By Tony Grossi
Maybe it will be different for the Browns in 15 days for the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
It would help if the offensive line would show up then.
If not, we will surely see a repeat of the carnage laid on Browns quarterbacks – and punter Reggie Hodges – in the clubs’ preseason meeting Friday night.
The Browns were timid and slow against the Eagles’ cat-quick defensive line. This was not a good sign considering the Eagles played a game just four nights earlier against New England.
The Browns’ line looked rooted in cement pails. The result in the first half was three sacks of Brandon Weeden and two fumbles (one lost), two false starts and two holding penalties, and a blocked punt of Hodges almost before the ball left his right foot.
Nevertheless, Pat Shurmur, who played offensive line in college, refused to pin the blame on the blockers.
“I think we didn’t play well enough as a team,” the coach said. “There were mistakes (all over on offense). I don’t think there’s a finger to be pointed there.”
Running back Montario Hardesty contributed his second fumble in two games.
Taking a cue from the offense, the Browns’ defense watched Eagles’ third-round rookie quarterback Nick Foles continue his storybook preseason. Foles tossed two short touchdown passes and built a 17-3 Philadelphia lead at halftime.
An announced crowd of 54,550 in Cleveland Browns Stadium, which included owner Jimmy Haslam watching from a seat in the Dawg Pound in the first quarter, was mostly gone when the Eagles completed the 27-10 drubbing. It was the Browns’ first loss in three practice games.
Colt McCoy scrambled and threw against the Eagles’ backups for a 78-yard scoring drive into the fourth quarter. McCoy’s 3-yard touch pass was caught by tight end Evan Moore in the right corner of the end zone.
McCoy came in for a series with :48 left in the first half and played through the third quarter. He was 7 of 9 for 74 yards and the TD, and was sacked twice. Whether or not that performance secures his place with the Browns, it surely will intensify his popularity with the fans.
Especially after Seneca Wallace was intercepted off a deflection on his first play in the fourth quarter. Wallace played the least of the QBs and was 3 of 6 for 29 yards.
Like in the preseason opener in Detroit, Weeden started hot and then petered out as his line failed him. Weeden completed his first four passes for 66 yards – starting with a 28-yard strike to Josh Gordon over Nnamdi Asomugha – but eventually lost the ball on a sack by tackle Derek Landri on second down from the Eagles’ 12.
Weeden disintegrated from there, completing only 5 of 16 through the half for 51 yards. Weeden’s next possessions ended with a punt after three plays, a Hardesty fumble, a sack, a sack, a 33-yard Phil Dawson field goal and an incompletion running to avoid a sack.
In five quarters of preseason play, Weeden has three fumbles (two lost) and one interception. The first question posed to him was about ball security, eliciting a sarcastic chuckle from the rookie.
“I understand the importance of it,” he said. “I have to get on it.”
One of Shurmur’s objectives for the game was to expose his team to Philadelphia’s quick defense. Cause for concern?
“They’re fast,” Weeden said. “That’s what they do, come after you. We respect those guys as pass rushers.”
The only bright spots on offense were Gordon making three receptions (for 50 yards) on four targets, and Brandon Jackson showing some life in relief of Hardesty with 34 yards rushing on seven carries.
Shurmur was disgusted in a halftime interview with WKYC-TV 3.
“We just have to play better,” he said. “I am not sure we can say we did much good in the first half. We turned the ball over. We gave up big plays. We did find a way to drive the ball, but you can’t turn it over. All of the things that you can’t do, we found a way to do it.”
Shurmur found some positives to point out about Weeden.
“I thought he battled pretty well,” Shurmur said. “He made some good throws. He saw a couple more situations that he hadn’t seen before, so that’s a productive night for him. He found a way to complete some passes, some deep balls. He is finding Josh Gordon now.
“We are coming along in areas that I am hopeful, but as a team we didn’t play well enough.”
Greg Little had only one reception in four targets, and looked to short-arm one pass over the middle. Mohamed Massaquoi had two catches for 23 yards. Jordan Cameron had one catch for five yards and one drop. Travis Benjamin missed on two targets.
The news wasn’t much better on defense. Cornerback Sheldon Brown could not cover a 5-8 undrafted free agent receiver named Damaris Johnson, who had two catches for 58 yards. Johnson made another 23-yard catch in the end zone over Brown that was disallowed when his second foot failed to land in bounds.
It looked like defensive end Marcus Benard suffered a major injury to an elbow. Shurmur would not elaborate after the game.
Foles beat a James-Michael Johnson blitz for a 7-yard TD to tight end Brent Celek, and beat safety T.J. Ward on a 2-yard slant to running back Dion Lewis for another score.
The Browns seldom put pressure on Foles, who completed 12 of 19 for 146 yards. Joe Haden made a leaping interception of an underthrown Foles deep pass for DeSean Jackson.
Besides allowing the punt block of Hodges, the Browns’ special teams were scorched for a 30-yard punt return by Johnson.
|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 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
Return to: Grossi Stories Blog