|CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-7)||GAME #12||MIAMI DOLPHINS (6-6)|
In my preview for this past Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins, there were two keys that needed to happen in order for the Cleveland Browns to come away with a victory: Jake Delhomme could not throw a pick six, and the defense needed to go back to tackling versus going for the strip in the second half of the game. Cleveland came through on both of those keys, and the result was a hard-fought 13-10 upset victory over the team from South Beach.
Let's get to the review of this week's game, starting with the game balls and then the goats...
WEEK 13 - CLEVELAND BROWNS VS. MIAMI DOLPHINS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
Awarding the Game Balls:
Joe Haden: The team's first round pick had his highlight reel game of the season defensively, whether it involved running up to stop Ronnie Brown for a minimal gain on a dumpoff pass, making up ground to intercept a deep pass by Chad Henne, or defending four passes and not allowing the big-armed quarterback to take advantage of him.
It's still hard to determine which receiver the Browns are lining Haden up on since the Panthers lack a passing game and the Dolphins were without Brandon Marshall. It might be easier to tell this week against Steve Johnson.
Shaun Rogers: We have been saying that Rogers has been having some pretty good games since he got healthy, but that has not translated to the stat sheet. On Sunday, it did. On Miami's opening possession, Rogers denied Dan Carpenter's field goal attempt. That was a very important block because Carpenter is money from that range and Miami relies on his field goals to keep them in games.
Later on, Miami was driving at the end of the first half. Rogers' seven-yard sack on Henne seemed like it might take the Dolphins out of field goal range. Carpenter still hit a 60-yarder miraculously, but more times than not the sack pays dividends. It did prevent Miami from trying for a touchdown vs. a field goal at least.
Then, perhaps the biggest play of them all happened. On 3rd-and-7 in the fourth quarter, Henne escaped the pressure and had another huge running lane in front of him. He started to take off and Rogers dove. I still don't know how Rogers got a piece of the back of Henne's leg, but he did. That tiny hit caused Henne to stumble for only a gain of one, and Miami had to punt. If Henne gets that first down, they are near mid-field and looking to get into Carpenter's range again.
Mike Adams: There were actually two significant plays made by the veteran safety against the Dolphins. The first came on a Reggie Hodges punt that was heading toward the end zone. Adams ran down and fielded the ball, but his momentum was taking him into the end zone. As he was falling, he pitched the ball to Sabby Piscitelli, who was standing at the one-yard line.
With under two minutes to play, Mike Adams was in to cover the tight end on the right. The tight end blocked, so Adams had free reign to do whatever he wanted. He was preparing to head in to try to sack Henne, but Henne released a ball to the left. David Bowens tipped the ball at the line, and the ball happened to float right into the arms of Adams. Adams then promptly returned the ball to the two-yard line, setting up Phil Dawson's game-winning field goal as time expired.
Goats of the Game:
- John St. Clair: In the past, I've given St. Clair a hard time, but he usually gets things together to the point where he is at least stable. After being back for a couple of games, he is still struggling on the right side of the line, as Cameron Wake had no issues pressuring Delhomme throughout the game. Wake is having a career year, but St. Clair is the only player who individually came close to earning the "goat" title.
3rd Down Conversion Rate: When you look at Cleveland's horrendous third-down conversion rate, it is understandable why they were only able to put one touchdown on the board. They finished the game 2-of-14 on third downs, a conversion rate of 14%. To make matters worse, they were 0-of-6 on third downs in the second half (note: one of those came when Delhomme took a knee on third down at the end).
What Did We Convert?: Can you remember the team's only third down conversions of the game? I couldn't, but here they are:
-At the start of the second quarter, Jake Delhomme hit Ben Watson for 15 yards on 3rd-and-9.
-At the end of the second quarter, Jake Delhomme hit Ben Watson for 7 yards on 3rd-and-7.
Do you see a common denominator on those two plays?
Watson's Career Day: While I'm sure Watson liked chasing Super Bowls in New England, he has to be thrilled with how he's gone from being underutilized the past couple of years in New England to being one of the top receiving tight ends in the AFC again. He finished Sunday's game with 10 catches for 100 yards and 1 touchdown.
