The Cleveland Browns started out the game with a heavy load of passes against one the worst run defenses in the NFL. At the same time, Trent Richardson was having success with his limited run opportunities. The rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden seemed to be playing scared of making the big mistake, like he did in his first meeting with the Baltimore Ravens.
The defense didn’t start out well either, allowing Ray Rice to pile up the yards and get in the end zone. The Ravens limited Joe Flacco’s passing options mostly to play-action passing due to the success of the running game. The Ravens defense continued to have problems stopping the run, but the Browns didn’t take advantage of those opportunities.
Phil Dawson kept the Browns in the game with three early field goals in the first half. The defense woke up after halftime, clamped down on the run and got off the field on third down. The secondary led by Joe Haden shut down the passing game for the Ravens.
Once again, Pat Shurmur went with a close-to-the-vest game plan, taking field goals and calling low-risk offensive plays. The third-down plays haunted the Browns on offense, as pressure from the Ravens defense caused Brandon Weeden to throw short of the sticks. In the fourth quarter, Weeden stood in the pocket and took a hit to deliver a strike for a touchdown, only to be called back for illegal formation. The ensuing play was another puzzling play call with a handoff to Trent Richardson, which got no gain and another Dawson field goal.
The Browns defense started to wilt in the fourth quarter after being on the field for too many plays. They allowed Ray Rice to get the Ravens into the red zone and set them up for a touchdown throw from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith.
In the end, Pat Shurmur continues to outthink himself in critical game situations, and in the NFL, if you overthink, you stink.
Let’s take a look at the winners and losers for the Browns.
The rookie quarterback seemed to be unsure of himself and was playing not to make a mistake. In most cases when you play not to make a mistake you make one and he did. He threw an interception to the same Raven corner who picked him off in the first meeting. He made another one with the game already in the Ravens' hands.
The running back picked up where he left off against San Diego last week, with a high average of 4.2 yards per carry. He needed more touches, which would have helped calm down Brandon Weeden, who looked like a deer in the headlights.
Mr. Automatic continued his streak of most consecutive field goals made in the NFL with five on the day. He was the leading scorer for the Browns, which is a sign of the red-zone offense struggling. The lone Browns player from 1999 continues to be one of the few signs of consistency on this team.
The Haden affect continues on the Browns secondary. The stat line won’t jump off the page for Joe Haden, but the secondary for the Browns prevented the Ravens from hitting the big play. The blanket coverage kept the Browns in the game in the second half. The problem with Joe is he is good for one slip-up a game, which often results in a touchdown—and in this case, it did.
The rookie linebacker is racking up the tackling numbers to deep down the field of play. He continually got washed out of the play by the Ravens offensive line and took bad angles on run plays. The rookie will need to get better at taking angles on tackles.
Pat Shurmur continues to outsmart himself and the Browns on game day. His play-calling and decision-making at the times it matters most have cost the Browns at least two victories. I know the players are on the field, but coaches matter in the NFL (see the Saints without Sean Peyton).