Another Sunday, another lead in the 2nd half, another loss for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns were able to get it going more in the 2nd half this week than the previous 2 weeks, but the teams highest points total (17) of the year was not enough to overcome their highest points allowed total (24). Peyton Hillis stole the show on Sunday, roughing up the Ravens all day long. However, yet again, the Browns fell just short of their first win and slipped farther into the cellar of the AFC. Here are a few of my thoughts and observations from Sundays show down in Baltimore.
The difference between the two teams was not in turnovers, or one team (the Browns) getting completely torn apart. The difference was execution and QB play. No surprise there really. Seneca Wallace played well if you look at just interceptions and completion percentage. Wallace completed 18 of 24 passes, which looks good at first glance, but then you see that he only threw for 141 yards. A weak 5.9 yards per completion average. They were all short, checkdown passes, as you can see by the yardage stat. Peyton Hillis 7 catches, Josh Cribbs had 5, Benjamin Watson had 5 and Lawrence Vickers had 1. As you can see they really spread the ball around and made the Ravens think really hard about who was going to be targeted each time Wallace dropped back. No wonder they were able to put the clamps on Cribbs in the 2nd half and make it so he had no chance to catch anything. This was the difference in the game. Flacco made strong, accurate throws, and spread the damage around to 6 players, all but 1 notching multiple catches. The key to success on Sunday was to shut down Anquan Boldin, howerver, due to their ability to spread the ball, it made the secondary’s job of focusing on Boldin impossible and he torched them for 142 yards and 3 td’s on 8 catches. Rather than stopping him, the Browns gave him everything he could have possibly wanted.
Peyton Hillis was certainly the star of the game on the Browns end. His 144 yards on 22 carries for a touchdown, the first scored against the Ravens this season, was really impressive. The Ravens had no answer for the Browns “Bruiser” as he punished defenders for all 4 quarters. I think the Browns may have a new #1 back. With Harrison missing the game and struggling the first two weeks he will likely see his already limited carries limited even more. This may, however, not be a bad thing. It would give the Browns a guy, Hilis, who could grind it out and wear down defenses to get them tired, allowing the speedy Harrison to come in and wreak havoc on a worn down defense. If the team could just find a passing game to compliment the power running game they could be in business. To me the most impressive part of his performance is the pure anger and power he runs with, just demolishing whoever stands in his way. The combo of Hillis and Vickers can strike fear into any defense.
The defense looked a little overworked late in the game, and while they kept the team in the game against a dangerous offense, it was the inability to get a stop late that ultimately spelled doom…
Well that and Seneca Wallace. The botched toss/handoff that put the Browns on the 3 yard line with a 2 and 27 was a killer. If that wasn’t bad enough he would later force a deep pass to Josh Cribbs on a manageable 3rd and short. Cribbs was covered so tight by the Ravens defender that he was basically in Cribbs’ bunny onesy with him. Rather then taking a short pass, the team’s bread and butter, and having a chance to at least attempt a game tying drive, they just gave up and heaved the ball down field aimlessly. The team, from the coaching staff to the players does not have a whole lot of fight it would seem, and was too quick to accept defeat. They called it quits with about 4 minutes left and down only a score.
So on to week 4, the Bengals will be another tough game for the Browns who are still trying to recover from a rough 3 weeks to start the season.