halftime, but those are the risks you take when Delhomme starts. Overall, you hope the positives outweigh the negatives, and in the first half they did. In no way am I saying another quarterback couldn't have done what Delhomme did, but the Browns had four solid first half drives on offense.
  3. Jake Delhomme (Part II): This was the first time in a couple of weeks that the Browns got the ball first in the second half, and I was looking forward to putting together a nice, long drive after the offense's first half success. On the first play though, Delhomme went off of playaction and was intercepted by linebacker Jon Beason who read the play perfectly. I was pissed that Delhomme threw an interception right off the bat, but this wasn't the play that irritated me following the game. Interceptions happen, and Delhomme probably thought Beason would have come up to try to stop Hillis.
    The play that sent my confidence spiraling down the drain was Delhomme's next throw on the next possession. Fresh off John Kasay missing a 46-yarder to redeem Delhomme, it looked like Delhomme couldn't find an open receiver. He rolled out to his right where the pressure was already at and saw Mohamed Massaquoi double teamed on the sideline while he was stationary. Before he even threw it, I thought to myself, "oh, no." When he released the football, I prayed that the defender would drop the ball, even before I saw the defender jump in front of Massaquoi. That didn't happen. Instead, the pick six was complete, and although Cleveland still had the lead, I felt like the Browns were going to lose. I didn't think Delhomme's headcase mentality could get it done.
  4. Jake Delhomme (Part III): I'm not going to praise Delhomme's play following his second interception too much, but I give him credit for not throwing another interception. I thought he might not complete another meaningful pass after that play, but he put some quick hitters right on the money to Mohamed Massaquoi, and Brian Robiskie. Nothing spectacular, but in hindsight, it was just enough of a rebound to get Cleveland into field goal range.
  5. Overall Assessment on Delhomme: Do I want to see Delhomme play again? I think I'd rather see Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy in there because they won't make as many mistakes. Delhomme still offers a few assets, namely getting Brian Robiskie the football. I know Robiskie didn't have any breakaway plays or anything like that, but those short catches add up over time and could eventually lead to more opportunities for Hillis in the running game. I suspect Delhomme will start again this week in Miami, so I have to support Delhomme. He owned up to his mistakes after the game, and I can only hope he makes some better decisions the next time around. His lack of mobility compared to our other quarterbacks was definitely evident as well.
  6. Go for the Field Goal: Facing a 4th-and-1 with 11:40 left in the fourth quarter from the 25 yard line, the Browns decided to go for it. I'm not going to complain too much about the call because I like the confidence we have in Hillis. However, there are two things about the play, which many of you have already discussed. First, if you're going to get those short yards, please have Vickers in the game to block. Second, before the play was attempted, I was wishing the Browns would kick a field goal. Offensive touchdowns for the Panthers are rare, and even if they scored a touchdown, Cleveland would only be a field goal behind. Against a higher-powered offense, I would've gone for it. Not against Carolina.
  7. Not Going for the Two-Pointer: When Carolina intercepted Delhomme for a touchdown, the score was 21-19. They opted to kick the extra point instead of going for two. If the situation were reversed and the Browns were 1-9, I would hope that my team tries to go for the tie right then and there.
  8. Tackling Shifted to Stripping: I don't mind when Ahtyba Rubin goes for a big hack from behind on a running back when he knows there are linebackers and safeties the back still has to go through. I encourage defenders to try to rip the ball out when two other defenders are standing a guy up. What is baffling though is that when the Browns need a simple tackle to basically end the game, or when a running back starts breaking off a big run, our defenders are not even trying to go for the tackle. They are taking one hack at the football, missing, and then watching the ballcarrier break off 20 more yards.
    Listening to "Browns Tonight," the local television show on Channel 3 that airs at mignight following the game, safety Mike Adams was a guest. He admitted to being one of the guys going for the strip on Goodsen's big run. Again...WHY? It's just as bad as Gocong thinking he needs to take the risk of getting a pick six on the play. For the Browns' past three games, any tackle at the end of the game would have been just as good as a fumble or interception, with the added bonus that tackles are 100 times easier to make. This defense needs a leader, because since Scott Fujita went down, everyone thinks that a turnover is necessary to be a hero at the end of the game.
  9. More Action for Moore: The targets were up for Evan Moore, as he had four passes thrown his way throughout the game. Delhomme fired a nice pass to him in the end zone that Moore caught but dropped after taking a helmet-to-helmet shot. It seems like every player that takes one of those these days gets a concussion, so it was surprising to see Moore was fine afterward.
    Moore was targeted on an awesome 3rd-and-1 quick pass right at the line a little later in the red zone. That is the type of play I always think, "man, why don't teams take advantage of this at times?" when I see defenders playing back. Unfortunately, the defender did a good job stripping Moore of the ball for a costly turnover. I hope Cleveland continues throwing to him though.
