Dec 8, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; Cleveland Browns linebacker D

Browns push the Patriots to the limit and lose, but may have won too

The New England Patriots needed the officials, an onside kick and arguably the greatest quarterback of all time working on all cylinders in the end to beat what many have thought a hapless Cleveland Browns team in Foxboro.  The result is an extremely painful one for the Browns and fans because it is another situation where they had a chance to win and lost in painful fashion at the end.  This is an effort to be proud of in spite of everything.  The Browns took a Super Bowl contender to the absolute limit even if they lost in the end and it might have been the best result in the end.

The Browns defense was able to do a great job for much of the game.  They held the Patriots scoreless in the first half, they got consistent pressure on Brady and held the Patriots running game in check for most of the game.  Barkevious Mingo, Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger had 4 sacks and that does not include some of the intentional grounding that was and was not called.  They hit him, made him uncomfortable and made it tough for him to operate for three quarters of the game.  They forced a pair of turnovers including a great interception by D’Qwell Jackson and a fumble that was picked up by John Hughes.

Offensively, the Browns did what they needed to do in order to win.  Jason Campbell protected the football and the Browns ended every possession with a kick.  They did not turn the ball over and were able to control the block much of the game and the time of possession was important in keeping Brady and company off of the field.

Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron were great.  Gordon turned in another incredible game with a big time play for the 80-yard touchdown, the 34 yard run on the reverse and a big catch the moved the chains late.  Gordon had 151 yards receiving on 7 catches with 34 on the reverse.

Meanwhile, Cameron was target 9 times and caught the ball 9 times.  He had 121 yards receiving yards and a touchdown.  Cameron was just as good as Gordon was even if he did not have the eye-popping plays.  In terms of catching the ball, he was perfect.  Combined, they totaled for 272 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns and 34 yards rushing.  This could not have gone according to plan any more than it did.

Campbell made some big throws and missed a number of throws on problems with ball placement.  He was healthier, more mobile and more effective by extension.  Campbell is certainly not the answer as this was pretty much a perfect game for what he can do for the Browns, but that is a great backup, which is the role he was signed to play.  All things considered, it might have been the best game in terms of his efficiency in his entire career.

The running game for the Brown had moments, was able to make plays and with the Gordon reverse, they got over 100 yards as a team on the day.  They were able to make it look respectable at times and opened things up for other areas, which is all they need it do until they get better players.

As much as the loss hurts the team, the players and the fans, the Browns are sitting at 4-9.  The Vikings managed to blow a game that would have moved them to 4 wins, so they are 3-8-1.  It would have been great if they could have won that game as they might have lost Adrian Peterson for the year and could be dead in the water.  The Jaguars won, so they are 4-9 and the Buccaneers won, so they are 4-9.  Unbelievably, those teams are two of the hottest in the NFL right now and could move right past the Browns in the draft order.

As much as it might not be pleasant to hear, the Browns were good enough to hang with the Chiefs and now the Patriots, but their record does not reflect it.  They were also bad enough at the quarterback position to lose to Jacksonville.  The Browns proved they can hang with those teams and it does not mean as much as winning; of course nothing does, but 6-10 or 8-8 does not help them right now.  4-12 and a top 5 pick in the NFL Draft could be if they can make it count.  They could also possibly keep their other first round pick in the process.

The Browns put in an effort of which the fans and team can be proud.  The win-loss will not look as good as the team has been, but they showed they can compete with those teams.  They have to take advantage of this losing to be able to pile up the wins.  Make the picks count; the front office led by Joe Banner has put a significant amount of pressure and importance on the 2014 NFL Draft.  They might as well be in the best position possible so this regime can sink or swim on it.

A team that is out of the playoff picture (no matter what network wants to put them in the hunt) and playing tough football in December is something worth embracing.  The team wants to win for themselves, their teammates, and the coaches.  The losses are unfortunate but they do have a benefit and the Browns are going to embrace it to improve the overall team.  Frustrating? Of course, but if they make the 2014 draft count, it will have been worth it.  Short of that and there will not be much of a worry with Banner and company as they will not be here long afterward.

 

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