Cleveland Browns fans were not happy about the team's 24-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills. This was seen by fans as a "winnable" game, especially with tough match-ups against the Ravens and the Giants coming up in Weeks 4 and 5. When the Browns fell behind 14-0 right off the bat, I think it really hit people: the team looked helpless, and on its way to another losing season after just three weeks. What went wrong?
| Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns
WEEK 3 - BUFFALO BILLS VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
- Goat of the Game: LB D'Qwell Jackson - After having two stellar weeks to start off the season, Jackson did not have a very good game against the Bills. He may have been out of his element, like the rest of the defense, playing in a nickel look for the majority of the game. The thing that really annoyed me was Jackson's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the first half. The Browns were trailing 14-7, but they had all of the momentum. RB Trent Richardson had just scored a touchdown. On Buffalo's first drive after that, DT Billy Winn batted QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's first two passes down.
On third down, Fitzpatrick completed a safe pass to rookie T.J. Graham. He was pushed out of bounds by T.J. Ward, and the official clearly blew a whistle. Graham did a tiny trot up the sideline, and then Jackson knocked him down a little bit, drawing the unsportsmanlike penalty. I was mad by the call at first, but that is something the regular officials would call too. It may have been an accident, but referees can't start trying to use judgment when it comes to accidents on late hits, otherwise everyone will claim it was an accident. If Jackson had never committed the penalty, the Browns would've gotten the ball back with good field position to work their two-minute offense. Considering Buffalo got the ball first in the second half (and scored), cutting the deficit a little more before the half would have been huge.
- Awarding the Game Ball: TE Jordan Cameron - An afterthought over the first two games of the season, Cameron finally got involved in the offense in the absence of TE Alex Smith (out with a concussion). Cameron only played 20 snaps against the Bills, but he was targeted 7 times and caught 5 passes for 45 yards. Each of his receptions helped moved the chains:
#1 - 1st-and-10: 12 yard gain
#2 - 2nd-and-15: 18 yard gain
#3 - 1st-and-10: 4 yard gain
#4 - 1st-and-10: 3 yard gain
#5 - 1st-and-10: 8 yard gain
QB Brandon Weeden looked confident going to Cameron, who showed the same hands he did in the preseason and training camp. The duo just barely missed connecting on a long touchdown pass over the middle. It will be a crime if Cameron does not receive more playing time moving forward.
TE Jordan Cameron caught a lot of passes given the amount of snaps he had.
Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Would Have Been a Blowout? I understand where people are coming from when they say that the Browns would have been blown out had C.J. Spiller not suffered a shoulder injury. Injuries happen, though, and the Browns' defense was marginally better following Spiller leaving the game.
For the rest of the game, Cleveland actually outscored the Bills 14-10. Heading into the fourth quarter, Cleveland had Buffalo on their heels -- they were only down by a field goal. People are disappointed with the fact that this team doesn't have wins. I'm crushed too, but I do think some people are ignoring the fact that the Browns did a decent job trying to get back in the game. The big problem is that the offense and the defense can't start off games as bad as they have been. This team is not built to dig itself out of a big hole.
Evaluating T-Rich: The final stat line does not look for RB Trent Richardson: 12 carries, 27 yards, 1 touchdown. I'm sure the casual fan would look at that and ask a few questions. The top two that come to mind are: (1) why did he struggle running the ball, and (2) why did the Browns abandoned the run (the Browns called 47 pass plays).
I thought it was a fine game for Richardson. The Bills' front four were able to overmatch our offensive line. Honestly, it shouldn't be too surprising: that is a heck of a defensive line that Buffalo has. Richardson was a bit too ambitious at times. He tried to break a big run by bouncing plays to the outside, only to be tackled for no gain or a loss. He had other plays where he stuck with it and gained some tough yards. In terms of abandoning the run, given the context of the game, it was the right thing to do. On both of Cleveland's touchdown drives, the drive consisted mostly of passes. I think Cleveland would have been better served calling a few Shotgun draw plays to Richardson, something that worked well against the Bengals a week earlier.
Little" "Lot" Disappointing: Excuse the intentional grammar error; I guess I dropped the ball there. Oh, but since I pointed it out, how about I pat myself on the back with a salute to Usain Bolt? Enough with the jokes; I called out FB Owen Marecic last week, and this week I'm calling out WR Greg Little. As a Browns fan, I want to be a little sympathetic to Little. I'm sure the staff really is working with him to improve his ability to catch the ball. And, as annoying as Little's celebrations are, a lot of receivers do that type of stuff. The big outstanding issue is that Little keeps...dropping...the ball.
