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Tony's Take: Another horrendous windup to a double-digit loss season

Dec 23, 2012 -- 10:20pm

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By Tony Grossi

DENVER, CO

Tony Grossi’s Take on Browns’ 34-12 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Offense: Balance got out of control in the second half as the deficit widened. Trent Richardson had his best game, average-wise, with 5.9 yards a carry. But there were only nine carries for 53 yards and he was carted off with an ankle injury on the next-to-last play. Brandon Weeden was knocked out in the third quarter with a shoulder injury, courtesy of a Von Miller sack. Weeden had trouble completing drives. He was deflected again inside the 10, and then checked down short of a first down, and also missed an open Josh Gordon inside the 5. Bottom line: Colt McCoy in Pittsburgh? Who’d have thunk it?

Defense: Forced to field two linebackers the entire game against Peyton Manning’s three-WR, no-huddle offense, it couldn’t get off the field. Manning was at his pinpoint best, putting the ball on the money on three TD passes against decent coverage. Manning kept the ball away from Joe Haden and riddled a depleted secondary further weakened by the concussion of Sheldon Brown in the second quarter. The defensive front had no chance to sack Manning – it barely touched him – because the secondary didn’t do a good job of disrupting receivers off their routes. Bottom line: Surgically riddled by a future Hall of Famer.

Special teams: Josh Cribbs had a 61-yard punt return nullified by an illegal block in the back penalty by an unnamed teammate. Later, Cribbs lost a fumble on a punt when the ball deflected off his facemask. Phil Dawson booted three of his four kickoffs out of the end zone and made field goals from 27 and 53 yards. The Broncos totaled seven return yards on two punt returns and one kickoff return. Bottom line: Can’t afford a single mistake.

Coaching: Players were visibly angry with Pat Shurmur for using three timeouts to force a last offensive series with the game hopelessly out of reach and also for calling deep dropback pass plays. It put them in a no-win situation with the Broncos’ pass rush teeing off. Richardson’s injury happened when McCoy was knocked down and fell on Richardson’s left leg. Bottom line: The finish line is in Pittsburgh, as always.

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 tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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