Countdown to The Draft
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By: Will Burge
You don’t lose twelve straight road games on accident. The Browns once again struggled to close out an opponent in their house as they lost 23-20 to the Dallas Cowboys. Here are the ten things that jumped out at me from the game.
1. Stop me if you have heard this one before: The Browns could not close out a victory. Nine of their ten games have been decided by ten points or less. They are competitive but just can’t quite seem to get over the hump. At some point, the head coach becomes responsible for that. Whether they are young player mistakes, bad penalties, or questionable play calls the blame stops with the head coach. It may not be entirely his fault but Pat Shurmur needs to figure out a way to get him young team to close out games.
2. The referees did not have a “training film material” type game. They had several questionable calls but none more so than the horse collar penalty against Josh Cribbs that went the Browns way and then the unnecessary roughness call against TJ Ward that went the Cowboys way. Both were incorrect but balanced each other out. I personally think that Ward is starting to develop a reputation as that type of player and that played into the flag. That stigma is unfair but when you play with his type of aggression penalties tend to happen.
3. Pat Shurmur will once again come under criticism this week for his play call on 4th & 1 at the Cowboys 1 yard line with 1:47 left in the game. He decided to go for it on 4th down and ran a fade route to Jordan Cameron on the side of the endzone which fell incomplete. Truth be told, going for it was the right move and passing isn’t a bad idea, but if you are going to use a formation with three tight ends shouldn’t you run a play action pass? The entire idea of the “jumbo” package is to sell the run and then you don’t sell the run. This became a moot point with the defense holding and Brandon Weeden throwing a touchdown pass to Ben Watson on the next possession.
4. I was most disappointed in the sideshow that happened during pre-game warm-ups between Mike Holmgren and Jerry Jones. Both men have been in a position of power and public awareness for some time now and there are no excuses for the narcissistic showcase that each displayed. Everyone knows there are rumors that Holmgren would be interested in the Cowboys head coaching job if Jason Garrett was to be fired. Knowing that, why would each man be on the field to chat it up and glad hand in front of the TV cameras? Not to mention that no one in the media I talked to has ever seen Holmgren walking through the players pregame and shaking hands. It seemed like a high visibility job interview and took away their team’s upcoming game.
5. It is a tall task to win on the road in the NFL. It is even harder when you commit 12 penalties for 129 yards. The defense committed over 90% of those flags and hurt their teams cause all day.
6. Joe Haden missed the game with a strained oblique muscle and his presence was missed. Buster Skrine had a tough day and was picked on frequently. Dez Bryant was an animal catching 12 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. There is no question that Haden is one of the biggest pieces of the defensive puzzle.
7. A huge positive for the Browns, however, was their defensive line. With Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor healthy and a full rotation they dominated the line of scrimmage from the first snap. The line was responsible for 16 tackles, 5 sacks, and made Tony Romo uncomfortable all day. I love mixing Billy Winn at defensive end for bigger packages. Dick Jauron has one of the best young defensive lines in the NFL.
8. Craig Robertson made his presence felt from the linebacker position today. The more I watch him, the more I feel like he can be an effective starting linebacker in the NFL. He is fast, has good reaction time, and rarely misses tackles. He finished the day with 5 tackles 1 sack and 1 QB hit.
9. Johnson Bademosi has been the most unappreciated part of the Browns all season long. He is a gunner on special teams and had done a stellar job at his roll. Once Buster Skrine went down with an injury, Bademosi was thrust into a prominent role at cornerback. He held his own. It wasn’t many snaps but the Cowboys tried to attack him and were unsuccessful. That is a back-ups job.
The Browns have not won many games on the field but have certainly made betters happy all season. The Browns almost never lose against the spread. That once again in a sign of a team which is always in the game, but finds a way to lose at the end.
|Will Burge covers the Browns for ESPNCleveland.com and hosts 3 Deep, Monday - Friday from 7pm-9pm.|
Follow Will on Twitter @WillBurge
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