Upon Further Review: Browns-Giants

As the Browns’ road tour of the NFL elite has now dropped the team to 0-5, it’s getting easier to put this entire 2012 season in context. Or, if you’re among the remaining faithful who has already conceded that major change will be occurring in a few months, it’s probably easier to just take a look at a few moments.

So enough of the overriding themes of overwhelmed coaches and too young rosters – let’s talk about a few plays instead. Beyond the 500 yards of offense the Browns’ surrendered, Sunday’s game could have turned on just a few plays.

2nd Quarter – 14:24 Remaining – Browns 14-7 – 2nd and 1 at Giants’ 12

Despite what occurred in the second half, the Browns legitimately had the Super Bowl champions in a prone position early on – and could have opened up a two-touchdown lead. However, this series – innocuous as it was – foreshadowed the vortex of despair that essentially turned the game later.

1st Down – Richardson for 9

At this time, the Browns’ offensive line (who probably played their best game of the season) began to give Trent Richardson some running room. A 9-yard first down gain set Shurmur’s offense up with a prime second down play calling opportunity.

2nd Down – Slant dropped by Gordon. In fairness to Gordon, Brandon Weeden rifled this pass a yard behind Gordon.

3rd Down – Everyone knows what’s coming here. Everyone on the Browns’ offensive line (and Ben Watson) blocks right. The Giants’ front eight loads right. Richardson has to cut left, is trapped and loses a bunch of yards.

4th Down – Phil Dawson Field Goal

Remembering the above series, let’s take a look at later in the quarter.

But first, some kind of mention has to go to Shurmur wandering a bit outside his play calling box with this formation.

But then again, based on the Giants’ alignment, I think they knew exactly what was coming.

After big swing pass gainer to Chris Ogbannaya, the Browns are again set up in a prime scoring position. And again, Richardson and the Browns’ offensive line are churning out some much-needed yards – and giving Shurmur the offensive play calling flexibility needed for successful NFL offenses.

2nd Quarter – 4:00 Remaining – Browns 17-10 – 3rd and 1 at Giants’ 25

1st Down – Delay to Richardson for 5
2nd Down – Richardson left guard for 4
3rd Down – Weeden INT

Either remembering Richardson’s 3rd down stop earlier, or just wanting to be creative for creative’s sake, Shurmur eschews an effective running play and puts his rookie quarterback in a rather untenable third-down position.

At first glance, most people could sense that there are only so many possibilities with this formation.

And as the play unfolds, it’s apparent that Weeden basically has two receiving options – both of which are stuck in a tight space.

As the play begins to break down, Weeden motions for a jump ball intention with Josh Gordon – while Jordan Norwood tries to break upfield.

Weeden’s “alley-oop” attempt seemed destined for Kevin Durant rather than a 6’2 NFL wide receiver. (Note that Norwood first runs out of bounds, then just falls down along the sideline). And then….

You know what happens next.

Instead of going into anymore detail regarding how over matched Shurmur is as an NFL head coach, let’s instead just focus on the following mantra regarding Shurmur as an OFFENSIVE PLAY CALLER.

Successful head coaches offensive play callers put their players in a position to succeed.

And on a 3rd and 1 in your opponents’ territory – with a lead and a successful running game – it’s beyond ridiculous that Shurmur would call a play that does the following:

1. Makes your not so mobile quarterback roll out of the pocket and throw on the move.

2. Completely shortens the field and only offers two receiving options.

3. Essentially removes one of the receiving options because the route takes the receiver out of bounds.

4. Doesn’t account for any additional pass rushing pressure – despite the idea that only three receivers are advancing past the line of scrimmage.

5. Takes the ball out of the hands of the player who gained nine yards on the previous two downs.

And while I fully understand that everything that followed this play was NOT a result of Shurmur’s play call, it just seems that every scrap of momentum the Browns had vanished and a virtual wormhole, a literal Vortex of Suck opened and the following happened….

1. Sheldon Brown and Usama Young give Reuben Randle a half field of football-sized cushion that sets up the Giants for:

2. Ahmad Bradshaw goes untouched for a game-tying TD.

3. Josh Cribbs’ second effort results in a fumbled kickoff return.

4. A possession later, Dmitri Patterson thinks he has “over the top” safety help with only 8 yards of end zone behind him.

