Browns miss big opportunities, lose to Ravens 23-16

The Cleveland Browns certainly didn’t embarrass themselves (just like Josh Cribbs1 said) in losing 23-16 to the Ravens, but this team seems to be the absolute opposite of opportunistic. You have to give the Browns credit for having a plan on defense. They got gashed at times, but they kept Ray Rice under control and got some pressure on Joe Flacco. Offensively, you have to give them credit for running plays that gave them chances to stay close with one of the best teams in the league, but you have to win at some point. Too many field goals (three) and not enough touchdowns (one.) Staying close feels like something worth building on… for a while. But just being close could very well start to weigh heavier and heavier on this team until (or if) they finally make two or three more of those big plays and win a game.

I know people are going to want to kill Greg Little for dropping passes, specifically what would have been a touchdown to bring the Browns within three in the fourth quarter. It’s frustrating to watch for sure, and that wasn’t his only missed opportunity. Still, he made a huge catch on the team’s 94 yard touchdown drive. The same player who “killed the Browns” is the same one who gave them the one spark they needed to finally put some offense together. The passing game was totally out of sync and listless before that catch, for the most part.

I don’t have a conclusion other than he and the rest of the Browns’ offense need to get better and make those four to five extra plays that they’re leaving on the field. Greg Little has proven that he can make them. He just needs to do so consistently. That’s everyone’s story on offense right now. 

Brandon Weeden showed some real flashes of ability tonight when he wasn’t looking like a rookie (which he is) staring guys down for far too many plays in a row. For all the drops he endured, he also threw a pick six and threw behind guys pretty frequently. Even on the last play of the game and a chance to win, Weeden threw the ball in an uncatchable fashion out of the end zone. They’re rookies, so on the one hand, I get it. On the other hand, that just can’t happen at any level of football. Go ahead and try to give him a single grade for this game.

What a strange game to reflect on for the defense. It was the ultimate mixed bag. The defense saved a touchdown when Craig Robertson made a great interception on a Flacco ball within spitting distance of the endzone. Ray Rice ran for only 50 yards, but he also received for 47. In all Flacco and Boldin had their way with the Browns’ secondary. It felt like the Browns’ defensive line played pretty well, but they amassed only one sack to go along with eight QB hits.

Just a confusing game for the Browns other than the final score. The score is always the easiest part to understand with the Browns. 23-16 and a loss to Baltimore is only good if you took the Browns +13.

It might seem like a really obvious statement, but where they go from here is up to them. This game didn’t seem particularly demoralizing and I could see a scenario where it might give them confidence heading to New York to face the Giants. At the same time, if they hang their heads over the losses piling up as they pass the quarter way mark for this NFL season, they might start to press and get worse.

With a looming ownership change and an unknown (at best) in the head coaching position, there’s just a lot of uncertainty right now for the Cleveland Browns. It’s uncertain for fans, and the biggest fear is that it might just be uncertainty for the team inside the locker room too.

Enjoy your weekend off from Browns football.

  1. Didn’t know exactly where to fit it into the story, but Josh Cribbs took one of the worst head shots I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t dirty at all. Just a freak angle taken by a defender on a punt return. Cribbs incredibly walked off the field under his own power, but obviously didn’t return. Here’s hoping there are no lasting injuries from that shot. []

  • Garry_Owen

    Watch the 4th quarter again. Their pass protection was actually very, very good.
    Also, that 94 yard drive doesn’t happen without really solid OL play.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Ditto for the Rams.

  • Rice ran for over a 100 yards.

  • Garry_Owen

    I loved that blitz pick-up by Ogbanaya in the 4th Quarter. He dropped ol’ Ray-Ray like a stabbing victim at the Super Bowl.

