I thought the Browns' offense would be better against the Bengals, and they were. I thought the Browns' defense would suffer a setback against the Bengals, and they did. I just didn't realize each of those aspects would be taken to the extreme that they were...and yet, when you look at the final score of the game, you could say that one special teams play at the beginning of the game sealed Cleveland's fate. My complete game review is after the jump.
Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals
WEEK 2 - CLEVELAND BROWNS VS. CINCINNATI BENGALS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
- Goat of the Game: ST Chris Tabor - It is not often that I list a coach as the goat of the game, because I prefer reserving these labels for the guys on the field, not the sidelines. It is a shame what Cleveland's special teams units have become. I am not talking about individual players like Joshua Cribbs, Phil Dawson, and Reggie Hodges. I am referring more to the collective effort in coverage or blocking.
There were six missed tackles on the play, and I can't list all of those players here. Since special teams have become a recurring problem since Tabor took over, he deserves to be the goat in this game. On a day where the offense did well enough to balance out the struggles defensively, the difference in the final score of the game ended up being Adam Jones' punt return for a touchdown.
- Awarding the Game Ball: QB Brandon Weeden - I just realized that while I named a goat in the team's Week 1 loss to Philadelphia, I forgot to hand out a game ball. After being one of the three goats last week, Weeden definitely deserves the game ball against Cincinnati in my estimation. Even though Trent Richardson was just as important to the success of the offense, it was Weeden who was really facing the heat (unnecessarily, might I add) heading into the game. He responded with a very solid effort.
QB Brandon Weeden was poised in the pocket against the Bengals.
Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US Presswire
- Marecic Needs to be Replaced: Is it insane that a guy who only played 15 percent of the snaps infuriates me so much? I am not pressing the "overreaction" button on FB Owen Marecic for this one game alone. This has been building for a long time, and Sunday's game against the Bengals was the final straw. In the second quarter, facing a 2nd-and-2, the Bengals had a free blitzer coming at Weeden off of a playaction. Weeden responded with an off-balance, but perfectly thrown ball to Marecic in the flat. Marecic was not looking and the ball went right threw him.
Cleveland ended up getting a first down on their next play, and Trent Richardson later ran in for a touchdown. Consider this, though: if that had been a third down, Marecic's miscue would have led to a punt again. On top of that, that is the type of play where Marecic could have bounce off of his hands, and if that happens, it is a pick six for the opposition. Marecic is a liability in the passing game. That one play we need him for in the game can be the difference between winning and losing a game. He's not a good enough of a blocker to justify keeping him. Brad Smelley is going to waste on the practice squad; it's time to activate him and see what he has. I'm not saying he'll be some beast, but when bread gets stale, you throw it out.
- No Time for Hardesty: For the second consecutive game, Montario Hardesty did not see a single snap on offense. Is that a surprise? Not really. The Browns drafted Richardson to be their workhorse back. Before the season, I predicted that the third-down back would see a lot more action than Hardesty on gameday, and that Hardesty would become the starter only if Richardson went down with an injury. Hardesty is like an insurance policy we are protecting right now (which sounds ridiculous, given his history of injuries). Right now, we don't need to worry about Hardesty seeing any reps. Trent Richardson is doing well, and whoever the Browns like better between Chris Ogbonnaya and Brandon Jackson can do some good things on third downs.
- Massaquoi Has it All: I could not be happier to see how well Mohamed Massaquoi is doing in this offense right now. He is by far the team's best route runner, and now he has a quarterback who can deliver him the ball. It is no coincidence that he is seeing more snaps than any other receiver and is being targeted the most by Brandon Weeden. My biggest knock on Massaquoi has been his ability to catch/fight for a deep ball. In the first two games, we have seen Massquoi get behind the coverage deep, only for Weeden to overthrow him. If Weeden can start connecting on those throws, I am dead serious when I say this: Massaquoi could end up being the No. 1 receiver we've been looking for.
- Secondary Exposed: I have to admit that I was way too overconfident that our secondary would hold up in the absence of Joe Haden. In fairness, I did not expect Sheldon Brown to be out too, but I did have a hunch that he would be limited. It was a terrible day for the secondary, and it started on the first defensive play of the game. CB Buster Skrine was playing seven yards off the Bengals' No. 2 receiver. That's not a huge issue if you can come up to make the tackle. When Andy Dalton threw a quick pass to Armon Binns, though, Skrine came up and whiffed on the tackle, leading to an easy 12 yard gain for Cincinnati. It was a sign of things to come for Cleveland's secondary. Skrine had some footing issues against the Bengals, and his inexperience showed. There was one play where he was foot-for-foot with a Bengals receiver on a deep pass, but he tugged at the receiver even though Eric Hagg was coming over with safety help.
- Mixed Results With Patterson: You can tell why Eagles fans weren't too fond of Dimitri Patterson when he was a starting corner for their team a few years ago. Patterson is a heck of a nickel corner, and because of that, I think there are high expectations for him when he moves to the outside. We see a much different Patterson on the outside. I don't want to rip the guy too bad, because he did the best he could with A.J. Green.
