Sometimes I feel like Cleveland Browns fans are stuck in an eternal replay of the movie The Godfather Part III. Every time they think they are out, the Browns pull them back in.
It was just a few short weeks ago that fans were resigned to another losing season and the prospect of selecting a true franchise quarterback in next year’s draft. Then their beloved football team rattled off three straight wins.
Could this have been the turnaround they had been waiting for?
It doesn’t seem that way. With inconsistent quarterback play, a young roster and a front office with one eye to the future, it seems that this year may once again follow the path of so many others.
So what went wrong in the Browns' 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions? Let’s take a look in this week’s roster grades to find out.
Brandon Weeden: D+
Brandon Weeden played one good quarter against the Lions.
That isn’t good enough to win five games in a season, let alone make a run at the playoffs. While he was dominant in the second quarter, going 10-of-15 for 124 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, he was terrible the rest of the game.
Over the other three quarters, Weeden was 8-of-18 for 168 yards and an interception.
He made poor decisions with the football, committed a horrendous intentional grounding penalty and panicked time and time again, not to mention the absolute joke of an interception he threw in crunch time.
The protection was good enough that Weeden should have picked apart the Lions' secondary. Instead, he continued to prove that he is not built to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Previous position grades: D+, C+, C+, A, B+
Willis McGahee, Travis Benjamin, Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey: B+
This was the first time all season that the Browns were able to control the game on the ground. It’s too bad offensive coordinator Norv Turner completely forgot about that in the second half.
At halftime, the Browns had 116 rushing yards on 16 carries and were beating up the Lions in their biggest soft spot.
When the game ended, the Browns had just 21 carries for 126 yards and a whole lot of questions.
Why did Turner shut off the creativity and abandon the run game in the second half? Could it have helped Brandon Weeden down the stretch? Would it have helped the defense stay fresh enough to win the game? I guess we will never know.
Previous position grades: C-, C-, D+, B-, B+
Josh Gordon, Davone Bess and Greg Little: C+
This category is completely dedicated to Josh Gordon. He was dominant once again, catching seven passes for 126 yards. He did have a drop early in the game, but he bounced back nicely.
Greg Little had a decent game as well. While he only caught two passes, he made them count. One went for a touchdown, and the other was for a first down. He was probably robbed of a big catch in the fourth quarter, which was reviewed and still called an incomplete pass.
The rest of the receiving corps was nonexistent.
Previous position grades: D, D, A-, B+, A-
Jordan Cameron: B
Defenses have adjusted to Jordan Cameron and are limiting his catches up the seam. He finished with five catches for 64 yards on Sunday.
While his yardage is down, his blocking has gotten much better. He has solidified the right side of the line over the last two weeks and is providing good protection when he is called to stay in the trenches.
Norv Turner needs to split Cameron out wide more often to create mismatches for him. Teams are no longer just letting a linebacker cover him one-on-one. The Browns need to figure out a way to get him matched up on a smaller cornerback.
Previous position grades: A-, A-, A, A, C+
Joe Thomas, John Greco, Alex Mack, Shawn Lauvao and Mitchell Schwartz: A-
The offensive line played well enough to win on Sunday. The offensive line played well enough for someone to throw for 300 yards behind it and someone else to rush for 100.
Unfortunately, none of those things happened.
Guard Shawn Lauvao’s return has really solidified the right side of the line. The line is protecting at a high level once again. It allowed just two sacks to the Lions and only allowed six QB hits.
In the running game, the linemen consistently opened holes for backs to run though. When Turner got creative and called end-around plays, the guards were quick enough to get out in front of the play.
This was by far their best performance of the season.
Previous position grades: F, D+, D+, C+, C-
Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, John Hughes, Desmond Bryant, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Armonty Bryant: C+
The defensive line has not been as dominant the past two weeks. Against the Lions, the line struggled to stop the run early on in the game. It also had a very hard time getting to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
If you take away their Green Bay loss when Calvin Johnson did not play, Detroit had only allowed three sacks all year. The Lions continued that dominance on Sunday, allowing just one sack.
While there was pressure on Stafford at times, he releases the ball so quickly that it is hard to disrupt their offense. If the Browns’ offense had played better, I would imagine all the defensive grades would be higher.
Previous position grades: A+, B-, B-, A-, C+
Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo: C+
The speed of the Detroit offense neutralized the Browns’ outside linebackers quite a bit. The Lions do not run the ball between the tackles very often, but then again, they don’t run the ball very often at all.
Thirty-nine of Reggie Bush’s 78 yards came on one play, and most of his damage was done late in the game when the defense was tired.
The pass rush from Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo was virtually nonexistent because Stafford did such a good job stepping up in the pocket or getting rid of the football when there was heat. The Lions are a perfect example of how a quarterback with pocket presence and a quick release can improve protection and decrease sacks.
Previous position grades: A-, A-, B, B-, C
Craig Robertson and D’Qwell Jackson: D-
The only thing that saved this unit from an F was Craig Robertson’s one sack. Other than that play, this unit was abused all game long.
In the first half, the numbers against them were not staggering, but there were missed opportunities for the Lions. When the coaches went in at halftime, they decided that the most vulnerable part of the defense was Robertson and D’Qwell Jackson. They were right.
Robertson was beaten nearly a dozen times in coverage. Stafford threw into Jackson’s zone coverage with ease. When Lions running back Reggie Bush caught the ball out of the backfield, this unit was always two or three steps behind.
Robertson is going to have nightmares of chasing Bush for weeks after that game.
Previous position grades: B, A-, B-, C+, C-
Buster Skrine, Chris Owens and Joe Haden: B-
It doesn’t happen often, but Joe Haden did not have a great game.
He was thoroughly outplayed by his counterpart, emerging playmaker Buster Skrine. While Skrine was defending passes and making plays, the Lions made it a point to pick on Haden early and often.
In the first quarter, Haden was called for two pass interference penalties, the first of which looked bogus. The second, however, was an all-out tackle attempt on Calvin Johnson while the ball was still in the air.
Wide receiver Kris Durham also had his way with Haden on quite a few inside routes on Sunday.
The good news is that once again, the Browns had at least one cornerback playing at a high level to solidify the secondary.
Previous position grades: C-, C, A, A, A
Tashaun Gipson and T.J. Ward: B+
Perfect games are nearly impossible to achieve, but this group came close Sunday.
The safeties will always give up a few plays in coverage, like the late touchdown T.J. Ward allowed to Joseph Fauria. Other than that play, however, it’s tough to find something to complain about.
Ward and Tashaun Gipson combined for 18 tackles, a tackle for loss and three passes defended. That is one heck of a day.
Ward also jarred a few passes loose with big-time hits. That’s exactly what a dominant safety is supposed to do.
Previous position grades: C+, B, B-, C+, A
Billy Cundiff, Spencer Lanning, Travis Benjamin, Greg Little and coverage units: B-
Each week, a different person affects this group’s grade. This time it was punter Spencer Lanning. He was forced to punt early and often but always gave the Browns breathing room. He averaged 47 yards per punt, which would be among the best season averages in the league.
Greg Little brought a kick return out of the end zone late when he should have knelt and cost the offense five yards. Travis Benjamin could not find any room on punt returns either.
Kicker Billy Cundiff did hit his one field-goal attempt from 40 yards just before halftime.
Previous position grades: C+, C+, A+, D+, A+