Sunday, November 3, 2013

Campbell, Browns End 11-game Skid Against Ravens with 24-18 Victory

 

Cleveland--- Quarterback Jason Campbell tied a career high as he threw for three touchdowns, two to wide out Davone Bess, to lead the Browns to a 24-18 victory over the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens at First Energy Stadium on Sunday.

 

Campbell, making his second start at quarterback for the Browns, was 23 of 35 for 262 yards and posted a passer rating of 116.6. The victory ends a three game losing streak for the Browns, who had not won since October 3 against Buffalo. It also ends a much larger 11-game skid against Baltimore, dating back to 2007. Cleveland's win also gives the Ravens combination of head coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco their first loss to the Browns and the duo's first loss following a bye week during the six-years they have spent together.

 

 

Though the Browns led for the entire game, it still took clutch plays very late in the game for them to finally put it on ice.

 

With the Browns up three with about three minutes left, head coach Rob Chudzinski stuck true to his beliefs and chose to be aggressive when many would have decided to go the other way.

 

After getting stuffed on a 3rd-and-1 play from the Ravens 43-yard line, Chudzinski chose to go for it on fourth down, letting his team control their destiny rather than allow the Ravens a chance to take the ball back and have time to tie the game on a field goal or take the lead with a touchdown. The Browns took a timeout to discuss their strategy before snapping the ball with 3:12 left and a crucial fourth down play about to take place.

 

Campbell took the snap and was immediately pushed out of the pocket by the blitzing Ravens defense. He remained calm and rolled to his right before releasing a pass that found a diving Bess in the middle of the field for a three-yard gain and a Cleveland first down.

 

The play allowed the Browns to move the ball into the field goal position while simultaneously milking all but 17 seconds off of the clocl before the Ravens got the ball back following a 22-yard Billy Cundiff field goal that made it 24-18.

 

Two plays later, all of the streaks were over, and the Browns found themselves at 4-5 and in second place in the AFC North, while the Ravens, with their third loss in a row, fall to 3-5 and sit in third place in the AFC's black and blue division.

 

If all the cards fall the right way, following their bye next week the Browns could now be in the thick of the AFC playoff race when they take the field two weeks from now to face the division leading Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

 

Cleveland started the scoring early in the first quarter when Campbell found Bess on a fourth-and-goal play from the one-yard line. Bess, who had an awful game last week in Kansas City with three drops and a muffed punt, redeemed himself early and often this week.

 

The Ravens would answer back minutes later when Justin Tucker drilled a 51-yard field goal to make it 7-3 Cleveland at the tail end of the first quarter.

 

Bess and Campbell would hook up again early in the second quarter when Campbell hit the slot receiver on a crossing pattern over the middle that Bess took 20-yards to the house while breaking the ankles of two Baltimore defenders. The highlight reel score made it 14-3 with 10:08 left in the half.

 

Neither team managed to do much of anything for the rest of the second quarter as both defenses turned up the pressure.

 

Cleveland's aggressive defense pressured Flacco all day long, keeping the Super Bowl MVP off balance and out of his rhythm while sacking him five times.

 

Baltimore's defense shut down the Browns already poor running game and keyed in on Campbell, managing to knock him out for a few plays with a rib injury, forcing former starter Brandon Weeden to control the offense for one possession. Weeden managed to stunt any momentum the team had built on offense before Campbell returned.

 

Flacco and the Ravens offense did manage to build some momentum before halftime as they scored on a 19-yard Flacco to rookie Marlon Brown pass play with nine seconds left in the half.

 

At that point it looked as if the Ravens had finally gotten traction and would continue to dominate the team they once were.

 

It continued to look that way after the half as the Ravens started with the ball and ran a 13-play drive that took over six minutes off of the clock, but a big third down sack by TJ Ward ended the drive and knocked the Ravens out of field goal range, forcing them to punt the ball back to the Browns trailing 14-10.

