Chiefs vs. Browns: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Cleveland
Cleveland won its third-straight game and kept itself mathematically alive for a playoff berth. After beginning the season 0-5, the Browns have now won five of their last eight games.
Things started off rocky for the Browns, though. Jamaal Charles took a hand-off on the first play of the game 80-yards for a Kansas City Chiefs touchdown.
Cleveland responded. It took the ball down the field on its second possession thanks to big plays to Greg Little and Josh Gordon. However, after getting the ball to the Chiefs' 3-yard line, the drive stalled and the Browns settled for a 23-yard Phil Dawson field goal.
It was Dawson's 300th-career field goal.
The opening play of the second quarter saw Travis Benjamin break a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown. Benjamin juked and maneuvered behind his blockers and then turned on a different gear to blow past the Chiefs' coverage team.
The return touchdown is the Browns' first special teams TD of the season and longest in franchise history. Eric Metcalf held the previous record with a 92-yard score.
Cleveland started on its own 40-yard line after the Chiefs' opening second-half kickoff went out of bounds. The Browns didn't squander the field position and marched down the the field, scoring on a 1-yard Trent Richardson TD run.
Brady Quinn's pass was deflected by Sheldon Brown and fell into the hands of undrafted-rookie Tashaun Gipson. Weeden put the Browns inside the Chiefs 5-yard line and into the end zone twice, however the back-to-back touchdowns were negated by consecutive offensive penalties.
Cleveland settled for another Phil Dawson field goal.
Trent Richardson added his second TD of the game on a 1-yard run following a 17-yard scamper by wide receiver Greg Little. Montario Hardesty got the first crack at the end zone and fumbled, but was able to recover. Richardson took it in for the score on the next play.
That touchdown, his ninth of the season, tied Richardson with Jim Brown for the most rushing scores by a Browns running back in franchise history with.
FINAL GAME GRADE: B+
Cleveland Browns’ rookie QB Brandon Weeden made a few bad decisions and few more bad throws, but overall played a solid game.
Also, he held onto the football too long at times. That resulted in coverage having time to recover and breakup plays. It also helped the pass rush get in his face, sacking him three times and batting down two of his passes.
Still, he put some nice touch on a couple off passes and was calm in the pocket despite the pressure around him. Maybe a little bit too calm as mentioned above.
He didn’t get into the end zone with his arm but his decision making and execution were keys to helping the Browns move the football down the field.
Trent Richardson: B
Richardson tied the Cleveland Browns rookie rushing touchdown record by scoring his ninth touchdown this season on a 1-yard dive. He punched in his eighth touchdown earlier in the game on another 1-yard effort.
However, there wasn’t much running room for the No. 3-overall pick. He managed just 42 yards on the ground on 18 carries (2.2 YPC).
Despite the lack of productivity, Richardson kept his legs churning and moved several piles for big chunks of yardage after initial contact. Without that effort his resulting performance could have been even less desirable.
Montario Hardesty: B-
Hardesty has really come on as a nice change-of-pace back for the Browns’ offense. He hits the holes along the offensive line with urgency and explodes into them. He finished with more yards per carry than Richardson (5.2).
However, he did fumble on the goal line when given the opportunity to get into the end zone. Hardesty fell back on the ball, but ball security, especially right there, is of the utmost importance. Richardson came in the next play to punch it in for a touchdown.
Josh Gordon: A+
Gordon continues to develop into a true No. 1 receiver for the Cleveland Browns. His route running has developed dramatically over the course of the season and that’s helped him get in position for Brandon Weeden to get him the football.
He made a couple of nice catches and earned some yards after the catch. He did have a drop on a slant pass inside the Browns’ own 20-yard line, but was impressive other than that.
Greg Little: A
Little had one of his best games of the season, hauling in four of his seven targets for 69 yards. Most of those yards came after the catch, too.
He ran extremely hard and ran fluid routes, repeatedly making plays after the catch.
His 17-yard scamper brought the Browns inside the Chiefs’ 5-yard line to set up a Trent Richardson touchdown run.
Travis Benjamin: A
Benjamin didn’t catch any passes but his 93-yard punt return TD helped spark a big day for the Cleveland Browns. He also ran for 15 yards on play-action, double reverse toss.
Mohamed Massaquoi: C
Mohamed Massaquoi was targeted just one time and recorded no receptions for the Browns.
Benjamin Watson: B+
Watson struggled in the blocking game with some of the strong and fast pass rushers of the Chiefs. Tamba Hali blew past him for a sack in the first quarter.
