The Cleveland Browns have the patent on frustrating loses. On a day where Brandon Weeden doesn't throw an interception, the Browns still can't come away with the victory.
The game was marred by the Browns' inability to stop the run or run the ball. We won't know for sure if the Colts run defense came back from the dead to stop the Browns because Pat Shurmur turned off the faucet on the running game. The Browns only had 17 total rushing attempts.
The game included bizarre decision-making by Shurmur, who kept calling for the deep ball with over six minutes left in the game. Even if Josh Gordon could have come down with the touchdown, the Colts still would have had plenty of time to get a go-ahead touchdown.
As the head coach and play-caller, Shurmur, has to see the defense couldn't stop the Colts, and he needed to burn some clock. The decision on 4th-and-1 to punt wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't complimented by poor execution. The Browns lined up like they were going for it and then called time out only to punt. The punter, Reggie Hodges, only made things worse by not pinning the Colts inside their 10 yard line.
The final nail in the coffin for the Browns was Sheldon Brown's inability to secure the tackle of the Colts running back Vick Ballard, giving them a first down which allowed them to run down the clock to seven seconds. The Browns would get the ball back with one second left, but they can't get the ball in the end zone with the trick play.
In a loss, the Browns have a lot of losers, but they do have a few winners. Yes, there were some winners in this game.
Let's take a look...
The Browns punter has not been the same since he tore his Achilles at the beginning of training camp last year. He fumbled the hold of the extra point, which would have given the Browns the option to kick a field goal instead of going for the touchdown in the forth quarter. When he had a chance to somewhat redeem himself with a punt from inside the Colts territory, he couldn't pin them deep.
The third overall pick in the draft tried to play today, and he couldn't make it happen. He started the game but couldn't finish. It seemed the running game went out the window when Trent Richardson left the game. The rookie is dominant when he is healthy and used properly. Unfortunately for him, in the NFL, your best ability is availability.
Dick Jauron was praised last year for having a top 10 defense, even though the Browns were 4-12. A big reason for the high defensive ranking was the opponent knowing the Browns offense could only score 13 points. The weakness of the offense allowed the other team to get a lead and run the clock out, which explained why the defense had good numbers except for run defense.
Now that the Browns offense can score or at least get yards in chunks, the defense is getting exposed. The Browns defensive coordinator played so much off coverage in this game as if they were playing Joe Montana instead of Andrew Luck. If the Browns defense doesn't get turnovers, it shows how bad they really are as a group. No scheme will save this defense, and playing soft coverage just makes is worse.
Raymond Ventrone would like to have this game back. The special teams star is normally the other reason Josh Cribbs does well on returns. Today, he had two penalties on returns that would have been for a combined 79 yards. The Browns are not a team that can overcome any mistakes, and special teams mistakes killed them today.
I know it's only Week 7, but this was a must-win for Pat Shurmur. In a game that came down to key decisions by both coaches, once again, the Browns came up short.
The interim coach for the Colts, Bruce Arians, who was known for passing too much in Pittsburgh, used the run to properly mange the clock in the victory. Arians knew the Browns defense was tired and they couldn't stop the run. Even when the Browns got close, he kept running the ball. He knew if he got behind, he could go back to the pass and make plays because of the Browns soft coverage on defense.
Pat Shurmur, on the other hand, out-smarted himself again with indecisive play-calling and bad game management. Shurmur gave up on the run even though his team was only down four with seven minutes left on the clock. The Browns were playing one of the worst run defenses in NFL, and Brandon Weeden was the leading rusher with 13 yards. When the soft coverage on defense was allowing the Colts to do whatever they wanted on offense, Shurmur didn't tell Dick Jauron to turn of the pressure on Andrew Luck.
This was a chance for Shurmur to show the owner he can lead his team to victory against weaker opponents. This game starts to cement that the previous in-game management mistakes were not a fluke.
The rookie quarterback played well and didn't turn the ball over. In spite of not having a running game or a coach who is committed to running, he ended up with two touchdown passes. He could have had a better day if Josh Gordon comes down with a touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.
Greg Little had a complete game against the Colts with no drops, six catches and a touchdown. Little has been kicked to the curb for drops, but he deserves some credit for his good play as well.
The light has come on for Josh Gordon with his third straight game with a touchdown. Despite only having two catches, he averaged 29 yards on those catches. The 10 targets in today's game shows he is quickly becoming Brandon Weeden's favorite receiver. The broadcast team for CBS tried to say Gordon dropped his second touchdown because of the sun in the stadium, but it was just a drop.
The rookie gets a pass from me on the drop because he has been pretty consistent with his hands. He also wasn't the reason they lost the game.
While the coaches had a bad game plan and didn't adjust, the players are on the field and have to compete. The players get the final say on whether a called play works, not the coaches. The Colts on more than one occasion decided to go for it on 3rd-and-short because they felt no resistance from the Browns defense.
While a lot of the attention for this loss will go to the coaching, the players missed tackles and got beat at the point of attack.
While Brandon Weeden wasn't sacked, the offensive line gets a failing grade for run blocking. The Browns offensive line was facing one of the worst run defenses in the NFL and could only net 55 yards rushing. Pat Shurmur should have stuck with the run longer, but the lack of early success usually means he will quit on the run game.
As an offensive line, you can't have your leading rusher only have 13 yards and it be your less than mobile quarterback.