Browns-Dolphins: Report Card

How the Browns fared, according to the experts at NFL Scout

PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Tired of watching Luke McCown be reckless with the football, Terry Robiskie was determined to throw as little as possible. McCown threw only 16 times, completing nine for 161 yards against a solid Dolphins pass defense. Still, McCown threw two interceptions. The first came when right tackle Joaquin Gonzalez was pushed back toward McCown, forcing him to alter his motion. The floated pass was well above Dennis Northcutt. The second came on an admittedly bad decision by McCown. He misread the Dolphins coverage and threw a deep post pass to Northcutt that was easily intercepted by safety Arturo Freeman. McCown's one touchdown pass was a beauty. He rolled left and threw deep to Northcutt. Three Dolphins defenders were in the vicinity, but the ball was perfectly placed and Northcutt caught the ball in stride for a 58-yard touchdown.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Robiskie's plan was to let Lee Suggs win the game for the Browns or exhaust himself trying. Suggs ran 38 times, breaking Jim Brown's 45-year-old record, and gained 143 yards. His longest run was for 13 yards, but he continued to show a knack for finding little creases in the defense so he could turn minimal gains or losses into decent gains. But there was a major blemish on Suggs' day. He fumbled three times. The most costly came near the Dolphins' goal line, though he insisted - and replays showed - that the ball came out after Suggs was down. Suggs later dropped a handoff and fell on it. The most egregious mistake came when Suggs ran left but kept the ball in his right hand, making it easy for the ball to be stripped, which it was. But the Browns retained possession when a Dolphin slid out of bounds trying to recover the ball.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Granted, they weren't facing Marino, but they did a solid job keeping Miami's feeble passing attack under control. A.J. Feeley was under consistent pressure from Cleveland's front four and didn't have a completion longer than 18 yards in 43 passes. Tight end Randy McMichael had nine catches, but for only 59 yards. Cornerbacks Lewis Sanders and Anthony Henry held Chris Chambers and Marty Booker to a combined seven catches for 56 yards. Gerard Warren had a sack and safety Robert Griffith, whose blitzes are usually ineffectual, also had a sack.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- The Dolphins scare no one with their running game, but they averaged 4.6 yards per carry against the Browns. Sammy Morris gained 69 yards in 17 carries, including a 13-yard carry on the 40-yard drive that set up Miami's game-winning field goal. Robiskie said that gain was made possible because of botched assignments by two Browns players.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Phil Dawson once was automatic. Not anymore. He missed his fifth field goal in seven attempts when he clanked a 43-yarder off the right up right with the score tied at 7 in the third quarter. Richard Alston, who'd emerged earlier this season to give the Browns a spark as a kickoff returner, fumbled away the second-half kickoff. Derrick Frost, who has not been the same since shanking a punt 7 yards against the Ravens in November, continues to regress. His average of 42.3 yards per kick is misleading. He had two touchbacks and some line drives.

COACHING: B -- Robiskie used common sense in putting the game in Suggs' hands, not McCown's, but he probably relied too much on Suggs, who has been injury-prone. The coaching staff alertly inserted Dennis Northcutt into the game as a returner when kicker Olindo Mare came in for an apparent 49-yard field goal. The Browns correctly anticipated a pooch kick, and Northcutt returned it 17 yards instead of potentially having the ball be downed deep in Cleveland territory.


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