He did make some good plays throughout the game, though. His touchdown reception was negated due to a penalty on the offense, but he did haul in three catches for 43 yards.
Watson also played a little bit of defense, breaking up what could have been a Brandon Weeden interception by Chiefs S Eric Berry.
Jordan Cameron: C-
The second-year tight end didn’t make much on an impact. His lone catch was a meaningless one that was well short of the first-down marker.
His biggest impact came on a penalty that negated Watson’s short touchdown grab. He started in motion before the offense was set and the penalty cost the Browns a TD.
Joe Thomas: B+
Thomas and the entire Cleveland Browns’ offensive line struggled at times at keeping the competent Kansas City Chiefs’ pass rush at bay. Weeden was dropped three times and pressured frequently but the line held its own. Some of Weeden’s pressure came as a result of holding onto the ball too long.
John Greco: B+
Greco had a quiet but effective game inside for the Browns. He opened up some holes, especially on a couple nice runs by Montario Hardesty.
Alex Mack: C+
Mack had a mental lapse that resulted in a false start penalty just one play after Brandon Weeden was sacked in the first quarter. This backed up the Browns and forced them to punt.
Later, he whiffed on a block attempt on LB Derrick Johnson which led to a 6-yard loss on a pitch to Trent Richardson.
Shawn Lauvao: B+
Lauvao has taken some heat this season for assignment errors and just flat out getting beat by the man lining up across from him. He wasn’t perfect in this one, but he was physical and was a big catalyst in the team’s ability to move the pile and get Trent Richardson some extra yards after first contact.
Mitchell Schwartz: C
The rookie tackle had an up-and-down game that was rough game at times. LB Justin Houston beat him several times, including one bull rush that sent the rook back into Weeden. Another Houston rush saw him get pushed into the pocket and planted on his back.
Jabaal Sheard: A-
Sheard hasn’t been very productive on the stat sheet but he did notch a sack in this one. He dropped Brady Quinn and forced a punt in the fourth quarter.
He wasn’t just active on that one play, though. He created pressure and got a hit on Quinn earlier in the action as well.
Frostee Rucker: A
Frostee Rucker had an explosive game for the Browns’ defense. He was a force to be reckoned with along the line of scrimmage while being in on seven tackles.
His sack came on a shoe-string tackle of Quinn in the second quarter after the Browns’ six-man blitz flushed him out of pocket.
Phil Taylor: B+/Incomplete
Taylor left in the first quarter with an ankle injury. He was brought back to the locker room but did come back out to the field. His stats included one tackle for a loss for the game.
Ahtya Rubin: B+
Rubin, with exception to the 80-yard touchdown run, helped contain the Kansas City Cheifs’ rushing game for much of the afternoon. His big-play from the game was an explosion through the line that resulted in a 3-yard tackle for a loss on Charles.
Rubin left the game in the third quarter but returned shortly after.
Juqua Parker: B-
Parker’s aggressiveness has helped the veteran to a fine season rushing the passer. It didn’t pay off in the waning moments of the first quarter. He jumped offsides and gave the Chiefs a first down after the Browns had stuffed the Chiefs’ 3rd-down play.
That aggressiveness got him flagged on a questionable roughing the passer call after getting in Quinn’s face and putting him on his back.
Finally, Parker’s aggressiveness paid off when he got to Quinn for a sack on a 4th-down play in Browns territory.
Billy Winn: B+
The rookie got some extra playing time due to injuries to Taylor and Rubin. His penetration and harassment of Brady Quinn on a 3rd-down attempt forced a Chiefs punt.
Kansas City got the ball back in the waning moments of the first half and tried to run the ball near midfield. He blew the play up and the Chiefs elected to go into the half after that play.
John Hughes: A-
Rookie DT John Hughes also got some added playing time and racked up three tackles and one sack in the process. He blew up his blocker on a Brady Quinn pass attempt and dragged the former Browns’ QB to the grass like a rag doll. He displayed excellent burst off the snap and a bull rush that his blocker couldn’t handle.
D’Qwell Jackson: A-
Jackson continued to play well as the leader of the Cleveland Browns defense. He tied for a team-high seven tackles along with Craig Robertson and Frostee Rucker.
His half-sack came on a Brady Quinn scramble. Quinn tried getting to the outside but Kaluka Maiava fought through a blocker and forced him back inside to help Jackson bring him down behind the line.
