Sadly, our Brownies come home from New England with a bitter taste lingering in their mouths. The battle came down to the final second, and like the 59-yard field goal attempt, the Cleveland Browns fell just short. As heartbreaking as it was, many good things can be taken away from the one point defeat.
Yes, they still remain in good standing for the draft, but that is not my concern at this point. I stand firm in my belief that heart is much more valuable than a draft pick. I also stand firm in believing that the offensive line is among the top of our priorities to resolve this off-season.
Several players stood out to me and I have included a small breakdown of each, both good and bad.
Leon McFadden: Leon finally had an opportunity to make a name for himself and he did, ranking third on the defense with seven tackles (4 solo). Bad penalty calling is an unfortunate part of the game, seemingly more so in Pittsburgh and New England than most other places, but still, it was good to see him making plays. It is a terrible shame to see a guy get slammed with such a horrible call, especially in his first game with significant playing time. Keep your head up, Leon! You played a solid game and your coverage on that interference call was fantastic.
Jason Campbell: For the first quarter and a half, I wondered if he would ever take a chance down the field. Playing it safe, although crucial at times, is not how you win games against a powerful offensive opponent. He missed several opportunities for significant yardage by focusing a bit too much on the short game. Several times, he fixed his eyes on the backs and did not even glance down the field to receivers that were wide open. I must allow that some of those were likely designed plays, and they mostly worked, but I would love to see him take a few more looks and shots down the field. The fore-mention officiating and bad penalties did not help. That was certainly NOT intentional grounding. In all, he played a smart and efficient game.
Mitchell Schwartz: Several plays stood out to me as needing improvement. Run blocking must be an aggressive push. A linebacker cannot be allowed to shed a block and tackle a running back two holes over. A busted run play is not always the fault of the back. As we watched Norv Turner rub his forehead in dismay following the play, I am confident that he too saw what I did and it will be addressed. There were also times in pass coverage when Schwartz appeared to have his hands full. In this league, we simply cannot afford to have an offensive tackle pushed back into the quarterback. It happens, I know, but for Mitchell it has happened a few times this season. Sorry big guy, it was a rough one.
Josh Gordon: Go, Gordon, Go. The record books are yours for the taking. What else is there to say?
Jordan Cameron: We have seen flashes of greatness from several previous tight ends, mainly Kellen Winslow, but I would venture to say that Cameron is the best offensive tight end to put on the Brown & Orange since the one we once called “The Wizard”.
Gary Barnidge: The defense may have helped a bit by tackling Gordon, but who knew he had that speed? It was good to see him get in the end zone.
Barkevious Mingo: In my last article, I commented on the value of his bark. He proved there is also a mean Bite to accompany it. He had four tackles (2 solo), a sack, a tackle for loss, and a crucial hit on Tom Brady that altered the course of the game. There was that play to their fullback down the sideline, but that pressure was crucial. He has shown nothing but speed and heart, and I look forward to seeing the player he will become.
T.J. Ward: It is truly a shame that the league rules now force players into positions where low hits are the only option. They cannot aim for the head, which I understand, but even aiming for the chest could bring penalties and fines if the receiving player drops his own head. Career threatening injuries are quickly becoming commonplace as a result. Both TJ Ward and Phil Taylor went up to an injured Rob Gronkowski and offered a simple handshake as he was carted off the field. Too many times we have seen players celebrating their hits while others lay injured and in pain. Bill Belichick did not appear to agree, but it was a showing of true class and sportsmanship, gentlemen. Thank you!
In all, it was a hard-fought battle and a solid 60-minute effort. Even when we lost the lead and thought all was lost, they fought back and gave themselves a chance to win. A loss is a loss, but they should hold their heads high. They went to war with a top-tier team and almost came out on top. None of us will ever claim satisfaction in “almost”, but given the overall situation of the season and the last few games, it was a good showing of fight and heart. There is work to be done and improvements to make, but long kicks sometimes fall short, onside kicks work every once in a while, and some penalties are simply, foul.