Browns vs. Raiders: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Cleveland

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIDecember 2, 2012

Browns vs. Raiders: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Cleveland

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    The Cleveland Browns (4-8) defeated the Oakland Raiders (3-9) 20-17 in Oakland in a close Week 13 NFL matchup.

    Cleveland snapped a 12-game road losing streak that begun when it lost to the Raiders in Oakland during Week 6 of the 2011 season.

    Sheldon Brown intercepted Carson Palmer inside the Cleveland Browns 10-yard line and then the Browns went 94 yards on 14 plays and scored on a 3-yard Trent Richardson touchdown run. That put the team up by two scores with a little over two minutes left to play.

    Palmer threw a late touchdown pass with one second left to play to tight end Brandon Myers to finish the scoring.

    Rod Streater beat Buster Skrine on a seam route and took the pass 64 yards for a Raiders touchdown. Skrine misplayed the route and Palmer lobbed it over the top for an easy touchdown connection.

    The play brought the Raiders within three points in the fourth quarter.

    Earlier, a completion to Greg Little put the Browns in Raiders territory, and the rookie tandem of Brandon Weeden and Josh Gordon connected on a 44-yard touchdown pass and catch. Gordon burned CB Ron Bartell down the sideline and Weeden hit him in stride for his fifth touchdown of the season.

    Phil Dawson connected on his 22nd and 23rd straight field goals of the season in the opening moments of the first half. It was his 28th and 29th straight made attempts dating back to last season. That set the franchise record for consecutive made field goals.

    However, Dawson missed a 28-yard attempt in the third quarter after it was deflected at the line of scrimmage and sailed left. His streak ends at 29, which is 13 short of the NFL record of 42 straight.

Quarterback

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    Brandon Weeden: B-

    Brandon Weeden played well for most of the Cleveland Browns win over the Oakland Raiders. The rookie quarterback made some accurate throws but surely would like to have back a couple of his bad ones.

    He started out with two interceptions in the first half, one of which was passed inside the Raiders' 10-yard line. The first was overthrown, intended for Benjamin Watson. Safety Matt Giordano had the ball right into his arms after it sailed to deep for Watson.

    Most of his problems stemmed from the surprisingly potent pass rush of the Raiders. His second interception was thrown with a defender on top of him as he was releasing it.

    Overall, his throws were on point and he played within the system. A nicely thrown pass on a fade to Josh Gordon helped the Browns go up by 10 points. They kept a lead for the remainder as Weeden found open receivers and did enough to win in this one.

    The rookie quarterback set a career high with 364 yards passing. It could have been even more had he not made the mistakes that he did in the first half.

Running Backs

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    Trent Richardson: A

    The holes weren’t always there but the tough rookie back kept pushing and fighting and ended up with a pretty respectable performance. He finished with 72 yards on 20 carries (3.8 YPC).

    Up three points, the Browns rode Richardson into the end zone to give the team a 10-point lead with a little over two minutes left to play. Richardson took the handoff on a fake end-around and cut it back to the weak side and slipped into the end zone.

    His biggest play, though, was one he didn’t have much to do on. Brandon Weeden stepped up in the picket on a 4th-and-short and then dumped it off to the running back who then took it deep into Raiders territory.

    Montario Hardesty: A-

    Hardesty played a limited role despite Trent Richardson playing through a rib injury. His limited action included a nice 19-yard sweep. The RB was untouched around the corner of the line but also displayed nice burst as he cut the ball around the corner and turned it upfield.

    He finished with 20 yards on four more carries to give him 39 yards in backup duty to Richardson (7.8 YPC).

Wide Receivers

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    Greg Little: A

    Little was elusive after the catch, making defenders miss and getting down the field. His ability to turn small gains into first downs helped the Browns sustain drives, and he caught four of the five passes that came his way.

    Josh Gordon: A+

    Gordon became the Browns leading touchdown receiver by snagging his fifth of the season on a 44-yard bomb from Brandon Weeden. Gordon blew past Ron Bartell along the far sideline, and fellow rookie Weeden found him and connected for the big touchdown.

    He also got behind the coverage on another play, but Weeden left the ball short due to pressure in his face and it was picked. Still, Gordon wasn’t done. He ended with over 100 yards for the first time in his young career and did it on a variety of different catches.