Kaluka Maiava: B
Maiava wasn’t too active in this one but did make a couple of plays on the quarterback. His pressure on a designed blitz forced Quinn out of the pocket and resulted in Frostee Rucker’s sack.
He combined with D’Qwell Jackson for a sack of his own in the third quarter.
Craig Robertson: A-
Robertson continues to be a huge surprise for the Browns’ defense. He laid a huge hit on Dexter McCluster to stop him 1-yard shy of the first-down marker.
Robertson, as mentioned, was in on seven total tackles including that big punt-forcing hit on McCluster.
James-Michael Johnson: B
Johnson was an adequate contributor for Cleveland in this win. He compiled four tackles and helped prevent a touchdown throw by Brady Quinn. Quinn was pressured and tried to hit TE Steve Maneri but Johnson was in the area to help prevent the completion.
Joe Haden: A-
Brady Quinn didn’t shy away from throwing in Haden’s direction. The standout CB was beat by Dwayne Bowe on a play-action pass for 42 yards. Bowe appeared to push off on the play but there was no call. Terrance Copper caught a pass on an in route with Haden in coverage.
Quinn went Haden’s way more throughout the rest of the game but the CB was up to the challenge and shut down everything else that came his way.
Sheldon Brown: A
The veteran cornerback had a quiet game but did make one critical play. He read Quinn’s eyes on a short route and nearly intercepted the pass. He jumped the pass and nearly intercepted it. The ball was deflected in the air as a result and Tashaun Gipson swooped in for the INT.
T.J. Ward: B-
Things started out rough for Browns’ safety T.J. Ward and the defense. After Charles went untouched through the first two layers of the Browns’ defense, Ward stumbled and fell at the 37-yard line. Charles went untouched even further after that.
Ward’s coverage on Tony Moeaki and a miscommunication between the QB and his target helped result in Ward’s deflection of a pass at the goal line. The Browns’ safety added four tackles to his stat line in addition to that deflection.
Tashaun Gipson: A
The undrafted free agent swooped in to record an opportunistic interception off of a deflection by Sheldon Brown. He was active in the snaps he did receiver and recorded two tackles in addition to that interception.
Being in the right place and the right time isn’t always a coincidence. Gipson looks like a real diamond in the rough.
Buster Skrine: C+
Skrine didn’t get as many snaps as usual as the Browns’ played a lot of base defense in this one. He was beat on a route and then juked by Jamar Newsome for a 25-yard gain in the fourth quarter.
Usama Young: B-
Young was used as a pass rusher at times, as usual, but wasn’t able to get to the quarter. Still, he was effective in stepping up and making plays during his split time with Gipson. He finished with two tackles on the afternoon.
Phil Dawson: A
Phil Dawson continued his excellent for the Browns. He wasn’t asked to hit from very far, as his longest was from 34 yards out. Early in the game he connected on his 300th career field goal.
Reggie Hodges: B+
Hodges kicked an average game for the Browns’ special teams unit. His kicks were high and relatively deep and left little room for the Chiefs to mount a return. They totaled just five yards on three attempted returns.
Josh Cribbs: A-
Cribbs didn’t break a touchdown like rookie teammate Travis Benjamin, but did break a 38-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. He finished with three punt returns for 51 yards.
Pat Shurmur: A-
Despite a couple of questionable decisions by Shurmur, the Browns executed and stifled the Kansas City Chiefs for their third-consecutive win.
Offensively, the team’s play calling was creative and mixed in some trick plays along with two snaps for Josh Cribbs out of the Wildcat formation. It was one of the better games for the second-year head coach.
The biggest positive was that Shurmur's game plan was executed very well by his players. As a result, some of the things he does made a little more sense this week.
Dick Jauron: A
Defensively, a lapse on the first play and a push-off by Dwayne Bowe resulted in the only two blemishes of an otherwise impressive game. Jauron dialed up pressure and got after quarterback Brady Quinn.
The former Browns’ QB wasn’t able to get comfortable and struggled to do much of anything as a result of what the Browns D was giving him.
Chris Tabor: A
Tabor doesn't get mentioned very often for the things that he does well. That's because the special teams unit hasn't done very much well this season. Penalties and poor schemes have hindered returns and allowed opponents to exploit the Browns at times this season.
Not on this day.
Tabor's decision to put Travis Benjamin deep and disguise a return in a punt block set allowed for the rookie speedster to get the cushion he needed in order to make a play.
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