 

The Browns took over and failed to do anything before being forced to punt. However, Ravens returnman Tandon Doss muffed the punt and Browns special teamer Eric Martin was their to scoop it up to give his team possession at the Baltimore 11-yard line.

 

A few plays later Campbell found back up tight end Gary Barnidge for a four-yard score that put the Browns up 21-10.

 

The Ravens would score again early in the fourth quarter when Flacco found Brown again for a seven yard score. The two also hooked up on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt to make it 21-18.

But the new Browns brand of aggressive football on both sides of the ball managed to keep the Ravens at bay for the rest of the game and send the home fans away with a happy victory over their hated rival.

 

Greg Little led the Browns in receiving with seven catches for 122 yards in what was his best game as a Brown. Little did still have his usual boneheaded moments as the hothead from North Carolina picked up two personal fouls.

 

The Ravens were led by Brown who had five catches, two for scores, and Flacco who overcame a weak start to go 24 of 42 for 250 yards and two scores.

 

 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Awful Start to Much to Overcome as Browns Fall to Packers

 

 

After committing one of the most ridiculous plays in recent NFL history, Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden had a chance to redeem himself early against the Green Bay Packers. Instead, the former first round pick out of Oklahoma State, failed to do much of anything over 60 minutes as he led his team to a 31-13 loss at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

 

Weeden started the game looking like a deer in headlights against a Packers defense that was missing some of it's best playmakers. By the end of the first quarter Weeden was 2 of 11 for 23 yards and one interception. His QB rating was 1.6. It was only a preview of how ugly the game would be for the Browns as he finished 17 of 42 for 149 yards and an abysmal rating of 48.2. He did add a touchdown as he found Jordan Cameron for a short scoring strike late into garbage time.

 

On the other side of the field was Aaron Rodgers, who was playing without two of his top receivers. However, Rodgers, as a true franchise quarterback does, made the most of what was around him and went 25 of 36 for 260 yards and three touchdown passes, one of which went to Jarrett Boykin who has eight catches for 103 yards in his first start playing for the injured Randall Cobb and James Jones.

 

Running back Eddie Lacy ran for 82 yards and a score and tight end Jermichael Finley had a 10-yard touchdown catch for the Packers who overcome their injury problems to cut up the Browns usually strong defense.

 

Rodgers got his team on the board early as he took advantage of the Browns pathetic opening possession and the great field position given to him to drive his team down field with ease and find Finley for the games first score. The Packers then added another touchdown and capitalized on Weeden's interception as Lacy took it in from one-yard out to make it 14-0 with just under four minutes remaining in the first quarter.

 

The game could have ended then as the Browns never really got within striking distance. They did match Green Bay in the second quarter as both teams added three points and went into halftime with the Packers leading 17-3.

 

It was the first time this season that the Browns did not hold the lead at the half.

 

The Browns defense came out strong in the second half, holding the Packers to zero points in the third quarter, but with the offense being held down by Green Bays defense as well as poor play by Weeden, Greg Little, and especially Josh Gordon, who played as if he had somewhere better to be, it mattered very little. They did add a 44-yard Billy Cundiff field goal to make it 17-6, but without being able to muster a touchdown drive it was only a matter of time before Rodgers broke the game open.

 

Rodgers did just that in the fourth quarter as he led two scoring drives to put the Browns down for good. The first drive ended with a one-yard pass to Jordy Nelson to make it 24-6 Packers, the second ended with the dagger pass to Boykin, a 20-yard strike that made it 31-13.

 

The Browns showed some signs of life in the final quarter, mainly on special teams where an 86-yard Travis Benjamin kick return set up Weeden's touchdown score to Cameron, but it still wasn't enough to keep up with Rodgers.

 

It also didn't help that Weeden attempted yet another underhand flip that was the cherry on the ugly sundae.

