“The Browns’ young secondary battled, but was strained by the loss of Haden to his suspension and Brown to a neck stinger.” — Mary Kay Cabot
“Last week [against the Ravens] was just bad. This week some of the [Browns' longer gains] were checkdowns that we missed.” — Bengals cornerback Leon Hall
“I wish I had a dollar for every hour I put in this week.” — Brandon Weeden
Somebody please give Brandon Weeden $100.
Yesterday in Cincinnati the Browns looked much more like the team that folks expected them to be in 2012; one that could move the ball with an improved rushing attack, but would suffer mostly because of an inability to keep its opponents from scoring. Brandon Weeden looked OK yesterday, much improved from his Week 1 nightmare, and Trent Richardson showed why everyone called him the best running back to come into the NFL since Adrian Peterson. It was a sight for the sorest eyes.
But the Bengals still held the lead for the entire game after going up 7-0 when Adam Jones returned the Browns’ first punt for a touchdown.
You can’t get far in the Cleveland papers this morning without hearing about Joe Haden and how much the Browns missed him. But nobody’s asking how much better the Browns offense looked thanks to the Bengals having to adjust to the midweek loss of their best linebacker and leading tackler, Thomas Howard, for the season after he tore his ACL on Thursday. With their best pass rusher, Carlos Dunlap, still missing, as well as their top draft pick, corner Dre Kirkpatrick, Cincinnati was missing impact players at all three levels of the defense. They had a short week coming off a Monday night beatdown in Baltimore, and as noted above, Leon Hall attributed a significant part of the Browns offensive success to basic defensive breakdowns.
The Bengals didn’t get much pressure on Weeden, and the majority of his completions were made to open receivers, with the touchdown pass to Greg Little looking like especially bad blown coverage (hopefully we’ll hear more from Rod on this later in the week). But last week, these were the throws Weeden was missing badly, and the good thing about having a back like Trent Richardson on your team is that he’s hard to handle even on those checkdowns, which opens things up for everything else. And Weeden did complete a couple of throws while he was being hit.
On the other side of the ball, D’Qwell Jackson had another great game, with half of the Browns six sacks against a patchwork Bengals o-line that’s sent two starters to the IR since the preseason. Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes that “most of the sacks were due to the Browns coverage,” suggesting that it was feast or famine for the young secondary. Despite the six sacks, Dalton still went for 318 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a 128.2 rating, and after the first quarter, every time the Browns closed within one score, the Bengals responded with a scoring drive of their own.
Along with the special teams breakdown, penalties were another Shurmurball hallmark that came back to haunt the Browns yesterday, and now they’re one eighth of the way to 0-16. As exciting as it is that folks this morning are regretting sitting Weeden and Richardson in their fantasy leagues, the Bengals won nine real games last season with their pair of rookie playmakers. Next week it’s back to Browns Stadium where the Browns need one badly against the Buffalo Bills and C.J. Spiller, who’s averaging 10 yards per carry.
We’re hosting a tailgate this Sunday in the Muni Lot with at least two aggressive participants already lined up for a chili cookoff, so stay tuned for details here on that and we’ll have more about yesterday’s game through the week.