For the New York Giants, Sunday’s matchup against the Cleveland Browns represented a trap game, as the Browns have been viewed as a tough team despite their winless record. And, for a little while, that scenario appeared ready to play out, as the Browns took early leads of 14-0 and 17-7.
Of course, the world came crashing down after that, as the Browns would end up surrendering more than 500 yards of offense in a 41-27 loss.
There are a number of things that point to how the Browns were decimated after starting off so strongly, but the biggest reason lies with the secondary. Without cornerback Joe Haden, this group continues to be abused on a weekly basis. This week, Sheldon Brown was particularly victimized, though Buster Skrine and Trevin Wade also felt pain at the hand of Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
Haden is slated to return next week against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the damage has been done in his absence. The secondary is painful to watch, a porous unit incapable of stopping just about anyone.
Let’s not forget the rest of the defense, though. Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw torched the Browns, accumulating 30 carries for 200 yards and a touchdown. For an already below-average run defense, a day like that is certainly not going to help matters.
Of course, the offense isn’t entirely free of blame for another disappointment, either. Quarterback Brandon Weeden, though connecting with wide receiver Josh Gordon on a beautiful 62-yard touchdown throw, made a crucial error on a third-and-one play with four minutes left in the second quarter.
The Browns were driving, up 17-10 and well within Phil Dawson’s range. Rather than utilize running back Trent Richardson in the short yardage situation, the Browns chose to pass. Weeden made a bad throw, was intercepted, and the entire complexion of the game changed after that. The Giants would score touchdowns on their next two possessions before the end of the half and never looked back.
On the bright side, Richardson continues to look as great as advertised. He ran the ball 17 times (he’s still being underutilized) for 81 yards and a touchdown to go along with five catches for 47 yards. He wielded a mighty stiff arm, breaking a number of tackles nearly every time he touched the ball. After five games, it’s safe to say that he is the real deal.
With the loss, the Browns have now lost 11 straight games dating back to last season, tying a franchise record. They have started the season 0-5 and are now currently the only winless team in the NFL. New owner Jimmy Haslam III doesn’t want to make any rash decisions, but with each loss, the public outcry for something to be done will become deafening.
It will be interesting to see what Haslam will do should the losing continues. It’s unfortunate, though, because the team does show signs of life with Pat Shurmur in charge. The personnel on the field needs time to improve, but a season like this might not allow the current coaching staff to be here to see that happen.