Where to begin . . . there’s so much ground to cover . . .
OK, let’s start with the Browns’ biggest problem Sunday in their loss to the Indianapolis Colts. They were outcoached.
The Colts’ M.O. this season has been to throw the ball and run if necessary. Sort of like the Browns.
Sunday, though, the Colts were determined to run the football even though their top running back, Donald Brown, did not play because he had a knee scoped earlier last week.
You’ve no doubt heard the old expression that games are won and lost in the trenches. The Colts’ victory is a perfect example. They ruled the trenches.
Their offensive line beat the daylights out of the Cleveland defensive line all afternoon. Reserve running backs Vick Ballard and Delone Carter rang up 125 of the Colts’ 148 yards. Ballard is a rookie; Carter is a third-year man.
Coming into the game, the Colts had compiled just 431 yards on the ground. That’s 86.2 yards a game. One would figure that shouldn’t be a problem with Cleveland’s defensive line. And one would be wrong.
For a majority of the afternoon, the Browns’ front seven didn’t make initial contact with Ballard or Carter until they were at least three or four yards beyond the line of scrimmage. That’s how effective the Colts’ offensive line was.
A quick scan of the tackling chart reveals the Browns’ top three in that category were Sheldon Brown and Buster Skrine, a pair of cornerbacks, and strong safety T. J. Ward. When your top three tacklers are members of the secondary, you’ve got a big problem.
It wasn’t until the second half that defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, who went into the game with a wimpy game plan, changed tactics and dialed up the pressure on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and the running game. He keeps forgetting that defense is all about aggression. Not in the first half Sunday against the Colts.
Cleveland played a read-and-react, almost ultra conservative defense until the light went on in the second half and the Colts took full advantage. The Browns’ defense couldn’t get off the field as the Colts nickel-and-dimed them to the tune of 14 first-half points.
The Colts owned the football an alarming 35 minutes and 21 seconds overall, giving Brandon Weeden and his cohorts just 24 minutes and 39 seconds with which to work.
But when the Browns had the ball, their game plan was so far over the top in terms of imbalance, it defied logic. Where the Colts ran the ball 56% of the time, the Browns countered by running it 29% of the time.
The pass-happy play calling of Pat Shurmur actually did the Colts a favor. Apparently, the Browns head coach did not consider that the Colts had surrendered an average of 170 yards on the ground entering the game. In Shurmurland, that, of course, means throw the ball.
And, yes, if Josh Gordon had not dropped that touchdown pass with about six minutes left in the game, the Browns might have won the game and all this would be moot.
But just think if Cleveland’s offensive line has taken advantage of an injury-riddled Indianapolis defense and pounded the ball just like the Colts did, the Browns’ offense might have been much more effective and Weeden wouldn’t have had to throw as often.
OK, Trent Richardson was either hurt or ineffective or both, depending on whose story you believe. The rookie running back said he could have played despite damaged rib cartilage. It was obvious he was hurting by the tentative manner in which he ran. He was totally ineffective in his brief first-half appearance.
So why not give the ball to Montario Hardesty, who at least found and hit holes quicker than Richardson, more than seven times? You do the Colts’ hurting front seven a huge favor by throwing the ball 70% of the time.
Bottom line: The Browns once again found a way to lose a game. And a majority of the blame keeps finding the same home: the coaching staff.
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How much latitude does Weeden have to change the play at the line of scrimmage when he surveys the defense and realizes the play called isn’t going to work? Well, if the Colts game is any indication, apparently none.
Several times when he approached the line of scrimmage and the Colts showed eight men in the box ready to stuff the run, especially with Richardson in the game, the play was run and Richardson was stuffed.
If he is no longer is a rookie, as Shurmur strongly suggests, then Weeden should have the option to change the play. He did not do that against the Colts, making it that much more difficult to operate on second and third down.
Shurmur needs to unshackle the chains on Weeden. It’s time to start trusting him. How bad can that be? The Browns are 1-6.
On the plus side, it’s nice to see Weeden finally throwing the ball deep. That’s one of his strengths and it needs to be fed at least four or five times a game. Minimum.
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Where is the Browns’ discipline? With about three minutes left in the second quarter and the Colts’ offense stuck at their 23-yard line, the Browns forced a punt. Or so they thought.
Luck had just completed a 13-yard pass to Reggie Wayne on a third-and-14. The Browns called a timeout when the Colts did not send out the punt team. So on fourth-and-1 at the Indy 23, Luck lined up his offense as if to run a play.
Everybody knew they were trying to get the Browns to jump offside. Those watching on television, those folks in the TV and radio booths knew. The beer vendors knew. Everyone knew this was a ruse, a tactic to draw the Browns offside.
Luck barked out the signals. No one moved. He barked again. Again, no movement. Good discipline by the Cleveland defensive line. Don’t move, everyone in Browns Nation screamed. And then Luck barked again, Third time was a charm. Rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn jolted across the line. Neutral zone infraction.
Dumb, dumb, dumb. As it turned out, the only damage it did was rob the Browns of a few minutes of possession time. But still, it was an alarming lack of discipline. Translation? Bad coaching.
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Notebook: Quick question – Is Trent Richardson injury-prone? Just wondering. He hasn’t been 100% healthy yet. . . . Impressive stat: Greg Little was targeted seven times against the Colts and had six catches. More impressive: no demonstrations after each catch. . . . Another stat: Josh Gordon – 10 targets, two catches. Well at least he’s getting into the end zone. . . . The Browns have lost 11 straight road games. Good thing the next two games are at home. . . . Still trying to understand why the Browns burned a timeout with 6:38 left in the game with the ball at the Indy 41-yard line and then decided to punt. What a waste of a timeout. . . . Nine more penalties for 75 yards. Will it ever stop? . . . Thinking out loud: If Shurmur is fired, new CEO Joe Banner has three options on the current staff to choose from for an interim replacement and all are former National Football League head coaches: Jauron, Brad Childress and Ray Rhodes. Can't be any worse than what he has now.