Since the Cleveland Browns have decided that being 1-23 over the last two seasons is great for fan morale, I’ve done my best to make sure that the entire regular season is about me. I’ve tailgated many times, but have not paid for a ticket. I’ve purchased apparel, but only because some of the new Nike DryFit stuff is can’t-say-no level of quality. But if anything has made the game-watching experience more fan friendly, it was a 9:30 a.m. kickoff that allowed me to not only get on with the rest of my Sunday afternoon, but have my choice of a host of other games to watch as I was doing so.
Typically, the Browns (coupled with league rules) run the 1 p.m. hour, which means I have little to choose from for the rest of the day. This past Sunday, however, we had choices at the 1 p.m. spot with two quality games at the 4 p.m. hour. None of this even includes the movie-worthy World Series game that would cap off the night. It was like we got to experience life as a west coaster, if only for a day.
I’m not sure how we could get this to be a thing, but I’m all for 9:30 a.m. kickoffs from now until the team is watchable again. By my calculations, that will be…
LOSER: DeShone Kizer
Things were looking up until the Cleveland Browns actually needed their quarterback to make plays. If we’re going to give credit anywhere, it should be to the game plan which consisted of a lot of short passes that simply looked to methodically move the ball down the field. A stark contrast to earlier in the season, Hue Jackson’s play calling led to much in the way of dinking and dunking one’s toward the end zone, with only eight of his completions taking place past the line of scrimmage.1 When the Browns needed Kizer to make plays in the second half, however, things got shaky. While the Vikings were looking to go vertical at several points in the contest, Kizer had just one completion go north of ten yards (a beautifully thrown ball down the left sideline on Xavier Rhodes, for what it’s worth).
WINNER: DeShone Kizer
Hey—he got to play the entire game. Baby steps! Also, spearheading this celebration which led to a perfectly executed heel kick from David Njoku is worth the nod.
LOSER: Hue Jackson
Another game, another week where Jackson completely abandoned the run with an entire quarter of play left to go. Another game, another 70-plus yards in penalties gifted to the opponent. While the penalty count was sliced in half compared to the previous two weeks of 11 and 12, respectively, the five penalties credited to the Browns’ defense provided the Vikings with 74 yards. On the season, the Browns have been flagged 63 times (tied for third worst in the league), providing 554 free yards (second worst in the league). None of these numbers include the nine penalties that opponents have declined. Do better.
WINNER: Joe Thomas
In addition to providing excellent commentary throughout the game, Thomas penned an eloquent essay for Sports Illustrated, painting the picture of the days surrounding his injury and the surreal experience of watching the Browns on television. “I knew I was going to watch Sunday’s game,” Thomas wrote. “But when I woke up Sunday morning, more than a little part of me felt: I don’t want to watch this game. It’ll be too hard.”
The entire story is worth your time. Let me know if you also feel like that kicker is written as if the Hall of Fame-bound left tackle is unsure of his future in the league.
WINNERS: Shon Coleman and Spencer Drango
Thomas may not have been able to be on the field, but the kid on the other side of the line was masterful, leading the way in the running game while allowing nary a pressure in 40 passing snaps.
Thomas’ replacement, Drango, had his hands full all day in blocking Everson Griffen, but did well for a kid asked to fill some mighty big cleats. Bonus points for Drango on this Isaiah Crowell run where he shuffled inside and then peeled off to pop the edge and give his running back an extra second to get through the hole.
LOSER: Zane Gonzalez
Another missed field goal and another missed extra point. These clearly weren’t game-defining plays, but this team simply cannot afford to leave points on the table. That they drafted Gonzalez makes things that much worse. The Cowboys had to replace their kicker this week, doing so with Mike Nugent who made four field goals and three extra points. Blair Walsh was a free agent add in Seattle who is coming off a game with a perfect 2-of-2 on field goals and all five extra points in a game where his team needed every point they could muster. This shouldn’t be this hard, yet the Browns can’t seem to figure it out. Even the commentary is at a loss for words.
WINNERS: TY McGill and Danny Shelton
If you’re looking at the list of interior lineman sorted by pass-rush productivity, the name at the top is Cleveland’s own T.Y. McGill. On the field for eight passing downs, McGill rushed Case Keenum seven times, caused pressure on three, and was credited with two hurries. McGill combated this with strong interior presence in the run game, credited with two tackles and one stop over 16 run snaps. Not far down either list is Shelton who also added two tackles and a stop in the run game, and three hurries and three pressures in pass rushing. If you’re a fan looking for silver linings, it’s that these young kids — both those drafted high and those who just jump into the scene — are the ones producing.
LOSER: Jamar Taylor
If he wasn’t finger pointing at teammates for blown coverage, he was drawing pass interference calls and then going all Tim Duncan about them.
LOSER: The Back Judge
Look, the Browns are fighting enough of an uphill battle as it is, but this bullshit pass interference call set up a touchdown and a subsequent two-point conversion. The ball was beyond uncatchable and was the equivalent of a shooter jumping into a defender who’s in mid-air in hopes of drawing a few free throws. Bush league.
- For comparison, nine passes were caught on or behind the line of scrimmage. [↩]