Browns-Cowboys: Report Cards

TheInsiders offer their take on the Browns performance last Sunday


PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Where is the Jeff Garcia that was a three-time Pro Bowler for San Francisco? Certainly he hasn't been seen in Cleveland. After struggling throughout the preseason, Garcia remained optimistic things would be difference once the season started. One has to wonder what he's thinking after Sunday's game. To put it bluntly, Garcia was awful. He completed only 8 of 27 passes for 71 yards with three interceptions. His passing rating was a big fat zero, a rare and embarrassing feat. Garcia was badly off target early when Quincy Morgan broke free down the sideline for a sure touchdown and never got into a rhythm. Several times, Kellen Winslow Jr. ran free on crossing patterns, but Garcia never found him except for one swing pass. He badly underthrew a touch pass to Winslow intercepted by Dat Nguyen. Later, he failed to lead Morgan on a slant route picked off by Terence Newman, though Morgan could be faulted for not going hard after the ball.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- With Lee Suggs again out with a neck stinger, William Green has had his chance to establish himself as the starter. He hasn't capitalized. Green ran 19 times for 52 yards, which included a 16-yarder. Green runs hard, but he isn't elusive and doesn't always sense where a hole will open. He hasn't learned how to use fullback Terrelle Smith effectively, which is understandable because Green has seldom run behind a fullback until this year. The line bears much of the responsibility for Green's troubles. During the preseason, the line consistently opened holes, but that hasn't happened against Baltimore or Dallas. The Ravens and Cowboys have two of the best defenses in the league, but the Browns still expected more.

PASS DEFENSE: C-plus -- Very much a mixed bag. Cornerbacks Daylon McCutcheon and Anthony Henry made nifty interceptions of Vinny Testaverde, who also threw a foolish pass intercepted by safety Robert Griffith. But the Browns also gave up 322 passing yards and had particular trouble covering receiver Terry Glenn and tight end Jason Whitten on long third-down plays. Cleveland put minimal pressure on Testaverde. Ebenezer Ekuban had the only sack. In fairness to the Browns, they were rotating only five defensive linemen on a hot day after Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren were injured early.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Again, the shortage of defensive linemen played a role. All in all, the Browns were decent against the run, though Eddie George looked better against the Browns than he has for most of the last three years. Orpheus Roye played particularly well for the Browns, and Michael Myers had his moments. The Browns continue to do a good job of gang-tackling, but their individual tackling needs to be shored up.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Phil Dawson had a flawless day, kicking four field goals, getting a touchback on a kickoff and, most impressively, executing a drop-kick onsides kick on the free kick following a safety that the Browns were able to recover. Punter Derrick Frost had his second straight strong game. The coverage units played well. The return game was spotty. Kickoff returner Dee Brown muffed a kick and had to fall on the ball inside Cleveland's 10. The biggest blemish on the special teams was a successful fake punt by Dallas. On fourth-and-inches, Dallas snapped the ball to upman Dexter Coakley. Linebacker Eric Westmoreland got blocked, springing Coakley for a long gain. Browns coach Butch Davis said his team was not surprised by the fake, but they didn't stack the line to prevent it.

COACHING: C-minus -- Browns coaches believed they could pick on Dallas' secondary deep, even though that's not Jeff Garcia's strength. The strategy backfired when Garcia misfired on several long passes. The Browns too often threw short passes on third-and-long and allow opponents to convert in those situations. There were times the Browns played soft coverage when Dallas had third-and-short.



PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Forget the yards. This unit is having problems finishing off drives. They continue to be their own worst enemy with untimely penalties (Flozell Adams, Keyshawn Johnson, Jason Witten). They also had too many turnovers. Vinny Testaverde offset another 300-yard passing day with three interceptions.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Take away Dexter Coakley's 33-yard run on a fake punt and this total is 93 yards on 27 carries, including 63 on 18 by starter Eddie George. This area remains a work in progress. It is now setback by the loss of rookie Julius Jones for two months with a broken shoulder.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- After a week of soul searching following the embarrassing effort in the season opener, the Cowboys defense responded with a praise-worthy performance. Greg Ellis led a pass rush that harassed Jeff Garcia into a 0.0 quarterback rating. The much-maligned secondary not only kept the Browns out of the end zone but cornerbacks Terence Newman and Pete Hunter recorded their first interceptions of the season. Linebacker Dat Nguyen got the other Garcia pick.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Browns running back William Green rushed for just 52 yards on 19 carries. Quarterback Jeff Garcia averaged 8.5 on four scrambles but he was contained fairly well. Defensive tackles La'Roi Glover, Chad Eaton and Leo Carson get credit for clogging the middle and allowing the linebacker to make tackles. The Cowboys ability to stop the run kept the Browns in third and long situations. Cleveland was two of 11 on third down in the game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Billy Cundiff's poor kickoffs will one day present a problem. He also missed a 49-yard field goal. Punter Matt McBriar was solid with a 39.7 average, including a long of 53. He downed two inside the 20-yard line. This grade, however, is buoyed by Dexter Coakley's 33-yard run on a fake punt, resulting in a first down. Great call. Perfect execution.

OVERALL: B -- Bill Parcells said it best. The Cowboys can't go 0-16 after the blank victory against the Browns. But he also realizes they were lucky to come out with a win, considering the litany of miscues and turnovers. The Cowboys will indeed enjoy this victory. They have to because victories are hard to come by. And it feels a whole lot better going into next Monday's showdown against the Redskins with a 1-1 mark than being 0-2. However, they also know if they play again as they played on Sunday they will not win many more.

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