In a game as dreary as the weather, the Cleveland Browns fell to the division leading Cincinnati Bengals. The most significant highlights of this game are the glaring deficiencies in the Cleveland offense and the dismal performance by quarterback Jason Campbell, who offered only a reminder of why he began the year at number three in the depth chart. The Dawgs return home with their tails tucked and their season swirling in the wind.
Before we examine the highlighted troubles, let me mention the few actual highlights worth noting. Most noteworthy are the two interceptions that Joe Haden snatched in the first quarter, the second of which he returned for 29 yards and his first career touchdown. Way to go, Joe! Also worth a mention were the 43 yard burst from running back Chris Ogbonnaya, also in the first quarter, and the 74 yard touchdown reception from wide receiver Josh Gordon which proved to be too little, too late.
Unfortunately, the game consisted of four quarters and the latter three were painful to witness. In any loss, multiple plays and errors are to blame and I have often distributed much of it to our receivers. I find little justification for dropped passes and there were many. However, the bulk of the blame for this loss should be placed squarely on the inaccuracy and poor decisions of quarterback Jason Campbell.
Campbell was dreadfully inaccurate, as our receivers struggled to capture passes that were repeatedly behind them and overthrown. The first field goal resulted from a drive that failed after two incomplete passes, both of which could have, and should have, been completed. The first was thrown away seconds after Jordan Cameron broke free, only to watch hopelessly as it sailed over his head. The second, a line drive that was batted down at the line, could have easily been dropped in over the lineman’s head and into the arms of a wide-open Greg Little.
As the game continued, so did the inaccuracy. Even the blocked punt that resulted in a Bengal touchdown could have been avoided, as it followed a third down pass that arrived several feet behind Davone Bess. Campbell was consistently inaccurate and he nearly abandoned the vertical game altogether. He seemed focused mostly on his check downs, filling the game with a dink and dunk passing attack that averaged only 3.9 yards per pass attempt while accumulating three interceptions. If the rain had a bearing on his play, let us hope the snow never comes.
A typical loss can be analyzed and broken down into several detrimental plays and pinpointing multiple players who made negative contributions. This game however, offers multiple detrimental plays from a single player. In all fairness, we must place some blame on the special teams as well with two blocked punts, and the inefficient play calling, but our defense was solid and even our non-existent running game showed up to a small degree.
Game Growls: Play calling or play execution? The last Cleveland drive of the game began with over eight minutes left on the clock. One would assume a sense of urgency would be implemented when down 21 points. Instead, the dink and dunk passes continued for 18 plays, over five minutes, 76 yards and zero points. We relinquished the ball on a failed fourth down attempt and the game was all but over. I even caught myself, several times, wondering if Brandon Weeden would have given us a better chance to win.