  • mgbode

    ?? 18carries for 49 yards. 2.7YPC

    (he had another 47yds receiving, but even added together is less than 100)

  • Natedawg86

    10 wins and no playoff…remember it now…ugh

  • Look at who’s coming out in free agency and who are the best options at CB and WR in the draft — see who might come from where, especially since we gave up our 2nd round pick (maybe 33rd or 34th in draft) to get Gordon.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Baltimore did a great job keeping the game close I can’t believe they threw the ball what over 40x? Flacco was shredding the secondary but the big plays were lacking. Rice never got a chance to get going the second half they barely ran him. Crazy.

  • Natedawg86

    That laughs and then says it is not funny…

  • Natedawg86

    Well, raising my kids as CLE fans in MD. I am hoping when they get older (currently 3 and 1) the teams will be more competive

  • Natedawg86

    As a receiver, the old adage is that if it hits your hands, you should catch it

  • Dee P

    True. Guess that’s why the NFL’s hallmark play is the Montana to Clark pass…..where yes…..Clark leaps with out stretched arms and makes the catch.

    Can you imagine Little in a hallmark NFL highlight?

  • Absolutely! We were 3 and out thru most of the 1st half — sort of giving away half the game before we got started.

    Weeden was shaky at first, but the play-calling to start is playing not to lose, and almost guarantees a loss.

    In preseason, Shurmur scripted the first 5 or 6 plays for Weeden and the offense — which turned out to be his best performances in preseason. Bill Walsh used to script 16 to 18 plays to begin games really fast and it certainly worked for him.

    We’ve got to start faster.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I think he would have… Shurmur seems to have made it pretty clear that he doesn’t plan on giving Cribbs too many WR reps because he wants him fresh for special teams play.

  • humboldt

    That was one of the most gruesome hits I’ve seen in an NFL game – I thought Josh might have broken his neck. Took the wind out of the whole first half for me…thank god he appears to be alright.

    In my opinion, it won’t be long before punts/kickoffs are taken out of the game. The speed/size/angles of players is just getting too dangerous. Curious if others agree

  • Craig, stop being reasonable about Greg Little! Just join the hate train, everyone’s on it!!

  • Garry_Owen

    Well, I think that was true until MoMass’s injury. I believe that Cribbs was the “next man up” for MoMass, with Norwood activated to take Cribbs’s spot – but I could be wrong.

  • Garry_Owen

    When I saw it, I initially questioned why I watch this game. My hyperbolic comment above aside, I truly thought that he might have broken his neck. Was really glad to see him up and “well.”
    I would hate for punts and kickoffs to go away, for what it would do to the game, but I believe that you’re probably right. They would have to figure out an alternative way to handle changes of possession, though.

  • mgbode

    imagine someone saying that in 2000? those kids would be 15 & 13 now.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Word. I was thinking MoMass was our slot receiver in 3-receiver sets and that Norwood was looking to be playing in that spot. I haven’t really been paying attention to where Cribbs has been playing when he’s in there though.

  • steve-o

    There’s another lesson to be learned from this. Just a few years ago the Ravens had terrible recievers and they began the turn-around by first signing Bolden, a veteran who has proven ability. He instantly became a security blanket for their young QB and has helped show their young recievers the way. That is an actual plan. It works better than just blindly throwing away second round picks and hoping for the best. Sure hope Haslam was taking notes last night.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Don’t remind me I was one of the people who first wanted to try and trade for Boldin then second go after him as a free agent. He’s the perfect kind of guy Weeden could have used now. That being said until last night Boldin had been having a tough season. Haden can’t get back fast enough especially with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks on deck.

  • Mongoose

    I agree. Torey Smith was taken just before Greg Little in the draft (58th versus 59th). What a difference one spot has made so far.

  • Harv 21

    Grossi said much the same today but not sure that’s true about Little. Like Braylon, he can make great catches and that’s natural talent. I think Little’s focus is on scoring the TD and drawing attention to himself, not securing the ball. Many of his drops don’t appear to be hand-eye coordination as much as his turning upfield before ball is secured. As I posted elsewhere, he has glory hunger, not ball hunger. If a guy has to secure a roster spot by production counted in catches made when thrown his way, he secures the rock. I think Little’s tangibles have made him a peacock who has gotten by without discipline. Having said that his issue is one of prioroties and maurity rather than physical, doesn’t mean it’s curable. Who is his roster competition now?

