Monday, September 8, 2014

On The Mark, 9.8.14: Browns React

 A Tale of Two Half's: Browns lose to Pittsburgh 30-27 after incredible 24 point comeback 

By @Markw2112

It was thrilling finish to what started out as a disastrous start for the Cleveland Browns.  But the results were the same as they've been for years; the Browns lose another opening day game, this time to the hated Pittsburgh Steelers, 30-27.  It didn't start out so close.  The Browns came back from a 24 point halftime deficit to tie it up in the fourth quarter.  The Browns offense, however, couldn't move the ball with their last two possessions, including their last in which they went backwards to almost the goal line.  This led to the Steelers getting the ball at their 40 yard line and Ben Roethlisberger orchestrating a drive to the Browns 24 yard line, where Shaun Suisham kicked the game winning field goal as time expired.

The first half of the game was all Steelers.  Roethlisberger ripped apart the secondary, seemingly picking on rookie Justin Gilbert.  He had 278 yards passing the first half alone, finishing 23-of-34 for 365 yards and a touchdown.  He was able to avoid pressure and make will his throws to whichever receiver was there to catch them.  He also had help from Le'Veon Bell, who had 109 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

The Browns, led by Brian Hoyer, had a nice first drive, including a 47 yard pass to Jordan Cameron, yet were only able to score a field goal.  After that, it seemed the offense couldn't get anything going.  Ben Tate ran the ball well to start the game but was out of the game by the second quarter due to a knee injury.  Terrance West took his place but couldn't seem to spark the offense either.  The Browns special teams at times weren't so special either, culminated by Antonio Brown's karate kick to the face mask of punter Spencer Lanning.  With Roethlisberger having his way with the defense, all hope seemed lost as the Browns went in to the locker room down 27-3.

But something happened during halftime that lit a fire under the team (whether by Pettine, the team veterans or both).  With the Browns receiving the ball to start the second half, Hoyer led the team 80 yards down field and ended it with Isiah Crowell's first touchdown as an NFL pro.  After a 3-and-out by the defense, the Browns were able to drive it down again, this time from their 41 yard line with another Crowell touchdown.  Just like that, it was 27-17 Steelers.  Another FG and touchdown drive by the Browns and the game was tied at 27.  The Steelers and their fans were shell shocked.  I'm pretty sure Browns fans were too.

Yet, in the end, the Browns did what they always seem to do (choke) and the Steelers did what they've done the past 11 years against the Browns in Pittsburgh (win).  

There were positives on both ends.  The young running team of Terrance West and Isiah Crowell came up big with 132 total yards and 2 touchdowns.  Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin and Taylor Gabriel had some clutch catches and the defense seemed to play better in the second half with some big time plays by Armonty Bryant, Paul Krueger and Jabaal Sheard.

My take is this: the Browns have another coaching staff with new playing systems on both sides.  It might take time to gel.  But the missed tackles on defense and the play of Justin Gilbert are still a huge concern going in to the New Orleans Saints game next Sunday in Cleveland.  They may not win next week but we can hope they make it fun.  And hopefully no chants for Johnny Football either.

Next game: Home opener against the New Orleans Saints, 1 PM, on Fox.  
(And possibly the return of Josh Gordon?  Stay tuned...)

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