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Browns Fail to Score an Offensive Touchdown in 13-6 Loss to Bills

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Things were looking up after Cleveland's 13-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago, but Sunday's offensive gameplan against the Buffalo Bills put a sour taste in everyone's mouth. Cleveland failed to score an offensive touchdown the first time this season, against a team that was by far the worst at defending the run in the league.

Let's get to the review of this week's game, starting with the goats and then the game balls. I already trashed offensive coordinator Brian Daboll in my post-game review, so I will try to restrain myself here.


Goats of the Game:

  • Brian Daboll: For obvious reasons.
  • Peyton Hillis: It is a shame that I had to list Hillis here for the game that he went over 1,000 yards rushing on the season during. However, he put the ball on the ground three times during the game, losing one of them. On the one he lost, I think it ended up being a real momentum shifter in giving the Bills' defense at least a little bit of confidence. Imagine how down they would have been if Hillis had bowled them over two drives in a row?

Awarding the Game Balls:

  • Chris Gocong: I had a tough time finding a game ball to give, so I went with the defensive player who made the big play: Gocong came from the blind side and forced a sack+fumble on the Bills' first offensive drive, giving Cleveland great field position after Eric Wright scooped up the football. Gocong also led the Browns with 10 combined tackles.

General Thoughts:

  1. Great Start to the Ground Game: My high hopes for Peyton Hillis were only elevated on the team's opening drive, when Hillis started the game with gains of 7, 4, 25, and 8 yards. The Browns were wisely committed to running the football, and I didn't have a problem with the Browns staying with the run on 2nd-and-goal from the two and 3rd-and-goal from the one. It was surprising that the Browns couldn't get into the end zone, but kicking the field goal was understandable at the time: it seemed like Cleveland could have their way on the ground in a low-scoring game.
  2. Still Not Too Bad: Mid-way through the second quarter, I still wasn't terribly low on the Browns' offense. After a couple of stalled drives (Hillis' fumble and a three and out), the Browns got Jake Delhomme to connect on passes of 34 yards to Mohamed Massaquoi and 15 yards to Brian Robiskie. Cleveland had to settle for another short field goal, but the offense looked good.
  3. Reign Everything In: After that drive, Brian Daboll seemed to go into a shell for some reason. His run-pass distribution wasn't necessarily bad, but when a passing play was called, or when he didn't want seem to think the Browns could run the ball in 3rd-and-manageable situations, I couldn't comprehend what he was trying to accomplish.
    He didn't try to play to the weaknesses of the opponent, nor did he try to play to the strengths of our offense. The gameplan set the Browns up to fail, and without a mobile quarterback under center, there was no one available to bail Daboll out of the poorly planned gameplan.
  4. Delhomme Going Deep: I heard some complaints about the way Jake Delhomme played. I'm not going to forgive the way he played, but I thought the camera gave a clear view of some of the receivers' routes for once, and I could see why Delhomme was frustrated and couldn't get the ball downfield -- all of the routes saw the receivers crowd each other or fail to run past the line of scrimmage.
    Delhomme did underthrow Massaquoi early in the game on a deep pattern, but you know what? The pass was still completed. I would rather have Daboll call for those deep shots throughout the game than to sit in a shell. Delhomme isn't going to light it up downfield, but that doesn't mean he's incapable of it.
  5. Wallace Sees Two Plays: Partially due to the incompetence of the CBS announcing crew for Sunday's game, I only thought Seneca Wallace was under center for one play during the game. I didn't realize that he was the quarterback who handed off to Hillis on the third overall play of the game though. On that play, Hillis broke a 25-yard run down the left sideline. On the Browns' other field goal drive, Wallace came in and handed off to Hillis for a nice 8-yard gain.
    We didn't see Wallace enter the game the rest of the way. If the Browns are going to operate with Wallace more than twice a game, I see how the formation makes sense. For them not to do anything out of it the rest of the game made the use of the formation almost pointless to me. Are we trying to set up something for future weeks? I don't care about setting up plays down the road so much as I do setting it up for the game we're already struggling in.
