Cleveland Browns: Winners and Losers in Loss to Rival Ravens
Coming into the Cleveland Browns' Thursday night game against their rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, the Browns weren't given a shot at winning this game, let alone covering the spread.
During the first half, it appeared as if the Browns could be in good position to steal one on the road, only down by 9-7, but the offense was never able to get anything going during the second half. Cleveland ended up falling to Baltimore, 23-16.
Despite the loss, there were a number of positives that fans can take away from the loss, especially from rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who almost led the Browns to a comeback in the fourth quarter.
Weeden and the rest of the young offense proved that they do have some pieces in place that could allow them to steal some games later in the season, and eventually be a solid offense in the AFC North.
It wasn't all positives, however, as a number of Browns players (as well as a certain member of the coaching staff), struggled during the game and held Cleveland back from getting their first win of the season.
Winner: Trent Richardson
Richardson certainly didn't have his best day rushing, only carrying the ball 14 times for 47 yards, but he did score his second rushing touchdown of the season in the second quarter on a one-yard sweep to the left.
In addition to scoring the Browns' only rushing touchdown of the game, Richardson was a threat in the passing game, acting as Brandon Weeden's first checkdown option when he was pressured by the Ravens defense.
The rookie RB caught four passes for 57 yards, averaging 14.3 yards per catch. If Richardson can be a threat in the rushing and passing game, the offense could run through him, and take some of the pressure off of Weeden.
Cleveland is also lacking a major playmaker, and if Richardson can keep breaking off 14 yards per catch, he could certainly fill that role.
Loser: Greg Little
The majority of Browns receivers could fall under this category as well, but the one that really stands out is Greg Little.
After head coach Pat Shurmur called Little out earlier this week, and threatened to take away his starting spot if he didn't catch more passes, Little didn't really seem to hear Shurmur's words this week.
In the fourth quarter, Weeden threw a strike to Little in the end zone that would have tied the game, but the pass went straight through Little's hands and fell incomplete.
Although Little did catch four passes for 77 yards, the team needed him to come through when it mattered most, and he didn't.
Even on the final drive of the game, Little was nowhere to be found, and Weeden mainly had to throw to Jordan Norwood and Ben Watson instead.
Little cannot continue to make headlines for all the wrong reasons like this if he wants to continue to be in the starting lineup, especially if Mohamed Massaquoi comes back healthy soon.
Winner: Phil Dawson
As if Phil Dawson wasn't already one of the most popular players on the team, his performance Thursday night certainly cemented him as the team's main source for points.
Dawson kicked three field goals of 50 yards or more in the game, connecting from 51, 50 and 52 yards.
There were multiple times when a drive was going strong and then stalled out, but Dawson still made the drives count, even in the rainy weather.
Dawson even made an extra point, which is more than the Ravens special teams can say.
Loser: Joshua Cribbs
As Josh Cribbs returned a punt in the first quarter, he was knocked unconscious after taking a hit from Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Cribbs stayed on the ground for a few minutes and was eventually taken off the field after coming conscious.
Although Cribbs did get off the field under his own power, the hit was still nasty and took Cribbs out for the rest of the game.
Cleveland could have used Cribbs in the fourth quarter, as they lacked a player who could bust the game open. Cribbs will have even more of a loss if he is unable to come back for several games, if it's determined that he sustained a concussion.
As previously mentioned, the Browns do not have any sort of a playmaker on offense outside of Richardson, and Cribbs provides one of the only major threats to opposing defenses.
Winner: Brandon Weeden
Sadly, what fans will take away from Thursday's game is going to be Weeden's interception he threw in the third quarter that Ravens DB Cary Williams returned for a touchdown.
Yes, that was Weeden's seventh interception he's thrown this year, but Weeden also showed that he is capable of making improvements on the field as his time in the NFL goes on.
Weeden threw for a career-high 320 yards, and although he didn't throw a touchdown, he marched the Browns down the field with a minute left in the game after starting on the 10-yard line. At least he gave the team a chance to win.
The rookie QB also moved the team down the field as the game went on several times to put Phil Dawson in range to put points on the board.
The 28-year-old still has some improvements to make (ex. not throwing the ball out of the end zone on the final play of the game), but at least he is beginning to show that he's capable of checking down properly and finding the open man.
Now, he just needs receivers who can catch those passes.
Loser: Pat Shurmur
On the same day that Manny Acta was driven out of Cleveland, head coach Pat Shurmur did not make a strong case to stay.
Not only was another loss added to Shurmur's record as coach, he also made several questionable play calls. His offense looked relatively incompetent in the first half, other than the touchdown drive capped off by Richardson's touchdown.
Brandon Weeden threw the ball 52 times, and Trent Richardson, arguably the best player on offense right now, only ran the ball 14 times. Granted, the Browns were trailing for the entire game, but Shurmur could have tested the run a little more, making the play-action pass a better option in the later drives.
Shurmur needs to do something to fire his team up for the remainder of the season, because right now they are looking flat, especially in the first half.