Dec 8, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski throws up his arms after pass interference was called on cornerback Leon McFadden during the fourth quarter of their 27-26 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Browns vs Patriots: Not Penalties, Just Foul

Dec 8, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski argues a call with line judge Tom Stephan (68) and field judge Dyrol Prioleau (109) during the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Browns 27-26. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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Tags: Cleveland Browns Leon McFadden Penalties

  • Leo Dougherty

    What a GREAT article! Nuff said. :-)

    • Backwoods

      Thank you kindly!

  • Letterman007

    Hey Backwoods, I just saw a mock draft from Bleacher Report that had the Browns drafting 6th and Carr and Bridgewater were gone to Jacksonville and The Vikings and the Browns draft Blake Bortles from Central Florida and compared him to Rothlesburger.!!?? t Then with Indy’s pick we got Odell Beckham from LSU ! Would you use a 6th pick in the draft to get Bortles?? Maybe another first round wasted pick!!??

    • Sam Gold

      Just because Matt Miller thinks it’s a good idea it’s unlikely any NFL front offices are seeking his advice.

      • Letterman007

        I sure hope not, but the QB rich draft that was supposed to happen is NOT coming to fruition and that is not helping The Browns in the franchise quarterback derby !! Hopefully we’ll fall a couple spots and get in under the wire! If not , let us hope we can trade with Atlanta? They owe us one !!!

        • Backwoods

          Hello Letterman, glad to hear from you again, I must
          apologize for my delayed response. If both Bridgewater and Carr are taken prior to our pick, I would not take Bortles that high. I would consider several options, which I intend to detail in an article very soon, but I would strongly consider upgrading the offensive line at that point instead.
          I know how strongly the emphasis is on a QB, but I feel
          Hoyer will likely start the next season and I would rather wait than waste a pick. There will be several solid prospects to consider later on and I have faith in our coach’s ability to work with young quarterbacks. I do however, feel that we will either be able to pick Carr outright, or have suitable firepower to trade up for him. Both Atlanta and St Louis know that we are after a QB and they could likely move down and still get their targeted player.

          • Sam Gold

            I also think Hoyer/Campbell have enough to carry us at least through next season. To not have to put all our immediate hopes and dreams on the arm of a rookie would be a huge blessing. To actually draft a potential franchise QB but let him sit and learn is almost too great to hope for. I’m 110% with you on the O-line. I think this FO and coaching staff sees things that way as well. I would not be adverse to trading down a few spots if someone desperate for a still available QB at our draft spot offers a king’s ransom.

          • Backwoods

            Yes indeed. We have seen Banner’s willingness to play the system. I would not hesitate to trade down if the price was right. Oh what a price that would be. Unfortunately, I don’t see many teams willing to make a large sacrifice without and RGIII or similar high ranking player on the board. Keep in mind, the mock drafts only a month rtwo ago had us targeting Hundley and Boyd. I don’t know who the front office likes, but they may be looking at a prospect who has somewhat fallen off the radar. Thank you both, as always, I enjoy the conversation.

          • Letterman007

            Hey Backwoods and Sam Gold, let me just say that not only do I follow the Browns, but since I live in South Carolina now, I also follow the Panthers, It has taken Cam Newton three years to get “it”, but he is getting it now and still has a little ways to go! Therefore unless you get an Andrew Luck or Wilson in the draft, which I see none, you have a real waiting period for the QB you chose to be where he needs to be!! If we wait to get our QB for another draft and fill the holes in this one, and Hoynes does a decent job, we get to the playoffs and one and done there. where is that choice now to get that franchise QB. I like Hoynes but I don’t think he’ll takes us to the Super Bowl!! Now what, mortgage the draft for two or three years like the Redskins? This could all be moot depending on the last three games and how certain teams do! The Browns could end up choosing 2 or 3 and get what we all need so much! I just don’t trust the front office especially Lambago, as I call him. He could have had Mathieu instead of McFadden and that Jamoris Slaughter choice was a huge leap, so there is some history of bad choices.

          • Sam Gold

            I agree: Don’t mortgage the future. Totally agree there is no obvious Luck clone in this draft. Guess I’m hoping they find their RWilson somewhere (who 32 teams missed twice(!!) so no mortgage required) and if they do find a player that great and take him high when everybody else says they should take him low it’s meaningless if he performs. Also, if they find him after the first round and can let him sit a year or two behind Hoyer/Campbell all the better.

            I understand your concern with Lombardi but I would counter by saying that rookie success or lack thereof is not a very strong indicator to me of long term success or bust status. McFadden had an injury which seriously impeded the oh-so-important rookie training camp he mostly missed. We have two strong starting CB’s so it would have been hard for him to break into the starting lineup even if he hadn’t missed any preseason time. Mathieu came out of the gate strong but also arrived with huge red flags which many say are only in check because of his former LSU teammate and “big brother” Peterson being on the same team. Also, he’s lost now to an ACL so his future is not quite as bright as it appeared a few days ago. Slaughter was taken in the sixth round so I’m not sure what anyone was hoping to see in his rookie season. For a third rounder not to break into the starting lineup with two strong starters present is not disappointing to me let alone the sixth rounder. I’m still giving Lombardi the benefit of the doubt and trusting that Banner knew what he was doing when he brought him in. Of course only time will tell but glass if half full and all that.

            Funny aside, a friend of mine just told me, “the point is mute” right before I read your article so I laughed out loud when I read your correct usage. Huzzah!!!

          • Backwoods

            You both have made great points and I truly enjoy the debate/conversation. As for my thoughts, I will be posting another article very soon detailing the options we have in the upcoming draft. I will have to agree with Sam regarding Lombardi. Mathieu was an enormous risk and McFadden seems to be coming along. As for Slaughter, well I enjoy hearing that name again, but we haven’t seen much else. I think we would all rather have Webster again. Actually, the article I mentioned just posted. As always, I look forward to your thoughts. Thank you kindly, ~Backwoods~

        • Sam Gold

          Hey Letterman, I was responding to your question asking if we were setting up to waste a first round pick because a writer had projected a poor choice with our first, first round pick.

          Until I have evidence to the contrary I’m going to assume our FO/scouting staff is brilliant and will make the best possible choices to improve our beloved Browns. The argument I hear from so many fans that the Browns have never made the right choice has nothing to do with this current staff. The most critical aspect to my way of thinking is that this is new ownership. Everything changes utterly from anything that has happened in the past because everything is changed from the very top down. This has never been the case throughout all the previous regime changes since the ’99 reboot. Switching from one Lerner to another was, at best, a lateral shift, not the quantum leap Haslam appears to be.

          I agree, this draft is not what was projected a year ago. I am by no means a draft expert and certainly don’t possess the resources a scouting department presumably has, nor any draftnik for that matter (national or otherwise), so my assumption/hope is that they will utilize all those resource to uncover the players they deem most likely to help our club. If this involves trades out of or into a position my trust/hope is that they know far more than any of us and make the wisest decision possible. I too can’t see choosing a Bortles with the #6 pick but if this scouting department has done their due diligence and found a diamond in the rough that can lead this team to a Superbowl I don’t much care where they take him.