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Fumbles Play a Key Role in Browns' 27-19 Victory Over the Colts

Week 1, 1st Quarter: No offense, Browns losing 10-0.
Week 2, 1st Quarter: No offense, Browns losing 6-0.

Week 1, 2nd Quarter: Offense explodes, Browns winning 14-13 at half-time
Week 2, 2nd Quarter: Offense explodes, Browns winning 14-9 at half-time

Week 1, 2nd Half: Browns clinging to 17-13 lead with about 5:00 to go. Outcome = Implode.
Week 2, 2nd Half: Browns clinging to 17-12 lead with about 5:00 to go. Outcome = ?

In terms of circumstances, the Cleveland Browns' win over the Indianapolis Colts this past Sunday was a redux of how the game went in Week 1 against the Bengals. There was one big difference though: the stupid penalties, terrible punting, and "bizarre" defensive lapses were gone. Now, the Browns are 1-1 for the first time in several years.

27 19



  1. Awarding Game Balls: WR Joshua Cribbs - The Browns scored three touchdowns against the Colts, and Cribbs played a key role in setting each of them up (two on special teams, and one as a receiver). Cribbs is back to being the dynamic player we all know and love, and I can only hope he keeps this up the rest of the season. Full game ball award given here.
  2. Goat of the Game: RB Montario Hardesty - After sticking with Peyton Hillis for too long, the Browns got down near the goal line in the fourth quarter. Everyone was ready to see Pat Shurmur make up for last week by calling plays that would give Hillis the rock. Instead, we saw Hardesty trot on to the field for his first real action of the day. On his second carry, Hardesty fumbled and it looked like the Browns were dead.
  3. Joe Thomas to the Rescue: I always love it when it seems like there are no members of the Browns near a loose football, and yet when the pile gets uncovered, a member of the Browns is the last person at the bottom, with the football in hand. Left tackle Joe Thomas somehow hauled in Hardesty's fumble, a play that allowed Cleveland to kick a field goal and put some much-needed points on the board late in the game. Thomas did "yield" a sack to Dwight Freeney in the first quarter (which wasn't entirely his fault), but he minimized the damage by also falling on top of that loose ball.
  4. Hillis on the Ground: It's frustrating when you're running back can't find a lane to run through, and then as soon as the other team gets the ball, they break off an easy 9-yard run right off the bat. Peyton Hillis had a lot of 2- to 3-yard gains and looked visibly frustrated at times that the ground game was not having more success.
    There were two reasons Hillis didn't have better success. First, the offensive line has yet to start clicking on all cylinders blocking for Hillis -- someone always seems to be making a mistake. Second, Hillis doesn't have the speed to separate when there ends up being a tiny hole. I appreciate Pat Shurmur's commitment to stay with the run though, and I was pleased to see the Browns finally try a 3rd-and-long run late in the game. It paid off, as Hillis broke away for a 24-yard touchdown.
  5. Failed Fake Screen Passes: It seemed like the "fake screen to the left, throw it to the right" play was called about four-five times, and each time, it failed. Teams are able to read it pretty easily right now, so it would be nice to see Shurmur come out with some adjustments to that look over the next couple of weeks.
  6. Haden Stays Aggressive: It wasn't as good of a day (minus the lapse) against the Colts for cornerback Joe Haden, but he still came out looking good after several aggressive plays. He paid the price once when he was flagged for pass interference, but none of the Colts' receivers really had a big day. I'm not certain who guarded Austin Collie, but he was targeted 10 times and only had 3 catches.
  7. Taylor and Sheard: Right now, the top two picks of Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard, coupled with the fact that we got a first-round draft choice for 2012, are making our front office look very good. Sheard had a breakout game with 5 tackles, 1 sack, and a recovery of a fumble he forced. Taylor had 5 tackles and 1 pass defended. He also hammered backup Colts running back Delanie Carter in the first quarter with force, preventing an Indianapolis touchdown.
  8. Rubin Steps it Up Too: Last week, I asked where defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin was. He was significantly more active in Week 2, finishing with 4 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 quarterback hits. The Browns' defense was not dominant against the run (the Colts' backs averaged 4.4 yards per carry), but I'd rather have a defense that gives up a couple of 8 yard runs and then stuffs a team at the line of scrimmage than a team that can never get a key stop up front.
  9. Better Usage of Wide Receivers: I approve of the adjustments that Shurmur and company also made at the receiver position this week. The reps for Brian Robiskie declined, and he was reportedly only on the field for 26 snaps, and more than half of those snaps ended up being run plays. Greg Little still saw the most reps at receiver, but the Browns made an effort to get him the ball more often. He also drew a penalty on a third down pass, showing what his size can do for you. Mohamed Massaquoi and Joshua Cribbs each sprinkled in key plays too.
