Certainly, there are more positives than negatives as the Browns were able to beat the Vikings, 31-27. It definitely was not pretty but the Browns really pulled together on defense with some huge contributions from individuals on the offensive side of the ball. Here are some of the notes from the game.
Josh Gordon was the most dominant player on the field. He was the player that made the Browns offense go. 35% of Hoyer’s passes were in Gordon’s direction.
Paul Kruger was really impressive. In a front seven that seems composed of a terrific group of players, Kruger was able to consistently cause pressure and was a big factor against the running game. His name was brought up quite a bit throughout the game. So far, he has been terrific and a huge addition to this team.
Barkevious Mingo wasted little time getting his second sack and how he was able to get it left the Vikings right tackle, Phil Loadholt, shaking his head. Loadholt got Mingo on the ground and Christian Ponder thought he was basically out of the play and stepped up in the pocket perhaps thinking of running and Mingo got up on his feet and put a great hit on the Vikings quarterback for the sack. With Jabaal Sheard’s health a question as he suffered a knee injury and Quentin Groves already injured, Mingo suddenly had to put on his big boy pants quickly. He got overwhelmed a couple times, but really did play well in his opportunities, able to put heat on the quarterback as well as help against the run.
Sheard made a few huge plays and at least one of them was among the group that were the reason the Browns won the game. With time dwindling towards the half and the Vikings in the red zone, Sheard was able to beat Loadholt for a sack fumble which Craig Robertson recovered to end the half. The Vikings were running one last play before they were going to attempt a field goal. Sheard also recovered a fumble caused by D’Qwell Jackson but he was also injured on the play and his status is up in the air right now.
Phil Taylor was able to get a sack basically by slapping Ponder to the ground with one big bear paw. Taylor did a lot of dirty work in the middle trying to stop Adrian Peterson but he is able to help on the pass rush up the middle and has really become a great cog on the defensive line.
Jordan Cameron just keeps producing. This is the third good game he has had and in terms of yards, it was his worst. This is also the second quarterback who has found him to be someone they want to throw the ball. 6 catches, 66 yards and 3 touch downs today. It is getting harder and harder to argue with his ability as a receiving threat. Now, his blocking…
Davone Bess had a good game and he was finally able to contribute in the ways the team expected when he was acquired. He moved the chains, was able to get open on third downs, and took advantage of the opportunities created by Gordon.
T.J. Ward had the interception and that was a great play, but what stood out about Ward was how unafraid he was of Peterson. He was physically, sought him out and put some hits on him. Ward never backed down and just played hard throughout the game. If he can just stay healthy, he is a force on defense.
Buster Skrine gets a ton of criticism and much of it, he has usually earned. Today, he had a good day. He had a couple pass deflections that were desperate as he was chasing the play late and had to try to get his arms up, but he did and he knocked them both down. It is unclear at this point if one of them was his coverage or not, but the one big catch he gave up was great coverage; Cordarrelle Patterson made an incredible catch. Skrine was also physical as a run defender and that is one reason the coaches really like him.
Brian Hoyer was a mixed bag. He made some big plays and made some disastrous mistakes. Ultimately, he was able to make one more play than he missed and the Browns were able to win. Hoyer is not stupid. He threw 40 of his 54 passes at Gordon, Cameron, and Bess.
Mitchell Schwartz did a solid job for the most part, but the one play he missed yielded a sack to Brian Robison. The more curious part of this is it seems to be a dip move on a direct path to the quarterback that seems to be consistently giving him problems.
As effective as the Browns defensive scheme was, they consistently had massive issues when it came to dealing with Ponder’s legs. In the end, Ponder was able to run for 46 yards and 2 touchdowns on 5 carries. On the first touchdown, Ponder was not accounted for at all and he was wide open and scored easily on a quarterback draw. They never really got a handle on the situation until the fourth quarter when a well-timed blitz with Robertson off of the right side caused Ponder to get rid of the football before he could get into his roll out.
Travis Benjamin has struggled and had a rough day again today. On the punt the Vikings recovered, Benjamin was in terrible position to try to field the ball and it just went downhill from there and resulted with the Vikings getting the ball back.
Somehow the Browns have had their third kicker injury of the year and it is only week three. After hitting a field goal and three extra points, Billy Cundiff managed to pull a muscle. Had the Browns been forced into a field goal attempt at the end, Spencer Lanning would have had to kick it and he did kick the extra point. Credit to Lanning though as he also threw a touchdown pass on the fake field goal.
The Browns running game continues to struggle. Willis McGahee was pretty terrible, albeit in less than a week since signing with the team. This is likely to be a struggle all season long, with or without Trent Richardson.