    Mohamed Massaquoi: B+

    Massaquoi caught just two passes but one of them counted. He ran an in route underneath a seam by Greg Little that opened up the middle of the field. Weeden led him in stride and Little’s huge block sprung him for a 54-yard gain.

    His other grab was an underneath route on 3rd-and-long. Weeden hit him but he failed to get the ball upfield and ended up short of the first-down marker. Cleveland punted.

    Travis Benjamin: C

    Benjamin wasn’t much of a factor again this week. He did see some snaps and was on the field but wasn’t involved in the game plan.

Tight Ends

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    Benjamin Watson: A

    Watson is becoming one of Brandon Weeden’s favorite targets. The veteran tight end had season highs in receptions (six) and yards (80). If not for a poorly thrown pass in the first quarter, he could have ended with over 100 yards and a touchdown.

    His biggest strength in this game was getting the ball from Weeden and then making things happen in the open field. He hauled in six of the nine targets that came his way.

    Jordan Cameron: B

    Cameron was absent from the field for a lot of the afternoon but did catch two key passes down the stretch. That included a nice catch-and-run that moved the Browns downfield on their final game-winning touchdown drive.

Offensive Line

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    Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz: B

    Thomas and Schwartz played decent games considering the circumstances. Cleveland’s offensive line struggled throughout much of the game, giving up nine knockdowns, six hurries and one sack on quarterback Brandon Weeden.

    Most of the disruption was due to heavy pressures and extra blitzers from the Raiders defense.

    John Greco: B+

    Greco had another solid outing in relief for injured starter Jason Pinkston. His big block, along with Mack’s, helped spring Trent Richardson into the end zone to seal the team’s victory.

    Alex Mack: B+

    The interior of the Browns line played pretty well despite some struggles picking up blitzes. All in all, it was a good game for Mack. He used good awareness to stand up after Raiders defenders jumped into the neutral zone while inside the Raiders 10-yard line. That forced a 5-yard penalty and gave the Browns a first down at Oakland’s 5-yard line.

    Cleveland punched it in behind a block by Mack two plays later to seal the win.

    Shawn Lauvao: C-

    Lauvao was pushed into the pocket several times and flat-out beat a couple of other times. Weeden’s second interception that was underthrown to Josh Gordon was due to the lineman being pushed into his quarterback while he was releasing the throw.

Defensive Line

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    Jabaal Sheard: B-

    Sheard got some decent pressure on Carson Palmer throughout the game but he was unable to get near the Oakland Raiders’ QB.

    Phil Taylor, Billy Winn, John Hughes and Ahtyba Rubin: B-

    Cleveland's defensive tackle rotation was effective in clogging up the middle but was also held in check for most of the game. As a group they recorded just five tackles and were blown out of their gaps at times to make way for some big gains for the Raiders on the ground.

    Frostee Rucker: A-

    Rucker made a couple of great plays in this one, although he was not involved in very many. The defensive end finished with two tackles and also batted down a Carson Palmer pass.

    He absolutely blew up a 3rd-and-short run that killed the Raiders opening drive. Oakland was driving and it was a key stop on the Browns’ 44-yard line to prevent any early points.

    Juqua Parker: B+

    Parker, as usual, provided the heat on the quarterback for the Browns defensive line. The situational pass-rusher blew up the Raiders left tackle and got enough of Palmer to drop him behind the line. That sack moved Oakland out of field-goal range and it was forced to punt.

Linebackers

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    D’Qwell Jackson: B+

    Jackson continued to be a disruptive force in the middle of the Browns defense. The Raiders ran the ball just 17 times but he still finished with five total tackles.

    Craig Robertson: B

    Robertson got some action due to a lot of nickel-package sets by the Browns defense. He typically plays alongside Jackson in those situations.

    James-Michael Johnson: C

    Johnson was not very active in the defense when he was on the field against the Raiders. Most of that, as mentioned, may be due to his limited time out there because of the Browns going with Robertson in nickel sets.

    On one specific play, the Browns front was stacked to the strong side and Johnson was on that side as well. Carson Palmer audibled the play to the weak side and easily got past the line of scrimmage. Johnson over-pursued and was easily blocked out of the play.

    The rookie did not record a tackle of any kind during the game.

    Kaluka Maiava: B+

    Maiava finished the game with three tackles and one forced fumble. Raiders wide receiver Juron Criner took a screen pass up the field and Maiava knocked it loose. Oakland was able to fall on it, though.