5. On the Browns’ alleged “two-minute drive” to end the first half, Jordan Norwood and Alex Mack commit consecutive “illegal crack back” and “block in the back” penalties. These penalties lead Shurmur to engage in “clandestine face”, as he thinks that somehow the Giants will figure out the next two play calls.

BTW, the next two play calls were a Draw Play and WR Screen. Who would have guessed?

6. Buster Skrine commits a Pass Interference penalty with 0:04 left, giving the Giants a very cheap three points.

And at this point, the Browns have moved so far down the Vortex of Suck that anything more would just be a numbing set of colossal regrets and what if’s.

Still, and mainly because I don’t what to delve into how terrible a player Usama Young is (you know, the Browns’ safety who woke up this morning with a #44 imprint in his chest), let’s instead focus on a few positives.

7. Yes, Josh Gordon outran a linebacker for his first big NFL play, but at least it’s progress from the still too-raw rookie. And real Browns fans should at least take note that Chase Blackburn was a real reason for the Giants’ Super Bowl win earlier this year and that Gordon should be celebrated NOW, because we know what will happen to him as a wide receiver in Cleveland.

8. I saw two things early on that I never thought I would see. First, the Browns completed a successful screen pass to Richardson (of course) and Owen Marecic delivered an effective lead block.

9. The Browns’ offensive line as a whole played well and showed the kind of precise (and necessary) run blocking movement that we haven’t seen in a couple years. On a few plays, the line moved well, got upfield and gave Richardson some room to run.

10. Finally (and yet again), until Weeden is put into positions to succeed, it is unfair for Browns’ fans and media to swallow him whole like we have done to 17 other quarterbacks. More importantly, let’s focus on true Browns’ veterans like D’Qwell Jackson and Ahtyba Rubin who were banged up in yet another frustrating loss.

More to come later in the week. And a new WEEKLY POLL question will be up later.

Leave your COMMENTS good, bad or other at the bottom of the page.

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Comments (6)

  1. dan

    I had no confidence that they would hold onto the lead, but I thought they would hold it for a little longer than that. Two weeks in a row that Weeden throws a momentum crushing interception on a short yardage situation in which the play call and personnel are questionable at best. You would think that Shurmur would have learned from last weeks mistake. He made it so easy for the defense on that play. First no Richardson, then no running (Obi is lined up in an obvious blocking formation), cut off half the field, only two receivers within 10 feet of each other.

    - Ahmad Bradshaw is by no means a power back but Usama Young made him look like Peyton Hillis.
    - If he wasn’t making so much money, I would feel bad for Shurmer. He was placed in a bad situation, where he is completely overwhelmed, with no guidance from the guy we hired because he is a Super Bowl winning coach. He is basically being left to flap in the wind while Holmgren counts down the days to retirement.
    - If Chris Obanaya is not a threat as a running back, then why do we have him in the game? Where the hell is Jackson, he would be the most ideal 3rd down back.
    - I am not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch, but how come we never saw any footage from Skrine’s PI at the end of the half? They could have shown at least one replay. Meanwhile, they replay the Sheldon Brown break up about 40 times and talk about it for 10 minutes. Is it any surprise that the Giants are the Goodell family’s favorite team?
    - We had the lead this game. The excuse for not running Richardson more often was that they were playing from behind. What is the excuse this week?
    - Not since the year we returned have we started 0-5, have we come full circle? I would say yes except I do not know what the circle would be. It would be more apt to call it a straight line of ineptitude.
    - So another reboot on the way, who is the leader in Coachwatch 2013?

  2. Brian

    Another week and another loss … but at least we were up 14-0 at one point! Probably like every other person reading this, I wholeheartedly expected that lead to inevitably shrink to a loss (either slowly, rapidly, or stupidly). Admittedly, I turned off the game after the third quarter, so I didn’t see some of the game (I wish I would have turned it off at the 10 minute mark of the 1st quarter and just pretended like we blew them out).

    As we’ve seen many times before, turnovers, poor play calling, and stupid mistakes haunted us. Oh yeah, and the fact that we were totally outmatched. (On a side note, didn’t it seem like the Giants were totally flat and didn’t want to play the game. It was almost like they thought they’d walk in and destroy us … oh wait). I like DK’s approach this week, because lamenting is just maddening … so I won’t go through every thing that I saw.

