I thought the Seahawks vs. Browns game would be the epitome of ineptitude when it came to offense for Week 7, but then again, I guess you could say that the Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens (!) were much worse off than Cleveland was. I think it would be fair to term Cleveland's offensive performance as very frustrating, but if you really dig deep and sift through that frustration, I think you'll find some positives.
|SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (2-4)||GAME #6||
CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-3)
WEEK 6 - SEATTLE SEAHAWKS VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
Awarding Game Balls: TE Alex Smith - It's not every week that what you don't do on the stat sheet translates to a game ball. Smith only had one catch against the Seahawks, but he somehow got under the skin of Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant, who had blocked two field goals during the game. Bryant's headbutt to Smith got him ejected, and that prevented Cleveland from having to put any faith in their special teams units to close out the game. Full game ball award given here.
Goat of the Week: ST Coach Chris Tabor - I rarely, if ever, give a game ball or a goat of the week award to a non-player. I felt I had to this week because of how the special teams unit nearly cost us the game. I was crushed when we did not retain Brad Seely in the offseason, and so many critical errors in a short period of time would never have occurred under his watch. Against the Seahawks, a team not necessarily known for being a special teams juggarnaut, two of Phil Dawson's field goal attempts were blocked up the middle and Leon Washington returned a punt for a touchdown. Had the officials not given the Browns a gift on a block-in-the-back call, that touchdown would have stood.
Starting the Game Better: I was hoping for a good start offensively from Cleveland, but on two consecutive third down plays over a span of two series, Colt McCoy's passes were thrown horribly off target to open receivers. The Browns have still only scored three first quarter points this season.
Offense After That: Not As Bad: Disclaimer: I am not trying to paint a pretty picture just to sweep the negatives under a rug. Obviously the standards are describing are low, but I still believe this team is on the cusp of getting over some of their issues offensively.
As I said in the introduction, our offense was not worthless. Here is what the Browns did after their first two drives in the first half (I don't include the sixth drive since it was with about 20 seconds left in the half):
3rd Drive: Got 31 yards away from the end zone (field goal blocked)
4th Drive: Got 35 yards away from the end zone (field goal)
5th Drive: Got 38 yards away from the end zone (punt)
7th Drive: Got 30 yards away from the end zone (interception)
8th Drive: Got 70 yards away from the end zone (punt)
9th Drive: Got 78 yards away from the end zone (punt)
10th Drive: Got 35 yards away from the end zone (field goal)
11th Drive: Got 6 yards away from the end zone (field goal blocked)
What does this tell you?
Finding the Right Play Calls: The Browns were putting together some pretty decent drives throughout the game, but they kept stalling in the same exact spot (about 30-35 yards away from the end zone). That did, however, help Cleveland maintain good field position and control the clock. Even though the point total was low, those two factors helped the Browns win this game.
Now the question is this: how do we get over the hump and get closer to the end zone? I think we saw our answer on the 11th drive of the game when we ran back-to-back flat passes to our running backs. One of those passes went to Chris Ogbonnaya on 3rd-and-4 from the...34 yard line. The next play, on first down from the 28 yard line, we ran the play again, this time to Montario Hardesty, and it took us down to the 13 yard line.
Keep on Doing That: If the green light didn't go off in Pat Shurmur's head after seeing how well those two plays turned out, then I don't know if it ever will. I think McCoy needs to start looking for his running backs more often too -- they are shiftier than our receivers and tight ends, and there have been way too many plays in which I've seen McCoy try to force a ball to a receiver when our running back has a free release out of the backfield and into the flat. Some of our most clutch pass plays this season have come via the running backs (remember the Hardesty fourth-down conversion against Miami?).
More Moore by Default: An injury (concussion) to Benjamin Watson forced Evan Moore into seeing more reps, with some even coming from the traditional tight end position. Moore finished the game with 4 catches for 35 yards. I think some fans questioned his lack of a hit on the intercepting Seahawk (David Hawthorne) on the Browns' first drive of the third quarter.
