The Cleveland Browns were ripped to shreds by the New York Giants on Sunday, and most people will point to one specific play in the first half that shifted the momentum of the game in the Giants’ favor.
With a little over four minutes remaining in the second quarter and the Browns driving into Giants territory already up 17-10, the prospect of Cleveland going into halftime with the lead seemed entirely likely.
Then came a third-and-one play on the Giants’ 25-yard line. Rather than hand the ball off to running back Trent Richardson, who had been having an excellent day to that point, the Browns chose to pass without Richardson even on the field. Quarterback Brandon Weeden rolled out and ended up throwing an interception that would be returned 46 yards, back to the Browns’ 40-yard line.
It would set off three consecutive scoring drives for the Giants, putting them up 27-17 at the half and essentially placing the game out of the Browns’ reach.
Head coach Pat Shurmur has been put through the ringer for his decision to throw on that play, which is certainly the easy way to look at this game. Sure, the interception was demoralizing, but the blame falls more on Weeden’s poor throw than the decision itself.
Being afraid of a turnover makes an offense stale, and Shurmur obviously wasn’t accounting for that kind of meltdown. More than likely, he saw how the defense was playing and realized the Browns needed to score touchdowns, not field goals, in order to beat the Giants. It was certainly unfortunate to see how things unfolded after that play, but there is no reason to second-guess the decision so much.
It would be more productive to look at the defense and how utterly and completely destroyed it was by quarterback Eli Manning and running back Ahmad Bradshaw. The aggressive play calling by Shurmur was inspired in a game like this, but there was nothing he could do about the disappointing defense.
Shurmur doesn’t deserve the blame for the Browns’ loss to the Giants, but such is life for the head coach of an 0-5 team (and in Cleveland, no less).