Down 30-3 early against the New York Giants, it was clear something simply did not go according to plan in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Cleveland Browns laid an egg with a national television audience watching.
The final score of the Browns 37-34 loss is far from indicative of just how the evening went for the guys wearing the new brown pants. After marching the ball downfield and settling for a Phil Dawson 56-yard field goal early in the first quarter, the next eleven minutes were pure hell for the Browns.
Mistakes in coverage, numerous penalties and a lack of presence turned what was expected to be a tough game into a mismatch of the starting units. The Browns were up 3-0 five minutes into the game. One minute into the second quarter, the Browns were down 30-3.
- QB Brady Quinn entered the game when starter Derek Anderson was injured early in the second quarter. Quinn, playing mainly against the second-team Giants defense, threw the ball well and displayed excellent leadership qualities. As the New York defense continued to get pressure on Quinn, the QB did well in rolling away from the pressure. His pocket awareness was sound and his decision-making was very good. For all those keeping track, Quinn has been getting the reputation as a "dink and dunk" passer in recent weeks.
On this day, Quinn was 7-12 for 124 yards and one touchdown. In the 12 attempts, two passes were dropped (Steve Heiden and Syndric Steptoe) and one was misplayed by WR Travis Wilson sprinting into the end-zone. The devil is in the details as eight of Quinn's passes were in the 1-10 area, one pass attempted in the 11-20 area, one in the 21-30 area and two attempts in the 31-40 area.
Quinn was impressive throwing to his right --which has been somewhat of an issue -- as well as down-field. His 44-yard TD pass to Steptoe was slightly under-thrown, but the feisty WR took it away from the defender and crossed the goal-line.
- RB Jerome Harrison ran the ball effectively in his time and picked up a couple blocks in passing game as well. Harrison can run with the football, he is elusive, utilizes blockers well and is physically strong.
- Steptoe came to play and made his presence felt. The second-year player excelled in the kickoff return role after Josh Cribbs suffered an apparent ankle injury, and hauled in three passes for 80 yards and a TD. Steptoe's play in the game is how he has produced in training camp sessions; there is far less doubt today that this receiver can compete at this level.
- TE Darnell Dinkins saw significant playing time and continues to have a solid pre-season. The veteran was productive, catching three passes and supplying some much needed blocking at the point of attack.
- WR Paul Hubbard made a nice grab, but his speed and quickness on special teams was significant. Quite often, this rookie was the first player downfield in the middle of the action.
- LB Kris Griffin, known mainly as a special teams ace, was very good in the second half of this game. Griffin was disciplined and flowed to the ball well.
- The starting defensive line. The Giants were not able to run the football effectively against the starters (Shaun Smith, Robaire Smith, Corey Williams) -- which is a huge bonus -- but this unit was unable to generate any pass rush. The NY QB's had far too much time to play pitch and catch with the WR's.
- The LB's on this night failed to standout, but they did not hurt the team either. D'Qwell Jackson and Andra Davis did flow to the ball, while Kamerion Wimbley played the run well and provided some backside support. Shantee Orr, Alex Hall and Wimbley supplied little in the means of a pass rush, as the Giants offensive line was solid.
- Outside of missing coverage on a Hixon TD pass, S Sean Jones played reasonably well. Jones runs well, covers ground and can make an impact against the run.
- S Mike Adams stepped in early as starter Brodney Pool exited early due to injury and fared adequately. Adams is not afraid to stick his nose in to support the run and was a hair late on a couple passes in coverage.
- DE Chase Pittman may not be the type of player to get to the QB, but this second-year linemen is getting much better at maintaining his responsibility at the point. He won't be a star, but appears to have the serviceable qualities a team likes.
- RB Jamal Lewis had a few nice carries behind the left-side of the offensive line. The veteran RB is obviously quicker afoot at this time, but not quick enough to run away from an onslaught of New York defenders. Lewis' fumble as the Browns were threatening was a killer.
- QB Derek Anderson was under an onslaught from the New York defense throughout. The QB made a couple nice short passes, but also had a couple poorly thrown balls, in going 4-10 for 20 yards. The inability to sit in the pocket took away his effectiveness and ability to follow though on no less than two pass attempts. I don't see this game as a poor performance by the QB, just a performance that will continue to raise reservations about his overall ability until his inconsistency becomes a moot point.
Didn't Make the Grade
- The Cleveland offensive line. Not only did the starters fail to look ready for prime-time, but the back-ups, I suppose, did not want to chance outshining the big boys. Beaten off the ball, sloppy in space, slow in recognition.....and the beat goes on. Suddenly I had a flashback to the opener last season, and then to imagine the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers, both teams that get after the QB, are the first and second games on the schedule. Joe Thomas was the only linemen not to be torched in this game, while the interior of the line was simply manhandled on numerous occasions. Let's not forget to note that the Browns right tackle quite often was seeing the number on the back of the defensive lineman flying by.
- CB Eric Wright needs to have a short memory, as he had his hands full with Domenik Hixon, a third-year WR with one reception to his credit. Wright faces the likes of Braylon Edwards and Donte Stallworth daily, so there is no excuse to be beaten like he was by Hixon not once but twice. Blown coverage or not, Wright is a better technical player than he showed Monday night against the Giants.
- WR Travis Wilson disappeared when he needed to shine most. Opportunities were there for the third-year player, he just didn't make the play., namely a pass from Quinn going toward the end zone that he did not pick-up in flight. That is a play the receiver has hauled in before, with a DB draped on him.
- Defensive linemen Melila Purcell and rookie Ahtyba Rubin struggled at the point against the Giants second-team offensive line. Often blown off the ball or pinned, neither linemen displayed urgency or consistency in their game.
-OLB David McMillan simply struggles when forced to line-up with the defense. As we saw in practice sessions and the pre-season opener, the LB can get into position but is unable to get off the block.
- Rookie RB Travis Thomas, a special teams player at Notre Dame, cannot afford to let the punt rush get into his body and drive him back into the punter. This is a drill taught early and one which Thomas failed to execute.
- Special teams coverage units continue to have issues containing the return game. Another return for a score and giving up field position on occasion is a concern.
- Penalties were a killer for this team. Not too many excuses for the manner in which this team came in to play; you cannot win when getting called for unsportsmanlike conduct or running into the returner.
- S Brodney Pool - concussion
- QB Derek Anderson - concussion/hand
- KR/WR Josh Cribbs - ankle
- LB Leon Williams - neck/shoulder
- NT Shaun Rogers - knee - did not play
- DE Louis Leonard - undisclosed - did not play
- WR Kevin Kasper - hamstring - did not play
- FB Lawrence Vickers - hamstring - did not play
In the End
Let's not make excuses. This Browns team was unable to stop the bleeding once the Giants started to attack. On this day the G-Men were quicker, stronger and executed well, which makes me wonder if the head coach isn't going to get a little more demanding in practice sessions.
The Giants defensive linemen played knowing they were going only about 25-plays and gave an all-out effort, play-in and play-out. The quickness and power was simply too much for a quality Browns offensive line, which is disturbing but not all too concerning at this time due to the team having time to be in a much better prepared state for the season opener.
While the performance is nothing to panic over, you hate to see a team with such high aspirations be beaten in such a convincing manner. With about 20 days left to get ready for the regular season opener, you can bet the intensity will be kicked up a notch in Berea.