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Colt McCoy Pulls it Together as Browns Beat Dolphins 17-16 on Game-Winning TD Drive

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Pat Shurmur of the Cleveland Browns pumps hit fist after the Browns defeated the Miami Dolphins 17-16 at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Pat Shurmur of the Cleveland Browns pumps hit fist after the Browns defeated the Miami Dolphins 17-16 at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Getty Images

It was ugly, but at the end of the day, the Cleveland Browns have a 2-1 record and remain tied for first-place in the division (technically second due to their 0-1 division record). Things weren't looking good for Cleveland, but after a long, dark day offensively, Colt McCoy pulled things together for a game-winning touchdown pass to Mohamed Massaquoi.

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  1. Awarding Game Balls: RB Montario Hardesty - His final stat line was not flashy (i.e. he didn't go over the 100 yard mark and went without a touchdown), but I'd say that Hardesty had a solid day in his first career game as a starter. He assisted in setting up all three of Cleveland's scores, including a key fourth-down reception on the final drive of the game. Playing as many snaps as he did was a drastic change from what Hardesty's been accustomed to since his college days, so this was a huge step forward for him. Full game ball award given here.
  2. Goat of the Game: QB Colt McCoy - I thought about keeping McCoy off of this category due to his game-winning touchdown drive, but he was the reason we were in the situation in the first place. For whatever reason, excluding maybe four minutes of the game, McCoy's accuracy was terrible. Balls were overthrown, underthrown, behind players, you name it. In the past, I've used weather, a constant pass rush, or injuries as an excuse. There were no excuses in this game other than the fact that he "just didn't have it." In particular, the missed pass deep down the middle to a wide open Joshua Cribbs was inexcusable.
  3. Little Marks His Territory: Several of our receivers and tight ends delivered on the final offensive drive, but Greg Little really stood out, having 3 catches for 24 yards. One of those catches involved him pulling a "Gumby" (per Randy Cross, followed by a creepy Don Criqui laugh) move to avoid the tackle of a defender before advancing for a first down and getting out of bounds. I can't believe this guy dropped so many passes in training camp, because so far he's done well when called upon on gameday.
  4. Leading the AFC in Sacks...Whaaa? After last season and after hiring Dick Jauron to run the 4-3, the only proven player the team had on the defensive line was Ahtyba Rubin, and he'd be undergoing a slight position change. With three new starters required, the defensive line was originally projected to be our weakest position on the team. The pass rush that has developed among the youngsters so quickly is remarkable, as sacks are coming from a combination of power and speed. Rubin, Jayme Mitchell, and Phil Taylor combined for four sacks against Miami. Linebackers D'Qwell Jackson and Chris Gocong each had half a sack.
  5. Crossing Route to Watson: Mid-way through the game, I was surprised to see the Dolphins suddenly start "giving" the Browns the crossing route to Benjamin Watson. McCoy went to that play several times and he ended up targeting Watson more than any other receiver (10 targets, 5 catches). Watson did have one pass that was a clear drop.
  6. First TD = Redux of Week 1? The first touchdown pass looked like an exact replica of the Week 1 touchdown pass to Ben Watson. It involves McCoy playfaking to the left and then rolling out to the right. Watson, originally lined up on the right, sells his blocking for awhile and then sneaks back across the formation and then up the field. Watson did the same thing against Miami and McCoy was looking to throw that way. He stopped and then decided to toss it up to Joshua Cribbs in the right corner of the end zone; I assume Cribbs is the second choice on that play. It seems like the Browns are 2/2 in touchdowns when running this play.
  7. Moore Still Effective: I'm obsessed with this Evan Moore guy. He only had two catches, but again seemed to be the go-to-guy when he did get on the field. I'm not going to chastise Shurmur for playing Alex Smith more often than Moore because I think it is the right coaching decision given our right tackle situation. Once Tony Pashos returns, I feel confident that we'll see Moore's reps increase.
  8. One Target for Robiskie: I am pretty stunned that Brian Robiskie has 0 catches after three games. Is that even possible? I'm not looking to get into the whole Robiskie-can't-get-open debate again, but it seems like the coaching staff is slowly reducing his workload in favor of Little, Cribbs, and Mohamed Massaquoi. Robiskie was targeted once late in the game on a jump ball play deep down the field. Robiskie could not pull it in.
  9. Hello, Armond Smith: After getting only two carries in his first two offensive series, it was time for Hardesty to have a breather. Third-string back Armond Smith had what might end up being his only two carries of the season, and the good news is that he didn't fumble the ball! He showed a quick burst on his first carry, but the second play just seemed to take forever to develop. I assume that the original plan was for Peyton Hillis to play the first two series and for Hardesty to enter during the third series, regardless of how many Hillis has received.