His 10 catches were a career high for a game, and his yardage was his second highest (his highest came in 2007 when he had 107 yards against...Cleveland). The only tight end in the AFC with more yards than Watson is Antonio Gates, and the pair is tied when it comes to catches. Watson is behind several players in terms of touchdowns, but is his production continues to remain high, he is certainly a Pro Bowl candidate.
Best Job on Hillis: I know that the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars both did a good job at defending Peyton Hillis, but I thought the Dolphins' defense did better than both of them. Every game, you see Hillis truck over people, push piles forward for extra yardage, leap frog defenders, or make defenders miss on receptions. I didn't think Hillis' effort was any different against Miami.
Instead, the Dolphins hit him quickly with great individual efforts in coverage and gang-tackled when stopping the run. The run-pass disparity (18-to-34) might seem like Cleveland didn't get the ball to Hillis enough, but they tried -- he caught seven passes but they only went for a total of 22 yards.
If you missed having your usual dose of Hillis, fear not -- he faces a weak Buffalo Bills defense this week.
Massaquoi Rallies: We haven't seen our receivers make too many catches or catch-and-runs that make you think, "man, that was a great play." In the second quarter with under two minutes to play and the game scoreless, Delhomme threw a back shoulder pass to Mohamed Massaquoi from the 14-yard line. A perfect pass might have been a half yard deeper, but since the defender had his back turned and Massaquoi got his fingertips on the ball, you hope your guy can make the adjustment and pull that pass in for a touchdown. Cleveland had to settle for a field goal.
Massaquoi redeemed himself later. On the Browns' only productive offensive series of the game, Massaquoi went up to grab a 37-yard heave from Delhomme. That was a huge connection considering Cleveland was backed up in their own territory. A few plays later, Delhomme found Massaquoi on a crossing pattern over the middle. The defender in coverage fell down, allowing Massaquoi to sprint all the way down to the 3-yard line. That led to the Browns' only touchdown of the game.
Nice Effort by Stuckey: A little bit before Massaquoi's failed back shoulder catch, Delhomme tried to hit Chansi Stuckey in the back of the end zone on a strike. Stuckey gave a great effort and almost made one of those "whoa" wide receiver plays I was referring to. The pass got there a little too late though, as the defenders were able to shove Stuckey out of bounds.
Speaking of Stuckey, defenders seem to be playing him much tighter on third down crossing patterns since the Jets game. It might be time to mix things up with Stuckey a little bit and see what other routes he can run in that situation.
Where Did Robiskie and Moore Go?: After leading the team in receptions last week, Brian Robiskie went back to mediocrity this week with 2 catches for 10 yards. It is easy to see why his production went down -- Miami was playing tight coverage on everyone and was able to bring the pressure quickly. If it is hard for Robiskie to get separation to begin with, he's not going to get it when the defenders are already right up to him. As for Evan Moore, he left the game with a hip injury.
Delhomme's Best Game: This was more like the Jake Delhomme I saw in the preseason and expected to see during the regular season. Sure, his yards-per-attempt were very low in the first half, but Miami's defense was also playing lights out. Before the season started, I wanted Delhomme to be a quarterback who managed the game with smart throws, but when the time was right, he would be able to connect on the deep ball and/or lead a key touchdown drive.
All of those short completions early on? Well, they weren't turnovers. When Miami finally didn't get pressure in the second half, Delhomme went 4-of-4 for 88 yards and a touchdown. We trusted our defense, and eventually got a 13-10 victory.
Delhomme nearly threw an interception just before Mike Adams' interception which may or may not have went for a pick six. The defender dropped it though, so it's probably best to move on. The throw was a bad one, but not as ridiculous as the one from last week. Delhomme is 2-0 in his last two starts, and that wouldn't be possible without a team effort.