My response is what I have said before on Moore: the guy is out there to catch the ball, but he's awkward and brittle. My expectations are not that he is going to suddenly plow into the defender and break up the pass. That's not the type of player he is, and I'm fine with that. It's not like he threw his hands in the air and started walking toward the sideline as soon as the pick happened.
Whitehurst is Terrible: That was an awful performance from Charlie Whitehurst, and I'm glad that we have a defense that prevented him from gaining confidence. Whitehurst's throws were often much worse than McCoy's, and the one time he did have a wide open receiver in Sidney Rice, the ball was poorly thrown, forcing Rice to go out of bounds instead of walk in for a touchdown. That turned out to be a big difference maker, as Cleveland's defense held Seattle out of the end zone.
Ward Starting to Elevate: Maybe I should start giving more anti-game balls out, because I've noticed more fire in safety T.J. Ward over the past two weeks. Ward led the team with 7 tackles, defended a pass, and had a sack/forced fumble on Whitehurst in the first half. I couldn't believe my eyes when that blitz actually worked, because historically, when Cleveland runs that, the quarterback sees it and takes advantage. Ward got there just in time to help force a fumble that D'Qwell Jackson recovered.
Knee Sprain? What Knee Sprain? I didn't see any ill-effects of cornerback Joe Haden missing nearly two weeks of practice. The Seahawks don't scare anyone at receiver, but it was still good to see Haden make it through the game healthy and effective. He added a couple of aggressive tackles, and I call shenanigans on the play in which he was flagged for pass interference.
The Greco-for-Lauvao Watch: I am dying to re-watch the game and focus on John Greco at right guard after he replaced Shawn Lauvao (knee injury). Ironically, I was calling for Greco in the first half of the game. I'd like to see if he had anything to do with Cleveland seemingly being able to run the football better in the second half.
All-Purpose Cribbs: If I understand correctly, Joshua Cribbs played kickoff coverage against Seattle, but not punt coverage. He should be on both, but I wonder if Mohamed Massaquoi's concussion will reduce Cribbs' special teams role until he is able to come back. Cribbs dropped one pass during the game that looked like it could've led to a lot of YAC, but he came back with a tough third-down catch to move the chains on the next play.
Special Teams Tackles: There were five special teams tackles by the Browns, with WR Joshua Cribbs, LB Kaluka Maiava, LB Titus Brown, K Phil Dawson, and LB Quinton Spears each having a tackle. Dawson's tackle game after his first blocked field goal.
The Rarity: I think we need to give another standing ovation to what our defense accomplished, even if the Seahawks were without their regular starting quarterback and running back. Cleveland held the Seahawks to just 137 yards of total offense! Per the News Hearld, that was the fewest yardage allowed since the Browns held the New Orleans Saints to 127 yards in a 17-13 victory on Dec. 5, 1993, meaning we set a new post-expansion era record on defense.
Brownies: The Browns clearly won the third-down conversion battle, converting on 12-of-24 attempts (50% rate) compared to Seattle's 17% conversion rate...because of that dominance, Cleveland won the time of possession battle 42:56 to 17:04...punter Brad Maynard had his first shank (it only went nine yards), but thankfully it didn't hurt much since we were punting in an area that was just outside field goal range...I do not have any idea why Shurmur suddenly gets super aggressive in his pass playcalling when there is less than 30 seconds left in the first half and we're far away from the end zone...CB Sheldon Brown had the first interception by a Browns cornerback this season...RB Chris Ogbonnaya provided a nice boost in the absence of Peyton Hillis...LB Chris Gocong had two more quarterback hits and a sack that went for a nine-yard loss...FOX's tandem of Ron Mora Jr. and Jim Pitts was pretty bad.
Up next, the Browns head back to the West Coast to take on the San Francisco 49ers. They are a very tough team to run against; so much, that I am going to declare it a near-impossible task for us. I don't mean to underestimate the 49ers at 5-1 because they are playing very well, but personally, I would've rated the Raiders (two weeks back) as a tougher opponent than the 49ers.