By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Extra Points …
Breaking it down: Yes, the officiating was shamefully horrendous in Foxborough, MA, on Sunday. Most of the calls -- but not all -- went against the Browns. And rather than galvanizing to overcome the calls, the young Browns unraveled at the end.
But the calls alone did not defeat the Browns. The anatomy of blowing leads of 19-3 and then 26-14 with 2:39 to play was contained in the following:
* Going for two so early: After Gary Barnidge’s 40-yard touchdown upped the Browns’ lead to 12-0, coach Rob Chudzinski went for two points instead of the automatic PAT. There was 10:15 left in the third quarter. The two-point try – an inside handoff to Chris Ogbonnaya – failed.
After the game, Chudzinski said he followed “the book” written by analytics experts. On Monday, I asked if there is another book that says don’t go for two until the fourth quarter.
“The book I have is the one that says go for two,” Chud said with a laugh. “Hindsight’s always 20-20. You always wish the outcome would be different. At the end of the day, you try to play the percentages. Certainly knowing New England could score, how they could score, played a part in it and (Tom) Brady, what he can do, played a part.”
* New England’s onside kick: After Brady’s TD to Julian Edelman closed the lead to 26-21 with 1:01 to play, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski perfectly executed a “middle bunt” onside kick. A shift in their original alignment appeared to leave the Browns confused and unready. Not so, said Chudzinski.
“When (the Patriots) first aligned, (the Browns) were spread out and that was the proper alignment that we wanted. As the kicker approached the ball and they all started coming inside, we slid in as we needed to.
“When you first start in that alignment, if the ball was kicked outside, which is typical, you block and one guy is designated as the guy to handle the kick. On the middle bunt, which they have shown before, as their guys start converging in the middle, we slide and go and go get the ball. It was a great kick for that type of kick.
It appeared that Fozzy Whittaker was hesitant in attacking the loose ball and falling on it.
“His initial assignment is to block,” Chudzinski said. “As they all converged and break out, it’s to go for the ball. My understanding is he thought Gostokowski was catching or touching the ball and he went after Gostkowski at that point.”
* Failing to save a timeout for the final kick: Chudzinski burned his first timeout with 11:18 to play in third quarter. He said the play-clock was running down and called it to save a five-yard delay penalty.
The second timeout was burned on the next series with 5:36 to go in the third quarter.
Chud: “We were trying to get to a play with a specific player in a package and was waiting for a player, Greg Little, to get back in time from running a deep route.”
The third timeout was burned after the pass interference penalty on Leon McFadden gave the Patriots the ball at the 1-yard line with :35 left.
Chud: “I wanted to make sure we had the right call and the right personnel, and then just get our guys’ composure and understanding of what we needed to do at that point. There was 30-some seconds left in the game. Finally I wanted to see what New England was going to do and have a feel for what they were going to try to do.”
Jason Campbell took over at the 20 with :31 remaining. After three completions and one incompletion, he spiked the ball with :01 left and the ball at the New England 40. Billy Cundiff’s 58-yard field goal try had the accuracy, but fell just shy of the end line. He needed about three yards to clear the crossbar.
So it was more than bad calls by the officials that doomed the Browns, and Chudzinski stood up to that fact.
“We had opportunities to win the game and weren’t able to capitalize on them and close the game out,” Chudzinski said.
|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 firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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