Browns vs. Vikings: Live Game Grades and Analysis for Cleveland

Andy McNamara@@AndyMc81Correspondent IISeptember 22, 2013

Browns' 19th starting quarterback since the club's return in 1999, Brian Hoyer
Browns' 19th starting quarterback since the club's return in 1999, Brian HoyerJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns defied all odds in pulling out a huge road victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

For the third straight week, Cleveland relinquished a first-half lead, but quarterback Brian Hoyer was able to rebound and engineer a late-fourth quarter touchdown to secure the victory.

Final Score:

Browns- 31

Vikings- 27

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 22: Jordan Cameron #84 of the Cleveland Browns scores a touchdown as Jamarca Sanford #33 of the Minnesota Vikings attempts to push Cameron out of bounds before crossing the goal line during the second quarter of the game on Sep
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Final Game Analysis for the Cleveland Browns 

Pass offense: Brian Hoyer threw a pair of second-half interceptions, three total on the game. The second pick of the half resulted in Viking’s quarterback Christian Ponder scoring his second quarterback draw touchdown of the afternoon.

Hoyer’s accuracy diminished as more hands got in his face and the right side of the offensive line broke down, specifically Mitchell Schwartz. Missed assignments by Greg Little and Josh Gordon didn’t help, either. In the end, Hoyer was money when it counted and engineered the winning drive.

All in all, Jordan Cameron was in beast mode today as he scored three touchdowns, which included the game-winner. Gordon’s return cannot be overstated as he generally opened up the entire Browns offense. Ten receptions for 146 yards: Welcome back, No. 12.

Run offense: Willis McGahee got into a groove to start the half, but Cleveland abandoned the run game in the final quarter. The leading rusher turned out to be Josh Aubrey on his 34-yard fake punt run. Hopefully, a week with the playbook for McGahee improves the overall ground attack in Week 4.

Pass defense: Back-to-back sacks for Cleveland in the third quarter continued the constant front-seven pressure. Those knockdowns were courtesy of John Hughes and Barkevious Mingo, while Desmond Bryant highlighted the afternoon by ferociously flipping Christian Ponder to the turf as time expired.

A tip of the cap goes to Craig Robertson’s non-stop motor as he relentlessly pursued the quarterback and ball-carrier. The Cleveland offense stayed on the field just long enough to keep the pass rush fresh, as we did not see the fatigue that occurred in the first two weeks of the season.

Run defense: D’Qwell Jackson violently struck Adrian Peterson to knock the ball loose, and the Browns recovered that fumble in the third quarter. It negated Hoyer’s second interception of the game and was all part of a mediocre day for Peterson (88-yards and 3.5 yards per carry).

The defense kept losing track of Christian Ponder in the red zone, as he rushed for his second touchdown of the day in the second half. Ponder also used his legs to convert multiple first downs.

Special teams: Travis Benjamin recovered from poor return efforts in the first half with a 28-yard runback in the third frame, but nothing notable after. The Browns' kick-coverage unit kept up the solid play from the opening half. Punter Spencer Lanning capped off his incredible performance by kicking an extra point in the fourth quarter because of quad tightness in kicker Billy Cundiff.

Coaching: An aggressive play call by head coach Rob Chudzinski in the third quarter doesn’t pay off on 4th-and-4 as Hoyer’s pass is batted down. It was a sloppy second half overall, but give credit to the coaching staff for the perfect blend of short and intermediate passing calls in that late touchdown drive.

First-Half Analysis 

Pass offense: After a slow start, quarterback Brian Hoyer completed seven straight passes. "Savior" may be too strong of a word, but Josh Gordon is close. On top of his 47-yard touchdown catch following a nasty double move to break coverage, he dominated with four total receptions and 103 receiving yards. Tight end Jordan Cameron continued his early-season dominance by scoring twice. Both Gordon and Cameron are elite-level talents. The only real blemish was an ugly Hoyer interception that came with only 47 seconds remaining in the half.

Run offense: This running back-by-committee production is non-existent…except if you throw Josh Gordon into the mix. Gordon surprised the Vikings defense with a 22-yard end-around. Excluding Josh Aubrey's 34-yard fake punt rush, the leading Browns rusher was Bobby Rainey for seven yards.

Pass defense: Rookie Barkevious Mingo forced the initial pressure on Christian Ponder that led to Billy Winn’s first quarter sack. The linemen continued their success as Phil Taylor took Ponder down with one hand to collect a second quarter sack. Outside linebacker Paul Kruger is quietly producing a monster game, constantly pressuring the quarterback, and Jabaal Sheard ended the half with an exclamation point as he whacked Ponder’s arm to force a fumble. That was recovered by Craig Robertson.

The Browns continue to be susceptible to the deep ball anywhere away from Joe Haden. Once again, Buster Skrine and Chris Owens are being picked apart on the outside. Skrine has been effective when covering the slot, limiting big gains on short routes. One positive was a TJ Ward interception coming off of a Craig Robertson tipped pass. It goes to show once again how vital Cleveland’s front-seven pressure is to the defense’s success.

Run defense: Considering the chore it is to contain Adrian Peterson, the run defense has looked pretty good. AP did score a touchdown but was held to 3.4 yards per carry.

Special teams: Travis Benjamin looked terrible on punt returns. He muffed a late second quarter kick that was recovered by Minnesota. Benjamin also lost yardage on another return attempt. Cleveland’s coverage team held Vikings return game in check. Kicker Billy Cundiff nailed a 38-yard field goal and was consistently putting the ball to the back of the end zone on kickoffs.

This special teams unit has more trick plays than a Madden NFL video game! A fake punt direct snap run to undrafted rookie Josh Aubrey help to set up a fake field-goal touchdown. That came from punter Spencer Lanning to Jordan Cameron for the tight end's second score of the game.

Coaching: Nice creativity shown in the Josh Gordon end-around as well as a solid blend of short and long passing calls. A fake punt gamble paid off on a direct snap to Josh Aubrey that resulted in a 34-yard scramble. More tricks follow with a fake field-goal attempt that became a touchdown pass from punter Spencer Lanning to tight end Jordan Cameron. Lanning’s pass looked better than anything Weeden has thrown all season. Bold moves by a team with nothing to lose.


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