  6. Not Much Else to Say: I honestly don't know what else I can say about the offense because the playcalling was so bad. I will comment on one other play: in the fourth quarter, the Browns had one play that could have sparked them. The play broke down, Delhomme rolled out and had some time, and Robert Royal decided to turn up field, much like Evan Moore has done at times this season. Delhomme threw him the ball well, but Royal, a player not known for catching the ball exceptionally well, couldn't hang on. I at least credit Royal for trying to go upfield -- you get the feeling many of our other receivers would be content just staying short of the marker as called.
  7. Haden and Elam Shine: I loved seeing Joe Haden break up a pass on 4th-and-2 on the Bills' second drive of the game. He picked up right where he left off against Miami, and I don't think Ryan Fitzpatrick tried targeted him much more. Abram Elam came up with an awesome hit to break up a pass on Fred Jackson in the fourth quarter, continuing the string of games with impact plays from Elam.
  8. Credit to the Bills' Offensive Line: For having a patchwork offensive line, the Bills deserve a lot of credit working with what they had. Fitzpatrick was only sacked twice, and when the Browns did bring a free blitzer, he was able to use his mobility to run for first downs. I was concerned about that before the game, and sure enough he took off 4 times for 49 yards. Fred Jackson also ran for over 100 yards, and even C.J. Spiller was effective when used.
  9. Good Gameplanning: I don't think it was dumb luck that the Bills targeted their tight ends for big plays a couple of times. Cleveland's defensive backs have been having better coverage on receivers, and with the Bills' patchwork offensive line, they probably assumed the Browns would bring some extra pressure and blow off the tight end on certain plays. Tight end Jonathan Stupar was the Bills' leading receiver with 3 catches for 45 yards. They also got fullback Corey McIntyre involved on a nice 14-yard connection.
  10. Lone Touchdown Pass: When the Bills hit receiver David Nelson for a 11-yard touchdown pass, the play looked almost identical to the one the Dolphins ran last week for their only touchdown of the game. In both cases, Mike Adams was in coverage. I'd rather have him back there than Ray Ventrone, but it's something other teams will target if it doesn't get fixed.
  11. Kick Returns: When Joe Haden returned kicks earlier this season, he added that excitement that made you think he could break a big one. When Mike Bell breaks the opening kickoff for 31 yards after a short kickoff to begin with, coupled with the fact that Joshua Cribbs still hasn't had a return like that, it just makes you long for the "old" Cribbs more and more. Last year, this is the type of game where a punt return by Cribbs would swing the momentum into Cleveland's favor for a victory. It just isn't happening.
  12. Special Teams Tackles: Safety T.J. Ward led the Browns with three special teams tackles. Eric Alexander had two tackles and Mike Adams had one. C.J. Spiller did have a big 33 yard punt return.
  13. Delhomme's Fumble: I understand the rule, but when Jake Delhomme fumbled and the call on the field was an incomplete pass, the whistle seemed to blow immediately. There were more Bills in the area, but I saw at least one Browns player somewhat close. Who is to say that if that player knew the ball was live that they wouldn't have dove at the ball and created a scrum? After all, I never thought Joshua Cribbs would recover the fumble on a reverse, but he did. I think the rule is for whistles that blow during simultaneous recovery, not for when there is a clear amount of time that passes after the ball is loose.
  14. Brownies: I wish I had more bullet points, but the offense left me nothing more to speak of...Phil Dawson and Reggie Hodges each performed their duties seemed a little surprising that a spy wasn't assigned to Fitzpatrick more often...besides the poor playcalling, Cleveland has had a weird cloud hanging over their heads any time it rains during a game.

Hopefully by the end of the season, this is the game that we can look back at and kind of sweep under the rug. There is a chance that Colt McCoy will return this week, something that can be a huge boost to the offense and the patience of the fans. Cleveland really can't eliminate the Steelers or the Ravens from playoff contention, but with three straight division games coming up, Eric Mangini knows that he needs to make one final strong push to keep his job for next season -- especially with Jon Gruden possibly open to coaching next year.