    A few observations:

    - I agree with DK. The offensive line was outstanding in my opinion. Our guards and Mack were very active and energized. They were pulling, completing assignments, and getting to the second level. It seemed like they were on a mission. Not to mention Weeden had a clean pocket nearly all day and Schwartz continues to improve. Props to the line.

    - Also, congrats to Josh Gordon (who’s been questioned by a lot of fans thus far) for his first two TDs. Obviously he should beat a linebacker like that, but at least he caught the ball … and then didn’t celebrate. Thus, Gordon immediately becomes “better than Little” from my perspective.

    - Ben Watson’s career is over. He is slow and ineffective at this point. I don’t even remotely see him getting open. This is Cameron’s job to win/lose for next year.

    - Norwood had a nice bounce back performance. The ball he caught off of the tip was impressive concentration.

    - Richardson is the REAL deal. I’ll continue to say it because I’m happy we have him. He is quick, elusive, strong, shifty, and any other adjective you can think of. Plus, he’s a competitor. I could tell he was pissed at the end of the game.

    - We missed Benjamin’s speed in my opinion. I hope he’s not going to turn into an injury waiting to happen. Because of his size, he’s going to have to be smart each week.

    - Could Shurmur seem ANY more confused during a game? It’s like he doesn’t even know his own personnel. It’s comical at this point.

    - Marecic had his best game as a pro yesterday. He actually looked sufficient, which is saying something coming from me. He and the line were bound and determined to control the line of scrimmage.

    - Nice 3rd and 1 call. That is all.

    - Our defensive back field is downright depleted and lacking in talent. I give Ward credit for playing yesterday, and Skrine always TRIES hard … but we miss Haden terribly. Also, Wade was toasted again. I actually do think we have decent depth … but that depth shouldn’t be starting at each position. Oh, and Usama Young was bad.

    - Winn made a few more disruptive plays, which is basically expected now. He’s going to have a permanent role with us from my perspective.

    - I hope Rubin isn’t out for the year, but I fear for the worst.

    - Eli Manning was TOUCHED … yes TOUCHED (not knocked down, not sacked) … TOUCHED ONE TIME during the course of action by our defensive line.

    - What an awful defensive effort on Cruz’s 2nd touchdown. I think I could have covered it more effectively … and I’ve never played a snap in my life.

    - I hope DQ isn’t hurt for an extended period of time, because our run defense is PUTRID without him. He’s our defensive MVP by far.

    - Cribbs had a few strong returns, but also a fumble that I saw coming for 20 yards. At that point in the game, I knew it was 100% over.

    - Shurmur is LUCKY we converted the 4th and 3 or else he would have been RIPPED for declining the offsides penalty.

    - Perhaps our most effective play has been the “Texas” play where the back slants back into the field after faking out (I love this play when used at the appropriate time).

    - Hardesty is a no show again.

    - Weeden continues to be the same in my opinion. He’s definitely become more comfortable, but truth be told … this isn’t an offense for him. You can just tell he wants to push the ball down the field .. instead, he’s relegated to slants and outs.

    I’ll say something I haven’t said in a long time … we have a chance to win next week. With Haden back and our line looking better, we have a chance. Injuries may play a big role in my outlook towards the end of the week, but we have a chance … and it may be the last chance for another month. Gear them up Shurmur … maybe.

    • matt

      I’m not defending the play call, but if you look at the freeze frame (second shot) Norwood appears to be open or at least have a step. Weeden is to blame as well. In that end, stupid call and poor execution.

      • Once Norwood was run out of bounds (mainly by the play call), he couldn’t have been the first player to touch the ball once back in bounds. Once he ran out, he was done.

    • Considering the Browns’ “anything can happen against the Bengals” history, next week is probably the best chance for a win in a while.

      It’s just disheartening to think that the coaching staff had extra days (after the Thursday night game) to prepare and came up with THAT. Also, we already know that Shurmur spent extra Wednesday night “game-planning” or something, something, something…..

  3. matt

    I meant in the second freeze frame where Weeden is on the hash in his roll out and Norwood is running paralel to the first down line. He looks to have a step and a well thrown ball (leading him) would appear to give them the first.

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