 

Regardless of who was under center, the Browns lost today as a team. They will look to bounce back and get back to .500 as they travel to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City to take on the undefeated Chiefs for a 1 p.m kickoff.

 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hoyer, Lanning, Lead Rally of Reserves As Browns Top Bears 18-16

downloadOn a very bizarre night in Chicago, Cleveland Browns punter Spencer Lanning kicked a 40-yard field goal through the uprights with 3:20 remaining, to push the Browns past the Bears 18-16 on Thursday night. Lanning, who expected to be the punter during the game, was asked during warm ups to become the teams kicker after the usual starter at that position, Shayne Graham had his back tighten up prior to the game.

Following the Lanning field goal the Bears moved the ball downfield before the Browns it looked as if the defense had sealed the game when linebacker Tank Carder nearly picked off a pass from Bears quarterback Trent Edwards. The ball skipped out of Carder’s hands and gave the Bears one more chance. Following a time out Chicago head coach Marc Trestman chose to send out kicker Robbie Gould for the go ahead attempt, but Gould’s 57-yard attempt sailed wide right, turning the ball back over to the Browns.

The Browns offense took over with a chance to run out the clock.

They did just that as quarterback Brian Hoyer, who played the entire game, scrambled for a ten yard gain, a first down, and the ability to kneel and run down the clock.

It wasn’t pretty, but the team, led by Hoyer, battled and won, finishing off their preseason schedule at 3-1.

Hoyer finished the night 24 of 35 for 307 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The third stringer who got the spot start, after Jason Campbell came down with the flu and the team chose to sit starter Brandon Weeden, looked solid throughout the game and should have cemented his roster spot. In fact, he looked solid enough to possibly garner interest from QB needy teams as he is certain to be no more than the third QB here. He did exactly what players need to do in the fourth preseason game, as winning or losing really is a side note at this point in the preseason, and that is make an impression.

Other players who made impressions on the night, while trying to earn a spot on the roster, before cuts are made to drop the roster to 53 by 6 p.m. Saturday, include linebackers Carder, L.J. Fort, and James Michael-Johnson, defensive linemen Brian Sanford, John Hughes, and Armonty Bryant, wide out Tori Gurley, and tight end Dan Gronkowski. Most, if not all of these players, were on the roster bubble and needed to show up well as they played against roster hungry opposition.

While those players may have helped themselves, there were a few who also hurt themselves, most notably wide receiver David Nelson. Nelson, playing in his first game in almost a year after tearing his ACL last season in the season opener as a Buffalo Bill, looked rusty, showed little burst, and had trouble keeping his footing. He is a solid player, but may not be able to help the team right now and with at least four spots solidified at his position (Gordon, Little, Bess, Benjamin) a better showing was needed in his one chance to prove himself this preseason.

All in all however, the night was a success, with the victory being a bonus as the Browns managed to leave the preseason relatively healthy, outside of the right guard and backup running back positions. Final cuts will be made Saturday and don’t be surprised if they get below the 53 man roster mark as they will likely pick up quality players getting cut by other squads as the team is still in need of quality depth at many positions as they ready themselves for the season opener September 8 at First Energy Stadium against the Miami Dolphins.

Notes: Reports state that rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo will likely miss the season opener while healing from a bruised lung. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as the team has said all along that they would not rush the young pass rusher back onto the field…If the Browns cut a lot of WR’s and decide to pick up another after cuts are made, they should take a look at the Bears Joe Anderson who has been solid all preseason and runs very good routes…rookie CB Leon McFadden is still a long way away. The third rounder played most of Thursday night’s game and while he did show some skill, he looked lost and overmatched at times…When the Browns do make cuts, don’t be surprised if some quality names are let go. The team is finally getting deeper. While not greatly deep, they are a much stronger team from top to bottom then they have been since the reincarnation in 1999. Much of the credit for this goes to former GM Tom Heckert who filled this team through the draft after those who held his job prior did little to better the team for the future.