Pryor's masterpiece all for naught
The disgusted look on Terrelle Pryor’s face said it all as time ran out in regulation Sunday in Miami. He had good reason to wear that look. Here’s why.
Seconds earlier, linebacker Corey Lemonier made what just about every member of Browns Nation on the planet believed was the play of the game, strip-sacking Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and recovering the ball at the Miami 27-yard line. It was a gift.
The Browns had battled back from a 24-13 deficit early in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 24-24 on Cody Parkey’s third field goal of the game with 3:14 left and were staring at something extremely rare to them: a victory.
Hue Jackson had 20 seconds left on the clock in regulation and a timeout in his back pocket. Surely enough time and insurance in case something went wrong to move the ball closer to the Miami goal line to make Parkey’s job that much easier.
What went wrong was totally unexpected. For whatever reason, Jackson went ultra conservative with those 20 precious seconds.
The Cleveland running game, with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. running well, had churned out 160 yards on the ground against a tiring Dolphins defense and rookie Cleveland quarterback Cody Kessler had recovered from early-game jitters.
So what does the coach do? Instructs Kessler to take a knee, run the clock down to four seconds, burn the last timeout and present Parkey, who had signed with the club after Patrick Murray went down with a knee injury Friday, with a 46-yard attempt.
Instead of trying to pound out more yardage with Crowell behind an offensive line that run blocked very well all afternoon, Jackson went conservative. Parkey’s subsequent boot never had a chance as it immediately drifted left of the upright, giving birth to overtime.
It took the Dolphins three plays on their second possession of overtime to nail the 30-24 victory. Jay Ajayi’s 11-yard scamper around left end, on which no Cleveland defender laid a hand on him, climaxed the three-play, 44-yard drive with 8:26 left.
The disappointing finish ruined a virtuoso performance by Pryor, who was an integral part in Jackson’s creative offense from a two-position standpoint. He was the ultimate triple threat.
Any wonder he wore a disgusted, almost angry, look as regulation ended? Jackson’s faux pas at the end of regulation breathed new life into a Miami offense that seemingly packed it in after assuming the 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
After the game, the coach explained himself. “I know everybody will say it came down to field goals,” he said, “but I’m not going to put that kind of pressure on Cody. (He) just got off the plane with us and I don’t know him as well as I know this chair right now.”
That’s a rather strange reason not to at least try and move the ball closer to the goal line. And by taking a knee, he definitely put more pressure on the newcomer. Besides, what does that have to do with a chair in the visitors’ dressing room?
Was Jackson so fearful his offense would somehow, some way screw it up? Why all of a sudden did he have so little confidence in his offense to move the ball closer? He did have the luxury of the timeout. Instead, he whimped out.
On the plus side, the Browns were down to only one healthy quarterback (Kessler) with working knowledge of Jackson’s offense. It didn’t take long for fans to see what the coach had in his bag of tricks. It was the 6-4, 220-pound Pryor and he was masterful.
The former Ohio State star, who had flunked out as a starting quarterback in the National Football League, entered the game after Kessler’s shaky beginning: A delay-of-game on the first play from scrimmage, a fumbled snap on the second (he recovered it) and a strip sack on the third, which led to Miami’s first touchdown.
Pryor took 11 snaps as a quarterback, ran four times for 21 yards and a touchdown in the comeback, and threw for another 35 yards on 3-of-5 passing. He was also targeted 14 times by Kessler and grabbed eight passes for 144 yards. If you’re counting, that’s 200 yards of total offense. The Browns totaled 430.
It brought back memories of Kordell Stewart, who played quarterback and wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1995 to 2002. Remember his nickname? Slash. As in quarterback/wide receiver.
Could Pryor, whose growth in his transformation as a wideout has been nothing short of remarkable thus far, be the new Slash? Why not?
With the Browns down to just one healthy quarterback (not counting Charlie Whitehurst, who is nothing more than disaster insurance), look for Pryor to get more work if Sunday’s performance against the Dolphins is any indication of what he can do. Or at least until one of the injured quarterbacks returns.
One can understand Pryor's reaction when Parkey missed his third field goal of the afternoon at the end of regulation. Putting in the work of two players for more than 60 minutes only to walk off the field a loser had to maddeningly disheartening.
The Browns, playing without six starters, actually held a 13-10 halftime lead in this one on a pair of Parkey field goals and a 27-yard pick six by rookie cornerback Brien Boddy-Calhoun midway through the second quarter.
They were marching toward another score on the penalty-filled opening possession of the second half and reached the Miami 8 in 10 plays before stalling. A holding penalty on offensive right tackle Austin Pasztor – he was flagged for three holds and a pair of false starts on the afternoon – moved the ball back to the 18.
Another delay-of-game penalty marched the ball back another five yards and the drive ultimately wound up on the Miami 24, where Parkey’s 42-yard field-goal effort plunked the left upright and bounced the wrong way.
That seemed to breathe new life into the Miami offense, which looked stagnant in the first 30 minutes. It scored on the next two possessions to take the 24-13 lead.
Tannehill hooked up with Jarvis Landry on a 42-yard score after the wide receiver beat Tramon Williams and juked safety Derrick Kindred at the 13-yard line on the first with 5:17 left in the quarter. Then he hit running back Damien Williams with an 11-yard swing pass to close out a six-play, 64-yard drive early in the final quarter.
At that point, the Browns looked cooked and nearly replied with a three-and-out. But Duke Johnson Jr. kept the drive alive, breaking a tackle a few yards behind the line of scrimmage on a swing pass on a third-and-1 from the Miami 26 and converting.
Six plays and 74 yards later, Pryor romped three yards around left end for the touchdown and Kessler’s fade to Gary Barnidge tacked on two more points as the Browns climbed to within three at 24-21. They had to survive a strip sack of Kessler by Cameron Wake, who was flagged for being offsides.
Parkey’s 38-yard field with 3:41 left in regulation squared the score, setting up what looked like a Cleveland victory once Lemonier separated the ball from Tannehill and recovering it at the Miami 27.
And then Jackson began thinking negatively a little too much, depriving his team – and the fans – of feeling good for at least the next few days. Such opportunities will not come along often this season.