  • Garry_Owen

    I hope you’re right. My analysis is anecdotal. Frankly, Little reminds me of me when I played the position. I mean, apart from the obvious comparisons, of course, (size, strength, speed, general overall physique – I’ve shrunk considerably since my college days), no matter how hard I worked at it, and practiced at it, I just never had the greatest hands. It drove me (and my coaches, I imagine) absolutely crazy. I could get to a point in practice where I could make every catch – even some one-handed beauties – but in the clutch, I far, far to often dropped it. Needless to say, I didn’t see much of the clutch in college. I’m not sure what else I could have done. I just couldn’t catch the d*** ball.
    As I approach 40, I’m comfortable admitting this. I was not a good football player. Little might still be a great football player; I’m just not sure it’s as a WR.

  • cmm13

    Ward is visible on run plays only and by that time the RB has already gained 10+ yards, not what i am looking for a safety to do. His impact int he passing game is horrible. He is not the “Polamalu” Heckert thought he was drafting Im still interested to see what happens to Sheard when Taylr returns and begins getting double teamed. This may free Sheard up for more speed off the edge.

  • cmm13

    15 yards on top of the intentional ground put us back into a 2nd and 30ish.
    I am not for railing on anyone for being an unemotional statue, but if you are going to let your emotions fly, do it when the call is bogus.

  • cmm13

    Everything he does on the field in the run game shows me he would be. He is a great run blocker and loves to showboat, name a safety that doesn’t love to preen after making a pretty smash?

  • Garry_Owen

    Well, first, Shurmur did believe it to be a bogus call – and I think there’s a good argument in his favor. Weeden was hit as he threw the ball. We’ll never know, but it looks like he was intending to hit a receiver about ten yards beyond where the ball landed. Had he not been hit, it is possible that the pass would have been complete (or at least much closer to the receiver than it was).
    Second, while they never did convert the first down (the next play went for 22 yards), the Browns had a clear chance to convert the drive into a TD – even with the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. They should have scored a TD, but Little didn’t make the catch. We tacked on 3 from Phil’s foot.
    I guess my point is that, while the display of anger was possibly ill-advised (though not necessarily so), it did not cost us the game. Little maybe shouldn’t have, in a perfect world, been placed in the position of having to score on a 3rd down pass from the 34, but he was in the position and failed to do his job.
    Even if ill-advised, the penalty is simply not “proof” that he shouldn’t be a head coach (any more than Belichick’s various emotional indescretions are proof of the same with respect to him).

  • Harv 21

    conjures up a vision of free safety Greg Little flexing and kissing his biceps after drag tackling a receiver 27 yards downfield when we’re down by 10. Think I’d rather have him signaling a first down.

  • Gren

    Well, late as far as the complete studs are off the board. Not as in the draft as a whole. I completely forgot about us losing our 2nd for Gordon.

  • Garry_Owen

    I’d kinda like to see that!

    Why not fullback? He’s got to be better than the one we have now. We know he catches as well, anyway. (Here’s where you give the obligatory “Vickers was DA MAN and we were stoopid to let him go” response. You know you want to. If you don’t, someone else will.)

  • LilBoyBlue

    That’s the difference between a CB and a receiver. Therefore, put #15 in the defensive backfield.

  • NoVA Buckeye

    I put the blame on Jim Sorgi, whose been the cause of misery twice in my lifetime. The first was the Wisconsin-Ohio State game in 2003 when he threw a hail mary to beat the Bucks and the second time was the Titans-Colts game in 2007 when he relieved Peyton Manning and went on to lose the game. SOOORGIIIIII!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • NoVA Buckeye

    Vickers was DA MAN and we were stoopid to let him go

  • Scut_Farkus

    I remember that because I yelled at my Colt fan friend for giving the Titans the tie-breaker they didn’t deserve, They got crushed in the first round. But I’m not an OSU fan, so I didn’t know the other layer of pain.