  10. The Opposite of Playmaking: Remember when I gave Cleveland the advantage at the running back position in my preview for the game? One of the reasons was that I felt Reggie Bush was a liability. He finished the game with 10 carries for 13 yards, and one of his carries went for 10 yards. If you take that away, he had 9 carries for 3 yards. He also had a critical fumble that could have ultimately been the difference maker in the outcome of the game. Daniel Thomas looked impressive though -- Miami should definitely stick with him more often.
  11. Kickoff and Punt Returns: Was it a good or bad decision to keep Joshua Cribbs off of special teams on Sunday? On one hand, we know that his returns against the Colts played a key role in two of our touchdowns. On the other hand, it's not worth Cribbs reaggravating his groin injury, and Cribbs might not get many opportunities anyway due to the Dolphins' kicker and punter. When it was all said and done, Buster Skrine only had one kick return and Jordan Norwood only had one punt return.
  12. Celebration Penalty: First off, Mohamed Massaquoi should not have been flagged for going to the ground in celebrating his touchdown. He never got up, and it seemed like when he rolled over after the catch, he just happened to stay on his knees. If you're going to flag him for that, can we flag the defender who stayed on the ground in misery that he just gave up a game-winning touchdown? Ben Watson was also flagged for basically going down to Massaquoi's level, saying something, and probably helping him to his feet. They should've negated the whole penalty situation anyway when a fan ran onto the field and joined in on the fun (note: that was not Jordan Cameron, but a real fan; not sure if some of you were kidding about Cameron or not).
  13. Bad Situation: What's the worst thing that can happen as a result of the 15-yard penalty? A good return to set up a game-winning field goal. Well, Miami got a pretty decent kick return, but they were in great shape after Dimitri Patterson was flagged 15 yards for a horse collar tackle. I don't consider Patterson a goat for that. He was trying to prevent a touchdown return and might have felt he was the last guy to beat and just happened to grab hold of the collar when reaching out. Nonetheless, Miami was in great position to win the game, but our defense delivered. How did Miami not gain any yards?
  14. The Joy of Don Criqui: I didn't think that Don Criqui was as bad as he was last year, but as I started re-listening to the game, I started picking up all of the oddities Criqui had. That would include a few creepy laughs, his, "[McCoy throws pass] ................... throw ... oh, Ithinkit'satouchdownitIS!," and him thinking the Dolphins would be forced to try a 67-yard field goal rather than just going for it on 4th-and-10 with a timeout left. The conviction with which he made that statement could crack anyone up. He also threw in a random comment about the officials being so incredible after they didn't call pass interference on the Dolphins late in the game.
  15. Go Down Sooner: Safety Mike Adams should know better than to run around after making what should be a game-sealing interception. He didn't run around as bad as some people have in the past, but it should almost be an instant kneel down next time.
  16. Maynard Getting it Done: I refuse to complain about punter Brad Maynard, who I thought did exactly what has been asked of him for the second straight week. He wasn't credited with having any punts inside the 20, but two of his coffin corner punts went out of bounds at the 20- and 22-yard line.
  17. Special Teams Tackles: Linebacker Kaluka Maiava led the team with two special teams tackles. After him, defensive backs Dimitri Patterson, Ray Ventrone, and Buster Skrine each had a tackle. Joshua Cribbs was credited with the tackle on Colt McCoy's first interception of the game.
  18. No Replacement...Just Colt: You know what I like about this season? Amidst all of Colt McCoy's struggles, there wasn't a thing inside of me that said, "let's see what the backup has to offer." That never would've been the case the past several years.
  19. Give it Up For D'Qwell Jackson: Our middle linebacker continues to be on a tear this season. He finished the game with a team-leading 11 tackles, 0.5 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery. He recovered the ball that Jayme Mitchell had forced loose from Reggie Bush early in the game. I also thought that for one stretch of the game, Chris Gocong suddenly had an impact. I'm still awaiting a few big plays from veteran Scott Fujita.
  20. Brownies: The Browns almost had a safety, but Jabaal Sheard was flagged with roughing the passer...unfortunately, Cleveland allowed Miami to have a drive lasting 8:08 as a result...Cleveland's longest drive of the game lasted 4:23...the Browns struggled on third-down, going 3-of-11...the coaching staff has to find a way for the team to have more success offensively in 2nd-and-1 or 3rd-and-1 situations...CB Joe Haden did a fine job covering WR Brandon Marshall...I really liked what I saw from WR Brian Hartline on Miami...we were fortunate not to get called for interference on the final drive when TE Alex Smith bowled into a defender...defensive end Emmanuel Stephens was credited with two tackles and a tackle for a loss...WR Carlton Mitchell was active, but as far as I know did not play on offense.

Up next, the Browns take on Matt Hasselbeck and the Tennessee Titans in their final game before the bye week. The Titans have been a pretty good team defensively and Hasselbeck has been efficient, so this should be Cleveland's toughest test of the season so far.