Browns vs. Seahawks: Cleveland Grades, Notes and Quotes

Mike Hoag@MikeHoagJrCorrespondent IIDecember 21, 2015

Browns vs. Seahawks: Cleveland Grades, Notes and Quotes

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    Scott Eklund/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns went to CenturyLink Field Sunday and gave the Seattle Seahawks some problems early, but they were ultimately outmatched, falling 30-13 and losing their 11th game of the season.

    With the win, Seattle clinched a playoff berth, and quarterback Russell Wilson set an NFL record with his fifth straight game with at least three touchdowns and no interceptions, per NFL on ESPN.

    Meanwhile, the Browns' loss moved them one step closer to getting the first pick of next April’s NFL draft.

    Things started out well for Cleveland, though, when Johnny Manziel led the Browns on a 15-play touchdown drive, their longest scoring drive of the season.

    But the Seahawks answered, scoring on all four of their first-half possessions to take a 20-10 lead into halftime. The last one was the result of an untimely defensive facemask penalty on Tramon Williams that allowed kicker Steven Hauschka to connect on a 27-yard field goal.

    Doug Baldwin had two scores in the first half. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that makes him the third player in the Super Bowl era to have four straight multiple touchdown games.

    The second half was all Seahawks. Cleveland’s drives were hampered by drops and quick defensive pressure, and its only successful drive stalled and resulted in a Travis Coons field goal.

    Cleveland will travel to Kansas City next week to look for its fourth win of the year against a red-hot Chiefs team that has rebounded from a five-game losing streak to win its last eight games.

Position Grades for Browns

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    Scott Eklund/Associated Press

    Quarterback: B-

    Manziel took three sacks, and his lone interception came in desperation mode while trailing by 17 points in the game’s final minutes. For the most part, he was accurate and made good decisions, getting rid of the ball instead of taking sacks or forcing throws.

    Because of that, he didn’t take very many chances. He also wasn’t helped out by the handful of receiver drops that would have extended drives.

    It was a similar performance to his outing against Cincinnati. There’s only so much a quarterback can do when he’s not being supported by his teammates and his defense is giving up 30-plus points. But he wasn’t without fault, either.

    Running Backs: B-

    Things were tougher against the Seahawks, as expected, after Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson ran wild on San Francisco last week.

    Johnson was the highlight of the team’s offense this week, breaking two 20-plus-yard plays and leading the team in rushing and receiving yards. Crowell managed just 23 yards on nine carries, but he did make a few plays when they were there to make.

    Receivers: D

    Thing started out well for the group early. Travis Benjamin had some shifty moves, and Marlon Moore made a key block to help their opening scoring drive move along. But that’s about the end of the praise for the group.

    There were at least three drops by Browns receivers in Seattle. Taylor Gabriel had a pass hit right off his hands, and Moore and Terrelle Pryor dropped catchable would-be first-down passes.

    Tight Ends: C

    Gary Barnidge caught his ninth touchdown of the season and snagged three of his four targets. But Jim Dray was unable to haul in both of his contested passes.

    Blocking appeared to be an issue for both again this week against the faster Seahawks defenders.

    Offensive Line: F

    Filling in for guard John Greco, Cam Erving was embarrassed off the snap by Brandon Mebane for quick pressure that resulted in the first sack of the game. He also had a holding penalty that negated a first-down run by Manziel.

    Left guard Austin Pasztor was beaten a few times inside by Michael Bennett and others.

    Greco was missed as the Browns interior line caved throughout the game.

    It was clear that last week’s performance was an aberration and that the Browns’ ability to execute run blocks against quality defenders is lacking.

    Defensive Line: D-

    Danny Shelton made an impact stuff near the goal line, but the defensive line didn’t have many more explosive plays throughout the game. A broken Seahawks offensive play also resulted in the line’s lone full sack of the game.

    Without a running back that had been featured on its roster all season, Seattle still rushed for an absurd 182 yards. Christine Michael and Bryce Brown had both been with the team this year, but there’s no reason they should combine for 127 yards on 25 carries. No reason.

    Linebackers: D-

    Karlos Dansby made some good plays, including an effective blitz and wrap on Wilson that forced him to throw the ball away. Seattle punted as a result.

