The Cleveland Browns dropped to 0-5 on the season with Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots. Here are 4 takeaways from the latest defeat.
The Cleveland Browns dropped to 0-5 on the season following Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots.
It wasn’t so much that the Browns loss – they are winless on the season and the Patriots are the Patriots – but more so that this was the first loss all season where the Browns never seemed to be in the game.
Rather than keeping things close and then seeing New England pull away, the game was essentially over early in the second quarter after the Patriots scored on their third consecutive possession to take a 23-7 lead.
It also didn’t help matters that the Browns played the entire second half without starting quarterback Cody Kessler, who left the game late in the second quarter with a rib and chest injury. Things are bad when Kessler is a bright spot, but the play of Charlie Whitehurst (14-of-24 for 182 yards, two sacks, one touchdown and an interception) was a quick reminder of why Whitehurst was chilling at home when the Browns called a few weeks ago.
Here are 4 takeaways from today’s loss:
The defense continues to be bad
After giving up 30-plus points for the third consecutive week, the Browns defense is on pace to give up a franchise-record 474 points this season. By comparison, the expansion Browns of 1999 gave up 437 points.
Cleveland had no answer for New England quarterback Tom Brady, who was seeing his first game action of 2016 after returning from his four-game suspension. Brady was 18-of-25 for 271 yards and two touchdowns – just in the first half – and finished with 406 passing yards and three touchdown passes.
All together, the Browns allowed 501 yards of total offense and 24 first downs to the Patriots as whatever defensive coordinator Ray Horton was trying to do did not work.
Tight ends remain an issue
Beyond Brady it was more of the same when it came to the defense’s inability to have any success in stopping the opposing tight ends.
On Sunday, Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett combined for 11 receptions, 176 yards and three touchdowns – all by Bennett.
Through the season’s first five games, opposing tight ends have totaled 38 receptions for 447 yards and five touchdowns against the Browns.
So add that to the “things to fix” checklist.
Nowhere to run
The Browns game into the game with the league’s top rushing attack and with people singing the praises of Isaiah Crowell.
“They outplayed us today in the run game for sure.” – guard Joel Bitonio
For one game at least that all came crashing down.
The Browns rushed 22 times against the Patriots for a grand total of 27 yards – an average of 1.2 yards per carry. Crowell “led” the team in rushing, gaining 22 yards on 13 carries – an average of 1.7 yards per rush.
The running game is not why the Browns lost, but when you forced into playing Whitehurst and Terrelle Pryor at quarterback it would be nice if the running attack would pick up the slack.
Next man up at quarterback?
Even by the absurd standards set for Browns quarterbacks and injuries, this season has been something to behold.
The Browns have already lost Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown to lengthy injuries, and now Kessler will reportedly undergo an MRI on Monday after leaving the game in the second quarter.
Even Whitehurst got in on the act as he limped to the sideline at one point after doing something to his knee. Whitehurst was able to return to the game, but would it surprise anyone if the news comes out in the next day or two that Kessler is going to be out for a few weeks?
Not to make Kessler out to be the second coming or the answer at quarterback, but with Whitehurst or Pryor lined up at quarterback there is simply no reason for the defense to worry about the passing game. At this point Whitehurst is what he is – a very, very poor man’s Josh McCown – and Pryor is no longer a quarterback for a reason.
If the Browns are forced to go into a game with those two as their top quarterbacks, or with rookie Kevin Hogan, a bad situation may be about to get a whole lot worse.