Mini Game Ball for Bowens: I thought about giving David Bowens a game ball, but I had already given out three of them. Not including the secondary (since they usually don't stay at the line anyway), Bowens is the best defender on the team at batting balls down at the line. We saw how big he came through against the Saints, and while Adams got the spotlight for the pick, he just happened to be standing in the right place at the right time. Bowens is the guy who set the play up. Joe Haden had for passes defended, but Bowens nearly matched him with three passes defended.
Elam's Getting Used to It: I guess sometimes all it takes is one big play to gain some confidence to start making some more. Abram Elam made a nice interception near the end of the second quarter and returned the ball 18 yards. I saw an offensive lineman go for the hack from behind on Elam during his return, but thankfully the hack hit Elam's hip and not the football. Cleveland started their drive 28 yards away from the end zone, setting up their first three points of the game.
Overselling Cribbs: I don't care what the coaching staff says anymore about Joshua Cribbs -- I won't believe it until I see it. Eric Mangini and company sold us on the fact that Cribbs would probably be able to play on offense this week, but after he only participated in one offensive play, it seems apparant that the comment was used as nothing more than a ploy to force the opposing team to study something we wouldn't be utilizing. I don't think that means we're underutilizing Cribbs, I think it means that his four dislocated toes are still killing him to the point where he is ineffective. He still went down like a feather upon contact on kick returns.
P Brandon Fields: I usually only give props to our players, but the Dolphins' punter was outstanding as well. He had four punts downed at the 6, 14, 6, and 18. A few of his punts went into the end zone for touchbacks, but his distance on the punts still got Miami out of some bad situations.
Pitch Play to Hillis: I love it when the Browns use the pitch play, but Miami was clearly all over it early on. I don't think Cleveland returned to it in the second half, but whenever it was run in the first half, you could see on the replay that the defense overpursued in the direction of the pitch before Delhomme even pitched it. I'm not sure if other teams will overpursue like that, or if we'd need a mobile quarterback for this, but I was dying to see what would happen if the Browns ran a playfake off of that and tried to get someone's route back across the other side of the field. Maybe a guy no one expects like Robert Royal.
Miami's Ground Game: The Browns ended up doing a decent job at stopping Miami's ground game, as Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown finished with 26 carries for 98 yards. I still felt like the tandem should have been utilized by the Dolphins more often, and their Wildcat seemed to be an issue for us on certain downs. They set themselves up with a couple of third-and-shorts, but they usually passed the ball in those situations. That was fine by me, as Henne's passes usually fell incomplete.
Special Teams Tackles: The Browns had seven special teams tackles. Mike Adams and T.J. Ward led the way with two each. Joe Haden, Jason Trusnik, and Marcus Benard each had one tackle. Titus Brown suffered a head injury when assisting on a brutal tackle on the opening kickoff.
Less of Ventrone: I don't recall hearing Ray Ventrone on defense at all, although that doesn't mean he wasn't out there. I did hear Jason Trusnik's name a lot more often though, which leads me to wonder if he was used in assisting to cover the tight ends instead.
Time of Possession: Despite the Browns' poor third-down conversion rate, Miami's wasn't very good either. Both defenses did a good job. Not an entertaining "Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore" good, but good by their own standards. That led to both teams being even in time of possession, give or take a few seconds.
Brownies: It was a little frustrating to see Miami score quickly both times after the Browns scored...I guess it's a good thing we didn't give them a chance to retaliate after our third score of the game...there was one play where I thought Chris Gocong went for the strip instead of the tackle...the personal foul penalty on Chad Henne was pretty cheap considering the guy did a sideways slide...Floyd Womack was called for offensive holding in the second half, but I didn't even see a guy rush Womack on the replay...nice job by Delhomme to recognize 12 men on the field in the fourth quarter and do a quick snap.
Next up, the Browns have their annual basement match with the Buffalo Bills. These two teams won't meet next year because for once, Cleveland won't be finishing in last place! Cleveland is getting hammered with snow all week, so I'm sure there's a chance it'll be freezing and snowy in Buffalo this Sunday. Can we get another snow ball? Imagine Hillis hitting hard in those conditions.