Just as quickly as optimism can be created, it can vanish. The Cleveland Browns' hopes of a playoff run seem like such a distant memory. It only took one bad half of football and one horrendous interception.
Fans are clamoring for head coach Rob Chudzinski to push quarterback Brandon Weeden aside and start Jason Campbell.
It isn’t going to happen.
Chudzinski said Monday, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that Weeden will remain the starter. So now the Browns will try and navigate through two of the toughest weeks on their schedule with a shaky quarterback.
Enemy territory may be more welcoming to Weeden than playing in front of Browns fans at FirstEnergy Stadium right now, however.
The next two games heading into the bye week will say a lot about who the Browns will be this season.
AFC North Standings
The Browns' loss caused them to slip into a tie for second place in the AFC North. They are the only team with a .500 or better record on the road, so that’s a plus.
It took overtime, but the Cincinnati Bengals got their second win in a row against the Buffalo Bills. It was not pretty, but road wins are hard to come by in the NFL. The Bengals gave up 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and struggled on third downs all game long. They converted just 7-of-18 attempts on third down. They need to find consistency to realize the talent they have on their roster.
The Ravens ran out of gas in their fourth-quarter comeback attempt against Green Bay and lost a rare home game. They still hold the tiebreaker over Cleveland because of their victory in the head-to-head matchup in Week 2.
The Pittsburgh Steelers finally got their first victory of the season by beating up on the New York Jets. The Steelers looked like a halfway decent football team while winning, too. The offense is starting to click, and Ben Roethlisberger is playing with a chip on his shoulder.
OLB Jabaal Sheard (knee) Did not play on Sunday
DE Billy Winn (quad) Did not play on Sunday
Jabaal Sheard was a game-time decision and even warmed up on the field pregame before being ruled out. With a good week of practice, he should be ready to return against Green Bay.
Billy Winn was ruled out early in the week and still may be a week or so from returning. We will get an injury update on Winn Wednesday afternoon.
What Must Improve
Brandon Weeden’s decisions
Everyone in the world has seen Brandon Weeden’s fourth-quarter interception at this point.
What people have forgotten about was the terrible interception he threw in the second quarter inside Lions territory.
On a 3rd-and-4 play, Weeden panicked while being pressured by Lions’ defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and threw into blatant double coverage.
These are the throws you just cannot make as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
In the fourth quarter he panicked again while being pressured and threw the ball out of bounds. Normally this would have been a good decision, but he threw to the side of the field where he had no receivers and was called for intentional grounding. This was the second play the Browns ran after Detroit took the lead 21-17.
At this point it is unreasonable to expect Weeden’s decision-making to improve. If the coaching staff is going to stick with him, they will need to find a way to limit his chances for mental blunders like these.
In the first half of the game, the Lions were stymied on offense. Running back Reggie Bush, who was their most explosive weapon since wide receiver Calvin Johnson was nursing a knee injury, was limited to zero catches.
In the second half, he was the difference in the football game.
The Lions coaches recognized a mismatch between him and Browns inside linebacker Craig Robertson and exploited it. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton had no answer. He merely watched as Bush sliced apart the defense down the stretch.
On the other hand, offensive coordinator Norv Turner did make an adjustment. He adjusted straight out of what was working and into the danger zone.
In the first half he called 16 rushing plays, which resulted in 116 yards. They were executing a perfect game plan against a terrible run defense. The dominant runs helped Weeden stay out of bad situations and limited the pressure he saw.
Turner called just five run plays the rest of the game.
Inside linebacker play
Craig Robertson was Reggie Bush’s whipping boy on Sunday. The entire second half, Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan called play after play which targeted Robertson and exploited his weak coverage abilities.
This can happen to anyone, but Sunday was especially ugly.
Even D’Qwell Jackson was exploited by Linehan. He continuously called curl and crossing routes knowing that whoever was in Jackson’s zone would be wide open every play.
While the defensive line played well against the run, anytime a back made it into the second level, Jackson and Robertson had a tough time bringing him down.
I would love to say this was an aberration, but the opportunities to expose these two have been there before. Teams have just either been unable to take advantage of them or unwilling to switch their game plan.
They should get used to being targets—because now everyone will be coming straight at them both on the ground and through the air.
All quotes and observations were gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted.