Browns-Colts: Report Cards

The Browns coaching staff gets high marks. Here are Scout's grades for both teams...

Cleveland Browns

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- There were no turnovers in 29 passes, and Trent Dilfer did complete 76 percent of his throws for 208 yards. But there were two taunting penalties by receivers -- yes, they were ticky-tack, but they were called -- and four sacks, a couple drops and the inability to get the ball in the end zone. The Browns looked better against the Colts than many expected, but they did not score a touchdown, which ultimately cost them the game.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- It's a shame Reuben Droughns doesn't get a better grade, because he ran well and hard. Droughns clearly is the Browns best back, and could team with Lee Suggs to form a capable tandem. But the Browns never could sustain the running game, which put pressure on the passing game, which allowed the Colts pass rush to tee off. That is the kind of formula that will not succeed for Cleveland.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Browns did to Peyton Manning what they did to Brett Favre - they forced Manning to use a lot of plays and a lot of time if he wanted to score. They blitzed rarely, and one time they did, Reggie Wayne burned them for a 51-yard gain. Instead, the Browns tried to keep things in front and make tackles. It largely worked -- as the Colts only scored 13 points.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- Edgerrin James topped 100 yards for the Colts, and when the defense most needed a stop, they couldn't get it. After punting with 7:40 left, the Browns could not get the ball back from Indianapolis' offense. The Colts were able to maintain ball control, running James seven times for 33 yards. James twice picked up key first downs on the drive. If a team wants to win, it has to make a stop when it counts most.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- This unit deserved better, as Dennis Northcutt brought an early punt return back 82 yards for a score. Problem was, Frisman Jackson was flagged for an illegal block in the back. Jackson disputed the call, but coach Romeo Crennel aptly pointed out that if players don't put themselves in bad positions, the flag can't be thrown. This call badly hurt the Browns' chances to win.

COACHING: A -- Another stellar effort by a staff whose team, on paper, was outmanned. The Browns played close to the vest, they played careful and they occasionally played smart. There was nothing wrong with the plan going in -- though you have to wonder about Trent Dilfer saying he thought the Browns could score three or four touchdowns on such a strong defense. Against Green Bay, a similar plan worked. Against the Colts, it didn't. That's not the fault of the coaches because the plan made a lot of sense.
 

Indianapolis Colts

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Save for one interception when QB Peyton Manning threw into three-deep coverage, the Colts were efficient in their passing game against Cleveland. Manning completed 16-of-23 passes for 228 yards, hitting six different receivers. Opposing defenses continue to lie back, conceding the short pass and the Colts are taking what's there.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Edgerrin James recorded his second straight 100-yard rushing game, going for 108 yards on 27 carries. Backup Ran Carthon fell victim to a couple of missed blocks near the goal-line. The Colts continue to have their struggles in the red-zone, but most of the problems have been due to missed assignments more than anything else.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- Cleveland came into the game without giving up a sack. That changed Sunday as the Colts got to Browns QB Trent Dilfer four times, and got three sacks from DE Dwight Freeney. Indianapolis continues to give up yards between the twenties, but have been able to keep opposing offenses out of the end zone. S Bob Sanders continues to improve in his pass coverage.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- A sore point for Indianapolis in the past, the Colts have tightened down the rush lanes in its first three games. Cleveland's Reuben Droughns had 76 yards in 22 carries, but the Browns averaged just 3.3 yards per rush attempt. The addition of DT Corey Simon has helped to lead the Colts' run defense so far this year.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- This grade would have been a bit lower had Dennis Northcutt's 86-yard punt return for a touchdown had not been called back due to an illegal block penalty. Other than that, the Colts' special team was good, but not great. P Hunter Smith had two kicks downed inside the 20-yard line and K Mike Vanderjagt hit both of his field goal attempts. Kickoff specialist Dave Rayner has been consistent through the first three games. Indianapolis' punt and kickoff coverage has been a hit or miss -- literally -- situation.

COACHING: B-plus -- Indianapolis stayed true to what it wanted to do offensively. As defensive teams continue to try and take away the Colts' deep passing game, offensive coordinator Tom Moore will stay with his dunk-and-run game plan. Defensively, Indianapolis has been able to come up big in key situations. Coordinator Ron Meeks has more tools to work with this year, and he's using everybody.
 


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