By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Photo/Getty via ESPN.com
Updated at 9:17 p.m.
GREEN BAY, WI
It was wet. It was slippery. It didn’t matter.
The Green Bay Packers, missing two starting receivers, performed as if they were indoors. Precision passing by Aaron Rodgers resulted in 260 yards through the air and three touchdowns.
Rodgers made a star out of back-of-the-roster receiver Jarrett Boykin, who had a career day against Buster Skrine – eight catches on 10 targets, 103 yards and his first NFL touchdown.
The Browns played, well, like they play.
Balls squirted out of Brandon Weeden’s hands and sailed out of bounds. Receivers dropped passes. Linebackers missed tackles. Cornerbacks slipped and lost coverage.
The result was a 31-13 loss in Lambeau Field for the Browns, their second in a row to fall to 3-4, and their fourth in four games with Brandon Weeden as the starting quarterback.
Weeden’s first two passes, and three of his first four, landed out of bounds. His sixth pass was almost intercepted. His seventh pass was intercepted.
Before you knew it, Rodgers had a 14-0 lead and the only question was whether Green Bay’s 1929 throwback uniforms would look worse – or better – at the end of the game caked in mud. (They were equally ugly.)
The early deficit resulted in Weeden throwing 42 times, completing 17 for 149 yards. He was sacked three times by a defense missing its best pass rushers and was intercepted once. He threaded the needle on a 2-yard TD pass to Jordan Cameron in the fourth quarter for his only touchdown.
One of Weeden’s passes, long after the outcome was decided, was an underhanded lob in the direction of Chris Ogbonnaya that fell harmlessly but brought back frightening reminders of his “flipper” interception against Detroit.
“I was trying to throw a ground ball to Obie," Weeden said. "I didn’t want to take a sack. It was my mistake … I’m going to leave everything out on the field. I don’t care. You can cuss me if you want. I’m going to fight until that clock says zero.”
In Weeden’s four losing starts, the Browns have scored 46 points and four touchdowns.
Coach Rob Chudzinski said he did not consider inserting Jason Campbell. He was typically noncommittal about future quarterback plans, saying, “We’ll look at it and evaluate, again, everybody and, we’ll always put the guys out there we feel give us the best chance to win.”
Chudzinski said Weeden missed some throws and noted receivers’ drops hurt the cause.
In a key point in the game, Weeden didn’t appear to get enough help from his best receiver, Josh Gordon.
The Browns were down, 17-6, early in the fourth quarter and had the ball at the Packers’ 31-yard line. It was fourth down, 15 yards to go. But Chudzinski thought a 48-yard field goal try by Billy Cundiff into the wind was out of range, so he went for it – one of five fourth-down tries in this game.
Weeden threw to the left corner for Gordon, who had an edge on cornerback Davon House. But Gordon didn’t come back for the ball aggressively, and House deflected it at the last moment.
Gordon said, “I definitely think I did (go hard for the ball). The DB made a great play on the ball.”
Chudzinski said, “He had a chance to make a play on it. I couldn’t see it well enough to determine that. It seemed like a playable ball. You’d like to see him come up with that catch.”
Weeden wouldn’t go there.
“Josh plays extremely hard,” said the quarterback. “I would never second-guess that. He plays his tail off every play.”
The subject of persistent trade rumors, Gordon was targeted six times. He had two catches (and one drop) for 21 yards.
After the fourth-down miss, Rodgers piled on with two more touchdown drives, getting the scores on throws of 1 yard to Jordy Nelson, slanting inside Joe Haden, and 20 yards to Boykin, after Skrine slipped and fell.
Rodgers beat Ray Horton’s defense in every quarter except the third.
“Aaron Rodgers is that quarterback that gets the ball out of his hands,” said Browns safety T.J. Ward. “He knows where he wants to go with the ball and he delivers it precisely, so it’s hard to get sacks on him when he is taking three-step drops. If he’s not taking those, he is running around in the pocket and if he is in a sack situation he is going to throw the ball away. That is what makes him so difficult. He is a smart quarterback and he is a veteran.”
All the conversation last week and extra practice time devoted to third-down defense didn’t change the season-wide trend. Rodgers converted 7 of 11 third downs, other than an 0 for 2 mark in the third quarter.
“I guess we have to do more work,” said linebacker Jabaal Sheard, who returned to his starting job after three games off with a sprained knee.”
The Browns’ effort to run the ball was thwarted by the early 14-0 deficit. Ultimately, they rushed 23 times for 83 yards. Willis McGahee’s 39 yards on 11 attempts led the team. One of the Browns’ running plays was a MarQueis Gray handoff out of the Wildcat formation to Fozzy Whittaker. That sounds like something right out of the 1999 expansion season.
Whittaker also had a 56-yard kickoff return. He was upstaged by an 86-yard return by Travis Benjamin – his first on kickoffs all year. Benjamin was tackled at the Packers’ 20. It led to the Cameron TD, which also came on a fourth-down play.
“I’m not discouraged,” Weeden said. “I told the guys when there was a minute left, ‘Hey, listen, there is a lot of football to go. We’ve got nine games to go, another big one on the road next week (in Kansas City).’ The last thing we need to do is get discouraged this early.”
|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 email@example.comFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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