  10. Not Afraid to Use Personnel: Before the game, I predicted a lot of snaps for tight end Alex Smith. Sure enough, Smith was in on 32 plays, according to Pro Football Focus. To compare, receiving tight end Evan Moore was only in for 9 plays. While Smith was in there to assist with blocking, I loved the decision to utilize his receiving skills too. Sandwiched between Cribbs' catch and Massaquoi's catch at the end of the first half was Smith's for seven yards, and in the third quarter he had a first down catch to move the chains. Smith actually ended up leading the tight ends in yards and receptions against the Colts.
  11. Testament to Shurmur: We saw Smith instead of Moore. We saw Jabaal Sheard and Jayme Mitchell flip sides. We saw the adjustments made at the wide receiver position. Just about the only thing that maybe did not go to plan for Shurmur's adjustments was his incorporation of Hardesty into the game. Still, I like the fact that a head coach is not afraid to change the personnel he is using based on what works best.
  12. Maynard's Solid Day: How is this for your first game punting with the Browns? Brad Maynard had five punts with a 40.2 average, and 3 of those punts fell inside the 20-yard line. Maynard is not going to launch the ball down the field, but he showed he can still be a technician: his good hang time forced a fair catch, and he coffin cornered two punts out of bounds inside the 20. I feel like the punter problem has been solved; I just wish it had been solved one week sooner.
  13. Getting Marecic Involved: We saw a couple of plays for fullback Owen Marecic this week, and on one of them, he slipped out after a playaction fake by McCoy. Had the defender been a hair longer in recognizing the play developing, Marecic would've had a lot more room for yards after the catch. I also have no idea why the Colts would challenge his two-yard reception in the first quarter. Yes, it would obviously be overturned. But, who here thinks it is worth using one of your challenges on a two-yard completion that doesn't even result in a first down in the first quarter of a game?
  14. Fumbles Play a Key Role: The headline mentions that fumbles played a key role in the game, and I already covered two of those -- Hardesty's fumble, and McCoy's fumble, both of which were recovered by Thomas. The fumble in the third quarter by Peyton Hillis was not recovered by the Browns though. Hillis worked this offseason at protecting the ball, but there were several instances in the game where it almost seemed like Hillis had to bring the football back in as he was going to the ground to prevent it from coming free. The other key fumble came when Sheard got to Kerry Collins, then fumbled himself as he went to the ground. That would've been a disaster if the Colts got it back, but luckily it skipped out of bounds.
  15. Special Teams Tackles: There weren't many special teams tackles this week, but Buster Skrine seems like the early "ace" when it comes to tackles. He had one tackle and one assist. Quinton Spears also had a tackle, and running back Armond Smith had the assist with Skrine.
  16. Waiting in the Wings: This is a cake walk season for Phil Dawson so far. He had two field goals against the Colts, but they were both "gimmies" at 20 and 23 yards. That shows you how often the Browns are penetrating the red zone compared to last year. Fear not, though -- I'm sure Dawson will be called upon for some clutch kicks this coming week.
  17. First INT Goes to Young: The first interception of the season for Cleveland's defense goes to new safety Usama Young. It came as Reggie Wayne fell on his route late in the game, but Young might have had a play on the ball regardless based on how it was thrown. One interception through two games isn't ideal for Cleveland's secondary, so hopefully they can force a few more turnovers in the coming weeks.
  18. Fullback Handoff: It's not working so far, but I like the idea of giving the ball to the person lined up at the fullback position for a "surprise." Next time we have Hillis at fullback and Hardesty behind him though, I'd like to see Hardesty get to carry. Teams are expecting Hillis to get the ball every time he's in the game.
  19. Try Out Smith a Little? This is kind of a random thought, but if Cleveland gets a lead, I'd like to see us try an outside run with Armond Smith. Let's see if he can put that speed to use to negate some of the troubles our offensive line has been having.
  20. Brownies: The Browns were quite good on third downs, going 8-of-16 for 50%...I liked Shurmur's aggressiveness to keep his team on the field for a 4th-and-inches near midfield, allowing McCoy to go for the quarterback sneak...the right tackle situation was not great, but McCoy did a good job at understanding what the Colts' strengths were and had a good sense of when to move away from the pocket without looking "skittish"...D'Qwell Jackson had another good day with 8 tackles and 1 pass defended...cornerback Dimitri Patterson as the nickel back might be the most underrated addition of the offseason for Cleveland...I had an awesome day predicting games for Week 2, as I finished 14-2 for the week.

Up next, the Browns will take on the 0-2 Miami Dolphins. They'll be going up against Brian Daboll's often frustrating offense, so it'd be nice to see the Browns' defense have no issues with handling Chad Henne. We should see a nice match-up between Joe Haden and Brandon Marshall too.