  10. End Arounds: It was nice to see Carlton Mitchell get an end around play for 9 yards, one that involved Alex Mack doing a simple body block to help clear the way. I found it interesting how the Browns rushed to the line of scrimmage to purposely get that play off. Delhomme had just completed a 21 yard pass to Hillis with 26 seconds left in the first quarter. They could have easily let the clock run down, but they hurried up and snapped the ball again with 3 seconds left.
    The Browns tried another end around with Chansi Stuckey later on, but it didn't work, going for a loss of 4 yards. Without Cribbs, I credit the Browns for putting those two plays in though.
  11. Cribbs Should Have Sat: I credit Joshua Cribbs for wanting to play, but as ineffective as he has been on returns this year, it looked worse on Sunday. He could not break a tackle to save his life, even when defenders were only "grazing" him (by Cribbs' standards). He later sat on kickoffs, with Clifton Smith getting a chance instead. I thought Smith had a big hole on his first attempt, but he fumbled the ball. He got back on top of it, but it's never good when the guy you bring in as a return 'specialist' loses the ball. I assume Joe Haden isn't doing kickoffs because we need him at cornerback, but I'd rather see him back there, even if it is a risk.
  12. Dawson Connects: While I have Hodges a game ball, I easily could have given one to Phil Dawson. After missing two 51 yarders last week, when faced with a 41 yarder and 2:47 to go, he drilled it. If he misses the kick, it's like missing a kick as the clock expires, because Cleveland probably isn't going to get the ball back.
  13. Safeties Continue to Excel: There were some flaws with our safeties. On the first drive, I thought T.J. Ward took the wrong approach on Mike Goodsen's 26 yard touchdown run. I believe Abram Elam might have missed a tackle later on. Still, they rebounded. Ward blew up a play in the backfield for a loss, and Elam registered two sacks.
  14. Haden Can't Win: Three games ago, Joe Haden gets ridiculed for intercepting a pass in overtime versus knocking it down. Two games ago, Joe Haden gets criticized for stopping Maurice Jones-Drew at the 1 after a 75 yard screen pass. This week, Joe Haden makes the interception near the end and decides to slide down. He probably felt, "surely, THIS time, my decision is the nail in the coffin." Instead, the Panthers got the ball back and nearly won. I think Haden definitely made the right move in going down, although he probably did have some room up the sideline. Haden would have probably gotten a game ball too had the Panthers not had those two big plays at the end.
  15. Special Teams Tackles: With Blake Costanzo out, Cleveland had five special teams tackles. Newcomer Eric Alexander had two, and so did T.J. Ward. Jason Trusnik had the other tackle. Speaking of Trusnik, I'd be up for seeing him more involved in the linebacker rotation.
  16. Ventrone at the End: I don't understand why we're seeing so much of Ray Ventrone late in the games. He doesn't seem to particularly excel in coverage. He was flagged for pass interference in the end zone several weeks ago because his back was to the ball. Against Jacksonville, he was covering Marcedes Lewis on his touchdown grab. This week, I saw his jersey several times in the fourth quarter, with Carolina completing passes in his vicinity.
    With Eric Wright down, I guess it is just a matter of the depth chart. Mike Adams would usually take the third safety spot, but Adams must be playing more at cornerback. We'd have to have six defensive backs in the game at times for Ventrone to play, unless we're subtituting him in for a starter. Either way, I'd rather try Nick Sorensen out there, even if it pisses off golanbatrac.
  17. Clausen < McCoy: I'm not sure that I've seen a quarterback fall like a deck of cards at a hint of pressure like Jimmy Clausen did at certain points of the game when pressure came. Clausen didn't have a great game, but he ended up getting a couple of big completions toward the end.
    I tend to believe that those completions had more to do with him being fortunate than him actually being good enough to throw the ball with such precision. With that said, his final pass to of the game for 28 yards was unbelievable. I'm upset our defense allowed the receiver to get out of bounds, but it ended up being an amazing completion that left me speechless. I didn't know what to say after the play.
  18. Brownies: The offensive line blocked better this week, especially Joe Thomas on pitch plays, although John St. Clair wasn't very good and nearly caused a lost fumble...even though Cleveland passed a lot in the first half, I liked the design of most of the passes...if there is one pass we should forget about though, it's the two yard crosses to Lawrence Vickers...if we're going to try a pass with Vickers, have him in the game as a blocker and run a surprise screen pass behind the line...then have him throw the football ;)...speaking of throwing, Hillis almost threw a touchdown to a wide open Ben Watson; I just assume he didn't get a good grip of the ball and had to get it out of his hand.

The win wasn't pretty, but I'm ready to shift my attention to the Miami Dolphins this week. The Dolphins have looked bad at times this year, but they still have a very competitive football team and are coming off a dominant win over the Oakland Raiders.