Browns-Eagles: Joe's Game Review

Fan commentator Joe Brownlee looks at what went right, and what went wrong, last Sunday...

Good day, Browns fans!

The Browns played one of their most entertaining games since The Return but came up short, losing to the Eagles in overtime. I'm tired of moral victories, but you do have to be encouraged about seeing some aspects of the team come together against one of the best teams in the NFL. On the other hand, certain aspects of the team are falling apart.

I got some encouraging feedback on the format from my last article, so I'm going to stick with that approach. We'll examine what things went right and went wrong with each unit.

Offense

What went right:

  • Jeff Garcia played with tons of heart. Yes, there was the one interception, but Garcia was hit while throwing. He did not make the crucial mistakes that have haunted the Browns in the previous games, but he did come up with big plays and did what it took. The signature play was the dive into the end zone to tie the score at 31, smashing into a defender.
  • I have to give props to the much-maligned offensive line, and credit where it is due, Kelvin Garmon has his best game as a Brown despite the crucial holding call. The Eagles blitzed a lot, and for the most part, the line held them off with a little help from Garcia's mobility. Enoch DeMar needn't book a flight to Honolulu for February, but he is a marked improvement over the dinged up Zukauskas.
  • The combined attack of William Green and Lee Suggs is becoming everything we hoped it would be in the preseason. I was hoping to see both of them on the field together more. Green fought for tough yards, and Suggs continues to work the cutback when it is open.
  • It is just great seeing the tight ends in the game plan, especially with The Chosen One on the shelf. Aaron Shea is making the plays he made his rookie season, and both he and Steve Heiden were taking on defenders. It really helps when the other team can't ignore any of the skill players.
  • Terrelle Smith – what's not to like? Blocking, catching, carrying, Smith has done whatever is asked of him and brings a winning attitude to the team. I want to seem him on the field more!
  • It was good to see Antonio Bryant get a couple of catches.
  • Dennis Northcutt was more than an afterthought.
  • Nine of 16 on third down? Wow!

What went wrong:

  • Andre King got hurt in the first quarter. With the Browns already thin at receiver, it forced Frisman Jackson into a more prominent role. Jackson hasn't played in a while. King is really good on those quick slants.
  • A couple of penalties killed drives. The way the game ended up, those made a big difference.
  • The Browns never counter-adjusted to the Eagles adjustments to stop the run in the second half.
  • Tough to do with some many injuries at receiver, but the Browns have to beat the blitz more with quick passes. The Browns went over the middle some, but that's an aspect where they miss Winslow.
  • Both Green and Suggs would really help if they contributed a little more in the passing game. Suggs wasn't the factor there he was a week ago.

Defense

What went right:

  • Other than a couple of plays, the Browns did a good job containing the Eagle running game. Of course, when you throw for the yards the Eagles were getting, who needs to run?
  • Stuffing the Eagles on fourth and inches was a huge lift.
  • Kenard Lang had back-to-back tackles for loss. They helped hold the Eagles to a field goal when they started around the Browns 20.
  • Andra Davis had a key interception. He also broke up a pass 45 yards downfield. You don't usually expect that out of your middle linebacker.
  • Chris Crocker continues to make plays.

What went wrong:

  • The corners were toasted. Both Daylon McCutcheon and Anthony Henry got schooled in this game, despite making plays at times. This led the Browns to fall behind 7-0 after just two plays and 14-7 early.
  • The safeties were terrible pretty much all game. Robert Griffith had another of his patented "wave tackles". Earl Little isn't showing the nose for the ball we've seen in the past. He made a couple of weak attempts at interceptions after he had no chance on the play. What a liability. The lousy safety play forces the Browns to do things on the corners and with the linebackers they'd rather not do to compensate.
  • Despite a few positive plays, the defensive line largely got no pressure on McNabb. That usually means a big day for the opposition and a long day for the Browns. Lang spoke of "mental mistakes". Even the TV announcers noted guys abandoning their gap. That's what allowed McNabb to scramble for 28 yards in overtime, which led to the winning score. Tyrone Rogers was guilty on that one.
  • Speaking of the line, be honest – is Gerard Warren any better than Orpheus Roye? Alvin McKinley? Michael Myers? What is the relative cost of each player?
  • How do you hold a team to 2 of 10 on third down, yet give up nearly 500 yards of offense? Easy. They rarely ever get to third down because they are converting on first and second down.