Remember I called LB D'Qwell Jackson a goat earlier? Well, despite his gaffe, Cleveland still got the ball with a chance to move into field goal range. On a 3rd-and-4 from the 40 (60 yards away from the end zone), Brandon Weeden found Little wide open. You can see in the photo above how much room he had to run for the first down. He probably would have gotten to midfield at least. If the two receivers at the top of the screen end up making good blocks, who knows -- maybe a missed tackle, or a good move by Little, leads to something bigger. Instead, Cleveland had to punt because Little's hands suck.
Progress Report at QB: Right after the game, Brandon Weeden told the media that he thought he had a good day. That depends on what you define as a good game. If you're asking, "was Weeden holding the offense back?" the answer is "no." He still made a lot of good throws, and up until a few plays in the fourth quarter when he tried to force the ball for a comeback, he didn't have a lot of big mistakes.
Still, Weeden has already learned that it is not a good public relations move to tout your performance after a loss. Heck, even after a win it's not always a good idea. On Tuesday, Weeden backtracked and wisely said that he didn't play well enough. Public relations lesson aside, I still feel confident this guy has what it takes. We don't need to chase a quarterback in next year's draft, but there are a lot of other positions we can try to pick up an elite player at.
Vote of No Confidence: It's tough to tell whether Reggie Hodges is struggling to punt the ball right now, or if there is just a complete lack of faith in the coverage units. Hodges' first two punts were returned 20 and 33 yards by Bills returner Leodis McKelvin. In the second half, three of Hodges' punts went out of bounds. Personally, I think he was purposely trying to make them unreturnable and just didn't happen to boot them as good as he would have liked.
The one that stood out negatively was at the start of the fourth quarter, though. Down 17-14, Hodges was punting from the Browns' 40. Even with McKelvin back there, you'd like to see Hodges use his leg to try to pin the Bills inside the 20. Instead, it went out of bounds at the 32-yard line for only a 28-yard punt. That difference in field position apparantly gave the Bills some confidence; their first play after that was a 22-yard run by Tanard Choice that moved Buffalo past midfield. They eventually scored a touchdown.
Fixing the Mess Defensively: That next Bengals game can't get here soon enough, right? For those who haven't checked, that will be the next time CB Joe Haden returns to action. Like Jon said in his Week 3 reflections, you can't pin this all on Haden. Defenses should not fall apart as much as the Browns' defense without one player. When you add in the fact that Haden, Phil Taylor, and Chris Gocong are gone, though, things start to make a bit more sense.
The Browns' defense didn't make enough plays, even after C.J. Spiller left.
Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Now, the question is this: how do you fix the mess? I'm not sure if it was worth taking Eric Hagg out of the lineup, but getting rid of Mike Adams in the offseason sure looks a bit more painful than originally thought. With James-Michael Johnson set to return soon, hopefully he can provide an unexpected spark. Beyond that, it is going to require some better scheming by defensive coordinator Dick Jauron. I think the defensive line can still generate some pressure as the season moves on. They couldn't make things happen against the Bills because that unit is very strong this year.
- Snap Counts on Offense & Defense: If you missed them on Monday, here are the links to our Week 3 snap count trackers for offense (link) and defense (link). On offense, the hamstring injury suffered by WR Mohamed Massaquoi led to more playing time for WR Travis Benjamin. On defense, due to the offensive sets the Bills ran, the Browns operated from the nickel package most of the game. That meant almost no reps for Kaluka Maiava and Scott Fujita, and a ton of reps for Craig Robertson.
- Special Teams Tackles: The Browns only had one special teams tackle, and it was by S Tashaun Gipson. There were four assists, one each for Gipson, P Reggie Hodges, LS Christian Yount, and CB Johnson Bademosi. I'm not too sure that your punter and long snapper are supposed to be involved in too many tackles.
- Brownies: WR Mohamed Massaquoi dropped a pass, but would've taken a concussion-like hit had he caught it. ... WR Joshua Cribbs needs to be more involved in the offense and is close to breaking the big one on special teams. ... The Browns were 0-of-5 on third downs in the first half, but 3-of-6 in the second half. ... WR Josh Gordon still looks awkward out in the field, but happened to catch a ball he wasn't supposed to. ... TE Benjamin Watson looks a bit slow these days. ... The replacement refs need to go "bye-bye" ... Jon's Week 3 reflections can be found here.
Up next, the Browns will take on the Ravens on Thursday Night Football. May God have mercy on us.