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Analysis: Browns' defense was jobbed by refs, but can't blame them for the loss

Dec 08, 2013 -- 5:57pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

FOXBOROUGH, MA

Tony Grossi’s Take on Browns’ 27-26 loss to the New England Patriots

Offense: Jason Campbell did a great job of staying patient, persevering drives to maintain possession, and delivering the ball to Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. Campbell was sharp after missing a game and 1 ½ weeks with a concussion. He ran two keepers for 27 yards and absorbed some blows. He threw for 391 yards, three TDs and no turnovers. Gordon destroyed Aqib Talib all day. His 151-yard game established another NFL record for yards in a four-game span. The running game (108 yards on 25 attempts) was effective in setting up play-action. Bottom line: Outplayed Patriots’ offense for 57 ½ minutes.

Defense: The unnecessary roughness penalty on Jordan Poyer after Julian Edelman’s TD and pass interference penalty on Leon McFadden against Josh Boyce were terrible calls. The NFL should be ashamed that their officials are intimidated and influenced by home crowds and teams with games on the line. Those calls would not be made against a home team. That being said, the defense made no stops on Tom Brady’s last two frantic drives. Not a one. The breakdown ruined a fantastic effort up till then. T.J. Ward’s devastating hit to Rob Gronkowski’s knee was an unfortunate accident that is partly the result of the NFL’s crackdown on higher hits. This day marked a resurgence by Paul Kruger (two sacks, one pass batted, one force fumble) and the pass rush in general (four sacks and three deflections at the line). Bottom line: Unable to close the deal.

Special teams: Fozzy Whittaker’s touch of the Patriots onside kick was a huge error. Billy Cundiff’s 58-yard field goal try on the last play was on the mark but fell about 1 ½ yards short. It was Cundiff’s first attempt at a game-winner this year. It would have made him a franchise legend if good. Other than that, they played Scott O’Brien’s special teams to a draw. Bottom line: Had to be perfect, and weren’t.

Coaching: Think about the chaos during the work week – needing to prepare separate game plans for three quarterbacks and only having two full practices with Campbell back. The uncertainty and haste in trying to get two unknown QBs up to speed had to interfere with preparations for an opponent like the Patriots. They did a sensational job and worked long, long hours. The conservative offensive game plan in the first half was ugly and boring – but smart. When Rob Chudzinski said the team will learn from this crushing loss, he is right. It would hurt a lot more if playoff implications were on the line. Bottom line: Nothing to be ashamed of and plenty to be proud of.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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