Special Teams

What went right:

  • Phil Dawson set a Browns record by making his 24th consecutive field goal.
  • Leigh Bodden had a great game as the gunner.

What went wrong:

  • Not one, but two fumbled kickoffs by James Jackson and Frisman Jackson. Both gave the Eagles the ball on the Browns side of the field. Luckily, these two miscues only resulted in three points by the Eagles. However, the James Jackson fumble wiped out good field position that would have allowed the Browns to start at their own 44. This was a direct result of Andre King's injury.
  • Phil Dawson's kickoffs were inconsistent. He had a couple of good ones, but a couple were short.
  • Derrick Frost had a very nice punt in the game, but his stinker in overtime helped the Eagles win the game.
  • Dennis Northcutt didn't do much on punt returns.
  • Penalties on coverage teams are killing the Browns. Kevin Bentley has at least one a game.

Coaching

What went right:

  • A pretty good game plan, especially on offense, and some meaningful in-game adjustments helped. The team obviously believed it could win, fighting back from an early 21-10 deficit and 31-24 late.
  • The offense seems to be coming together. Getting both Green and Suggs involved in the game is huge.
  • Getting Antonio Bryant in the game despite the fact he doesn't know the playbook was a good move that will pay off after the bye.
  • I complained two weeks ago about Butch Davis and his (perceived by me) lack of passion. I though Davis was into this game nicely. Also, he did not let the players give up when it looked like the Browns might fall behind 28-10.
  • The Browns did not play error free ball with some missing starters against one of the best teams in the league, and still nearly won.

What went wrong:

  • Cutting Dee Brown, who has been admittedly poor, with few backups hurt. When Andre King got injured, the Browns were forced to use the Jacksons on kickoff returns. What a disaster. Either of those fumbles might have cost the Browns the game.
  • The Browns continue to burn too many timeouts. Ever hear of an audible?
  • The defense continues to play like they think these games start at 1:30. Holding the Eagles early might have buried them. The Browns adjusted, but damage had already been done.
  • While it didn't work out, count me among those who felt Butch Davis was right to play the percentages on the fourth-and-one-plus play in overtime. Punting was the only option. A poor punt and the loss of containment on the following first-down scramble by McNabb rendered the strategy ineffective.
  • There were still too many penalties, but they have been improving.
  • There are no "moral victories" in the NFL. The Browns blew a chance to upset a heavily favored team. Play well or not, this loss drops the Browns to 3-4, which is bad when you consider that four of the next five games area against AFC teams ahead of the Browns in the standings.
  • Having to watch T.O. score twice. At least the anti-T.O signs were amusing.

Commentary

This game surprised me. I expected the Browns to put up an early fight then fall to the Eagles. It didn't work out that way. The real question is: what is this team that we have on our hands?

Comparisons of last week's win over the Bengals to the 2003 win over Arizona provide an apt analogy. The blowout of Arizona proved nothing, as the Browns then went on to loss five in a row. But the Browns followed a solid performance against a bad team with another solid performance against a good team, despite the fact they came up short.

The Browns have some changes to make during the bye, and midseason changes at the bye have been a staple of the Butch Davis era. When they Browns return, they face the two teams ahead of them in the standings, namely Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Those games are really must-win situations if the Browns intend to make a playoff run. By Thanksgiving, we'll have a better idea if this is possible or merely a faded dream.

I can only say this: this game was a throwback to the Kosar era in Cleveland. An offensive shootout with a heady quarterback spreading the ball to a variety of receivers. If the offense can continue its emergence and the defense and special teams can get back to where they were at the start of the season, the Browns have a chance to make some noise against some decent teams over the next several weeks.

Finally, it is sad to see Frisman Jackson wearing #19. Nobody has worn it in a regular season game since that fateful game against Denver in 1993. It should have stayed that way.

Next Up

The Browns get a break, then travel to Baltimore for a Sunday night game.

The season is short. Bark hard!


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