Defensive Backs

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    Joe Haden: A-

    Haden had a relatively quiet game due to Carson Palmer’s preference to throw away from the talented defensive back. However, Haden was beat on two consecutive first-down completions by Palmer to Darrius Heyward-Bey. He was playing man coverage and was simply beat by the speedy wide receiver.

    Sheldon Brown: A+

    Sheldon Brown played a truly great game for the Browns defense. Palmer elected to target the veteran the majority of the game and the results were mixed.

    He wasn’t just effective in pass defense, either. Brown stepped up and made a huge open-field tackle on a 3rd-and-short dump pass to running back Jeremy Stewart. That forced a Raiders punt.

    Perhaps the biggest play for Brown and the Browns as a team was an interception halfway through the final quarter. He had perfect coverage on a pass attempted for Criner and watched Palmer the whole time. Brown stayed with the WR and broke at the perfect time to get the takeaway.

    Buster Skrine: D+

    Skrine had an up-and-down performance that will mostly be remembered for the negatives down the stretch.

    Early on he was having a good game, though. His tight coverage on a throw to Denarius Moore displayed perfect technique and a well-timed break on the ball.

    He was also responsible for stopping a couple of plays as they developed, racking up one tackle behind the line and also deflecting two Carson Palmer passes.

    Then the bad, more memorable stuff happened. He was beat by rookie wide receiver Rod Streater in the slot in man-to-man coverage. Palmer sniffed it out from the snap and tossed a pass down the seam, over the top of Skrine, for a 64-yard touchdown connection.

    Then, on a Cleveland punt, Skrine hit the punt returner after a fair catch was called. That resulted in a 15-yard penalty.

    T.J. Ward: B-

    Ward continues to be playing more in coverage and not stepping up toward the line of scrimmage as frequently. He finished the game with just three tackles and was responsible for giving up a Raiders first-down reception.

    Tashaun Gipson: A-

    The undrafted rookie was flying all over the field in this game. It showed when it was all said and done as he recorded a team-high eight tackles.

    Eric Hagg: B+

    The second-year defensive back was beat a couple of times in man-to-man coverage by Brandon Myers for first downs. The second one was a crucial first down at the Browns 33-yard line in the fourth quarter before Brown’s key interception.

    He played an important role in the secondary, though. Hagg kept plays in front of him and didn’t over-pursue as he had earlier in the season. That caused him to be benched in favor of Gipson and Usama Young. The safety finished with seven total tackles.

Special Teams

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    Phil Dawson: A

    It’s hard to blame Dawson for his first miss in 30 attempts. The snap was high and then the kick was deflected and it still only barely sailed wide left.

    On a positive note, he did connect on two field goals. The first and second made attempts resulted in his 28th and 29th straight made field goals. That set a new franchise record.

    Reggie Hodges: B+

    Hodges punted just twice, a rarity for the usually busy Cleveland Browns punter.

    One was nicely kicked and downed inside the Raiders 20-yard line, and the second was a 43-yarder that had nice hang-time and did not allow a Raiders return.

    Josh Cribbs: B

    Cribbs was decent but not spectacular in both the punt and kick return games. He flashed a couple of moves on one punt return and spun in order to notch a 9-yard return. That was his longest of just two returnable punts that he fielded.

Coaching

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    Pat Shurmur: B+

    Let's face it: There is always going to be one or two decisions that Pat Shurmur makes that raise some eyebrows. The young coach called an effective game in Oakland, though, and should be recognized for that effort. 

    Play-calling was good for the most part but bogged down once the team got a lead. Interceptions deep in Oakland territory didn't help the decision-making of Shurmur, either.

    Conservative offensive game-planning continues to be an issue once the Browns get a lead.

    Shurmur's two decisions to go for it on 4th-and-short were absolute game-changing calls that ended up helping the Browns win this one. Kudos to him for having the fortitude to give his players the chance to get it done and put the Raiders away. 

    Dick Jauron: B

    Jauron's nickel sets were being exposed at times by Oakland runs up the middle. For two weeks in a row the defense has failed to get enough pressure on the opposing quarterback.

    There seemed to be less called blitzes by defensive backs compared to what we have seen in recent weeks. Usama Young was inactive which may have had something to do with that decision.

     

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