After three weeks of riding high, the Cleveland Browns finally crashed back down to Earth. Not only did they let a 10-point halftime lead disappear, they watched a city’s faith follow it right out the window.
The Detroit Lions scored 24 unanswered points in the second half and dominated Cleveland in every aspect of the game. As the players left the field, they were showered in a cascade of boos and angry jeers. The only fans who remained in the stands as the clock hit zero wore blue jerseys.
Before they hit the road, however, we must look back at their 31-17 loss to the Lions Sunday.
The vibe around downtown Cleveland before the Browns played the Lions was electric. The drum line marched down W. 6th Street in front of tens of thousands of Browns fans, and there was talk of competing for the AFC North crown.
After the game, there was talk of cutting quarterback Brandon Weeden and debate on whether or not the Browns should have kept Thaddeus Lewis, who is now with the Buffalo Bills.
Fair or not, fans don’t like Weeden, and they are going to let him know about it. Tweets were flying at his Twitter account after the game, and they were not pretty.
Here are a few that turned up in a quick search of Weeden’s name on Twitter.
“@j_klimack20 Brandon weeden needs to die"
“@KPolchosky here's a question. has a Brandon Weeden jersey ever been sold and to whom? #worstever”
“@dawg4life85 @bweeden3 I'm 99.999999% positive you are the worst QB in league history”
Since quarterback Brian Hoyer, who looked so promising for two weeks, suffered a season-ending knee injury, Brandon Weeden will be left to absorb the fans' anger.
After Weeden threw what was quite possibly the worst interception in the history of the NFL, there was still 4:30 left in the fourth quarter and the Browns were only down seven points.
That did not stop the fans at FirstEnergy Stadium from filing out into the streets.
The Browns still had a very legitimate shot at getting a defensive stop and at least one more shot at tying the game. The fans had so little faith in Weeden that they didn’t even wait around to see the result. They already knew there was no chance at a comeback.
Here is a GIF of Weeden’s interception courtesy of LarryBrownsSports.com.
The front office needs to decide quickly whether or not they have faith in Weeden. He is now 0-3 as the Browns' starter and has had a very hard time getting the offense to perform at a competitive level.
His first half Sunday was very good. He went 12-of-20 for 135 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for a 92.7 QB rating.
His second half was the complete opposite; he went 6-of-13 for 157 yards and one interception with a 61.1 QB rating.
The coaching staff continues to place faith in Weeden, but the front office seems to feel otherwise. Tom Pelissero of USA Today reported the Browns were going to meet with free agent quarterback Tyler Thigpen on October 4.
If the Browns’ front office doesn’t feel like Weeden can win games, then they will need to look elsewhere.
Whether they replace him with quarterback Jason Campbell or someone outside the organization, Weeden just can’t seem to take care of the football well enough to compete for the divisional crown.
For the first time this season, the Browns' coaching staff was out-schemed.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner called a masterful second quarter on offense, but he let things get away from him in the second half.
The Browns had balance at halftime. They had 115 rushing yards on 16 attempts and 135 yards through the air. In the second half, Turner called just five run plays and put all the pressure on Weeden to win the game offensively.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was no better. While his defense dominated in the first half, the Lions made adjustments at halftime that Horton could not stop.
In the first half, running back Reggie Bush had seven carries for 14 yards and no receptions. In the second half Bush had 10 rushes for 64 yards and five receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz’s staff did a fabulous job of changing the game plan at halftime, and that is why they scored 24 unanswered points.
The knock on Turner in San Diego was that he forgot about his running backs too often and let the game ride on his quarterback’s shoulders.
To run the ball just five times in the entire second half is inexcusable. Weeden is obviously not built to carry a football team to victory by himself. Last game against Buffalo, he was able to make plays because the Bills respected the run.
The Lions had no reason to respect the Browns' rushing attack in the second half. It’s not as if the run was ineffective, either. The Browns were well on their way to their best rushing day of the year against one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL.
Detroit is prone to big gains on the ground. This is especially true in the second half. The Browns didn’t even try to exploit that fact.
While Ray Horton did a poor job of reacting to the Lions’ second-half game plan, D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Robertson did and even worse job of reacting on the field.
The Lions’ offensive coordinator Scott Linehan decided that there was an opportunity to gain serious yardage against this group, and he was right.
Craig Robertson was exposed play after play in the second half. Even when he wasn’t beaten in man coverage, the Lions were attacking the zone he was defending. Two of tight end Joseph Fauria’s three touchdowns were against the linebackers, and about 90 percent of Reggie Bush’s production was as well.
This has been a common theme throughout the season, but Horton has always found a way to schematically limit the damage. He could not do it on Sunday.
On a positive note, cornerback Buster Skrine is becoming a legitimate playmaker.
He had two more passes defended today and four more tackles. He also made the biggest play of the game on defense when he dove and broke up a pass in the end zone that resulted in a Tashaun Gipson interception.
He now has 11 passes defended and 25 tackles on the season. Since Week 2, he has played like a legitimate cornerback who can hold his own across from Joe Haden.
While Haden will get all the headlines, Skrine is actually playing better in coverage over the middle of the field right now. The last two weeks, Haden has struggled a bit against inside routes. Skrine, who plays with a physical mean streak, has been much better at battling through traffic.
Another positive to take away from the loss was the play of the offensive line. The line allowed just two sacks and six QB hits against a very formidable Detroit defensive line.
Brandon Weeden had plenty of time to throw throughout the game and was able to find wide receiver Josh Gordon down the field time and time again. They even kept a clean enough pocket for Weeden to step up and make throws on multiple occasions.
In the running game, they opened holes for Willis McGahee and were able to block ahead of pitches and end-around plays which resulted in big gains.
It seems as though guard Shawn Lauvao’s return has sparked a resurgence on the line.