Seven losses. In five, the Browns have led in the second half. In four, the Browns have led in the 4th quarter. One out of the two that they did not lead in the second half, they lost in heart breaking fashion to the Jets in over time. It has been a disappointing season for Cleveland fans to say the least. This week it was Maurice Drew and the Jacksonville Jaguars breaking Clevelanders’ hearts, as they scored two touch-downs with less than four minutes to go for the 24-20 win. It was the Browns’ offense that disappointed this week, as they failed to translate a six turnover performance by the defense into a victory.
Let’s start off by finding the positives in this game. Despite the disappointing losses this year, it’s easy to see that the Browns are heading in the right direction. Rookies Colt McCoy, Joe Haden and TJ Ward all played exceptionally well in this game.
McCoy, despite being sacked six times and pressured many more, completed sixty percent of his passes throwing for 241 yards. He also ran for 39 yards. His lone interception came on a tipped ball at the end of the game. If the Browns had a top receiver, that interception could have been a great pass that set up a game tying score. Anyone watching can see that McCoy has a fantastic sense of how to play the position, and if he continues to develop his skills, he could have a bright future in the league.
If not for the magnificence of Lions’ DT Ndamukong Suh, we might be talking about TJ Ward as the front runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He is currently 15th in the NFL with 80 tackles, which leads all rookies. While he only notched five tackles against the Jags, Ward did intercept two passes. He has played nearly every snap since game one, and he has brought a toughness and intimidation factor to the Browns defense from the Safety position.
Haden, who has looked extremely solid despite not starting, was forced into duty when starter Eric Wright was injured in the first half. He also grabbed an interception, one of four the Browns snagged from Jags QB David Garrard. Haden is tied for second among rookies with three interceptions, which is particularly impressive because he has probably played in less than half of the defensive snaps.
A forth rookie got extensive playing time for the Browns in this game. OT Shawn Lauvao got the start at Right Guard since veteran Billy Yates got placed on Injured Reserve after last weekends game. We can not give Lauvao and the Browns line much credit though as they gave up six sacks to a Jaguars team that only had fourteen in their first nine games. McCoy did seem to hold onto the ball a bit too long at times, but he was basically running for his life all game. On the play where McCoy got his touchdown pass, he made a great escape, eluding two aspiring sackers before flipping to Peyton Hillis who had an open road to the goal-line.
For the vast majority of the game, McCoy and the Browns offense was stagnant. After a great 92-yard touchdown drive on their second offensive possession, the Browns offense seemed to hit the doldrums. They did not score again until late in the third quarter, where they only managed a field goal despite great field position, starting from the Jags 19-yard line. Only getting ten points off of six turnovers just does not cut it by any standards. The Browns clearly missed their most explosive player, Joshua Cribbs, who was out with a foot injury. Also, their athletic Tight End Ben Watson, who is a favorite target of McCoy, went out with an injury in the first half. The Browns top priority this off-season will be increasing their talent pool on offense, specifically at the wide receiver position.
It was an up and down day for the Browns defense. You already know about the six turnovers. In the forth quarter, however, things went South. Jags top player Maurice Drew decided it was time to take over the game as he brilliantly carried his team to two touchdown drives and the victory. On the go ahead drive, Drew caught a screen pass and broke tackles for a 75-yard gain, before driving the nail in the Browns coffin with a 1-yard scamper into the end-zone. The Browns defense needs to tackle better with the game on the line. Last week, they let Jets WR Santonio Holmes break tackles and get a game winning score.
Give the Browns pass rush credit though as they were able to generate pressure consistently throughout the game. Something they have not managed very often this year. Marcus Benard got his seventh sack of the season. His development from a talented, but raw player over the last two seasons has been terrific and he should be a key player for the Browns defense going forward.
Next up for the Browns is the Carolina Panthers. With one of the worst teams in the NFC (clearly the weaker conference) coming to visit the shores of Lake Erie, there could be a win in the near future to brighten the Browns fans’ spirits.
About the Author
Written by Fran Berkman
Francis (Fran) Berkman is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY with a BS in Human Development. He is currently working towards a master's degree in journalism at Hofstra University. He lives in Massapequa, NY.