On a windy day in Cleveland, a missed field goal gave the St. Louis Rams their second win of the season, a win over the Cleveland Browns. A botched snap threw off Phil Dawson's timing, resulting in a missed opportunity to take the lead in the final minutes. This is nothing new to a Browns fan base that is accustomed to the Browns finding a way to lose.
Although the Browns offense once again failed to find the end zone, it was slightly more entertaining than usual. Browns head coach Pat Shurmur steered away—slightly—from his predictable play calling and threw in a little "trickeration."
Josh Cribbs was used a couple times in the Wildcat formation. On one play Cribbs took the snap from shotgun, tossed the ball to Seneca Wallace, who in turn pitched it to Colt McCoy and McCoy passed to Wallace, who was running down the sideline—fun to watch.
Another sight usually not seen when watching the Browns offense was a beautifully thrown and accurate 52-yard pass from McCoy to Greg Little. One successful deep pass against a Rams' secondary that has been devastated by injuries may not make NFL highlight films, but it set aside the questions regarding McCoy's arm strength. However, it does make me question Shurmurs' play calling, as he quickly went back to short passes, usually shy of a first down.
Back to the botched field goal.
Alex Mack lined up at left guard on the Browns' place kicks. Mack explained that he moves to the right in an attempt to protect the gap when the ball is snapped. Upon doing so, the ball hit him in the leg as Ryan Pontbriand snapped the ball. A botched field goal cannot be blamed on Shurmur, though I do question a couple plays prior to this missed opportunity.
Against a Rams secondary devastated with injuries, McCoy had 20 completions in 27 attempts for 218 yards, was not an "interception machine" and showed the ability to scramble and, if need be, throw the ball away. The Browns with a first down on the Rams' 19 were well within Dawson's field goal range and ran six plays, all conservative and all running plays.
Why didn't Shurmur call for one pass attempt to the end zone? A failed pass would still leave the Browns within field goal range with two plays remaining, while a touchdown would have forced the Rams to score a touchdown to regain the lead.
The fact that Shurmur was seeking to settle for a field goal instead of leaving the ball in McCoy's hands showed little confidence in his quarterback or that Shurmur lacks the desire to deliver the knockout punch—playing not to lose instead of playing to win. McCoy has shown his ability to stay away from turnovers—having thrown only six interceptions—yet Shurmur grounded the air attack.
If you are determine to run the ball into the end zone it would make sense to use your best options. Chris Ogbonnaya had 19 carries for 90 yards, while Cribbs carried the ball three times for 27 yards.
With the game on the line, Ogbonnaya and Cribbs at your disposal, why would you hand the ball off to a tight end?
Alex Smith is not a fullback, he has never practiced handoffs and was merely in the lineup because Owen Marecic had been shaken up on a previous play. With the game on the line, what many consider a must win and playing at home this is truly a strange call.
Winning teams take risks—shots to the end zone in an attempt to deliver the final blow—and in critical situations put the ball in the hands of players that present the best chances of success.
Electing to hand the ball off to the tight end and not allowing one or two pass attempts to the end zone is baffling.
If Shurmur does not have the faith in the running backs, they need to be replaced.
If Shurmur has such little faith in McCoy, the need a new quarterback.
But then, given what I have seen throughout the season and in the final minutes of this last game, Shurmur needs to be questioned about his own performance.