    The group wasn’t very good at getting off blocks and filling gaps. Seattle’s offensive line was able to keep the Browns backers from making plays and dictated much of the game.

    Defensive Backs: F

    Poor tackling by the secondary, especially Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner on a few occasions, were big negatives for the Browns secondary this week. Gipson had Jermaine Kearse for a loss, but hit him with his shoulder and didn’t wrap him up. Kearse scampered for a first down instead.

    Rookie Charles Gaines got beat by Baldwin for one of his scores. He looked confused and was expecting a pick route by Seattle that never came. He did have a pass breakup on a deep shot to Tyler Lockett later in the game.

    Gaines also shoved Whitner on the sidelines in the second half after they got into an argument.

    Tramon Williams’ facemask penalty didn't end up mattering in the final score, but it did give the Seahawks three points.

    Overall, it was another uneven and poor showing by the group the Browns were counting on to be their strongest unit.

    Special Teams: B+

    After the Seahawks took a 14-7 second-quarter lead, Raheem Mostert brought back the ensuing kickoff for 53 yards. That helped set up a field goal, giving the Browns a more manageable one-score second-quarter deficit.

    Travis Coons hit both of his field-goal attempts and has yet to miss this season. He does have three official misses, but all of those were blocked attempts.

    Coaching: C-

    The offensive play-calling was exceptional at times, but the execution couldn’t keep up. And offensive coordinator John DeFilippo couldn’t continue calling those misdirection and gadget plays that helped extend their first drive.

    Defensively, there continued to be some big discrepancies and disconnects. Players look poorly coached and seem to lack an understanding of the fundamentals. That signals a coaching and preparation problem as much as it does an execution one.

    It was also confusing that the Browns opted to sit back in coverage and not blitz Wilson.

Gary Barnidge Ties Browns Franchise Record

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    Scott Eklund/Associated Press

    Barnidge caught his ninth touchdown of this season on the Browns’ first drive of the game. That score ties him with Ozzie Newsome for the franchise’s single-season tight end receiving touchdown record (nine).

    The Browns still have two games to go, which means the milestone is there for the taking for the 30-year-old veteran.

    Saying Barnidge’s emergence this season has been unexpected is an understatement. Prior to 2015, he had just three touchdowns in seven years spent primarily as a reserve.

Browns Lose John Greco to Injury

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Starting right guard John Greco injured his knee on the second play of the game and did not return. Embattled rookie Cam Erving came on in relief and predictably struggled against the imposing Seahawks defensive line.

    Greco has been consistent if nothing else this season and was missed in this one. As the game wore on, Seattle blitzed and found easy penetration in Erving’s area.

    Left guard Joel Bitonio has already been placed on injured reserve, leaving Pasztor and Erving as the team’s only healthy guards.

    Greco left the stadium in a knee brace and will have an MRI on Monday, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer.

Pettine: Time to Regroup

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    Scott Eklund/Associated Press

    Mike Pettine said it’s time for the Browns to regroup after losing their 11th game of the season. Next week, they travel to Kansas City to face a Chiefs team that has won eight in a row.

    "Regroup" is probably the wrong word choice here if you’re looking at this season from the outside. It has been a major disaster in every possible way.

    The only thing left to wonder this year is whether Pettine, general manager Ray Farmer or both will be fired after the season’s end.

    We’ll see if the Browns have any fight left in them as they take on the surging Chiefs and then divisional rival Pittsburgh in Week 17.

Pettine on Gaines and Whitner's Scuffle

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    Scott Eklund/Associated Press

    Pettine didn’t elaborate much on the sideline scuffle between Gaines and Whitner during the fourth quarter of their 30-13 loss in Seattle.

    “Two emotional guys. Over quickly,” he said, per Cabot.

    Frustration has been building all year, and it erupted when the rookie shoved the longtime pro after an argument broke out as the two went to the sideline at the end of the third quarter.

    It was over quickly as Pettine suggested, and Fox sideline reporter Tony Siragusa said he saw the two exchange a high-five after the shove.

    It’ll be interesting to see what defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil and Pettine do with their lineups next week. Pierre Desir could make a return from his healthy inactive status, but he hasn’t played a down in weeks as Gaines has received most of the cornerback snaps.

    Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained via press-release emails from Browns communications managers Rob McBurnett and Dan Murphy.