CB Dimitri Patterson did the best he could to hang with WR A.J. Green.
Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US Presswire
- Terrible Officiating: I think Week 2 was when fans really started looking at each other and saying, "this has got to end now" regarding the replacement officials. You could count the errors in every game, including the Browns game. LB D'Qwell Jackson was flagged for a personal foul on the Bengals' first drive for a legal jam on TE Jermaine Gresham while QB Andy Dalton was being sacked. At the end of the first half, the officials did not know to stop the clock when Mohamed Massaquoi caught a pass and went out of bounds. Even when they tried to correct the error, they still got it wrong by about 15 seconds. There were more errors; that's just the tip of the iceberg.
- Six Sack Day: It was tough for the Browns to lose DT Billy Winn and DE Juqua Parker early in the game. Those two guys played a big role in getting pressure on Michael Vick in Week 1, and they were doing a good job during their limited time against Dalton. Still, the Browns' defense managed to get six sacks. A few of those were a credit to a good pass rush, but a few of them were also a credit to the secondary doing their jobs on a few plays and Dalton having no where to go.
- Cribbs Doing What He Can: For the second week in a row, I thought Joshua Cribbs did fine on his returns. He had two kickoff returns that started gaining some momentum, but you can tell that his own guys are getting in the way at times (I think I recall S Tashaun Gipson doing this once). Cribbs averaged 27.5 yards per kick return on 6 attempts. He only had 1 punt return, which went for 9 yards.
- Excellent Playcalling: I think I am going to try to detail two plays tomorrow in my "play to remember" post, and both of them came on the drive involving Trent Richardson's drive where he has a rushing touchdown. One play involved Mohamed Massaquoi shifting into the fullback position and then a nice little pump fake from Weeden. The second play was almost a different look off of that play, but instead was a screen pass to TE Alex Smith. During the game, a lot of Cleveland's third down routes were run over the middle and beyond the first-down marker. Weeden completed a good percentage of passes on third down (when it was a manageable situation).
- Shurmur's Decisions: When it came to coaching decisions, I thought Pat Shurmur did a good job representing the Browns on Sunday. The Browns were semi-aggressive at the end of the first half, but you have to consider the fact that three things went against them: they had a long way to go, the officials screwed them on the clock, and a sack (on a play where Weeden was looking deep) basically ended the drive. At the end of the second half, you have to take the field goal on fourth down to at least five yourself a chance for an onside kick/Hail Mary.
- Ward on Gresham: Sometimes, things just go the way of the opposition. Cleveland's secondary needed just one play to possibly turn the game around and hand the ball to a red-hot Cleveland offense for a chance to tie things up. On a third-down play from near midfield in the fourth quarter, T.J. Ward broke up a pass intended for Jermaine Gresham. Gresham still managed to haul the pass in after the tip, and kept his one foot in without a centimeter to spare before reaching the sideline. I agree with Shurmur's decision to challenge the play -- at that point, it's either go down doing nothing, or give it a shot. Maybe next time.
- Snap Counts on Offense & Defense: If you missed them on Monday, here are the links to our Week 2 snap count trackers for offense (link) and defense (link). On offense, TE Benjamin Watson saw a lot more snaps than I thought he had. He was only targeted once, but showed some fight by breaking tackles and rumbling for 27 yards. On defense, everything was different from last week due to in-game injuries and suspension-related moved.
- Special Teams Tackles: There were seven special teams tackles by the Browns. Leading the way with two tackles was LB Craig Robertson. CB Trevin Wade, S Usama Young, S Tashaun Gipson, and TE Jordan Cameron each had one tackle. Gipson and Joshua Cribbs were the guys who played the most on special teams, followed by RB Chris Ogbonnaya, LB L.J. Fort, Bademosi, and LB Kaluka Maiava.
- Brownies: I was impressed with the hustle that DT John Hughes showed when he was able to sack QB Andy Dalton. ... LB D'Qwell Jackson had three sacks and an interception. ... S Eric Hagg was a tad behind in coverage on WR Brandon Tate's long touchdown, but do we really expect our safety to be a shutdown corner on that type of play? ... CB Trevin Wade made the mistake of following the quarterback's eyes to the sideline when WR Andrew Hawkins settled down and made mince meat of the Browns' defense. ... The Browns had the ball for 27:07, compared to the Bengals having it for 32:53. ... Cleveland was charged with 10 penalties for 103 yards. ... The Browns are still only one game back in the AFC North. ... I won't claim to be some expert regarding the type of game LB Scott Fujita had, but on a few plays, it just seemed like a buzz kill for me not to have a quicker guy like L.J. Fort in there. ... Jon's Week 2 reflections can be found here.
Up next, the Browns take on the Buffalo Bills at home. This is a team that the Browns have been able to beat at times over the years when things are rough, so hopefully they can come through and pick up their first win!