First Impressions: Game 7 (Oakland)

1. “Did you win or did they lose?” Those options– or some combination between the two extremes– can explain the result. In this game, the answer are pretty obvious:

  • 17 of the Browns’ 23 points came on drives that began with an Oakland turnover
  • Cleveland’s five scoring drives went 14, 56 and 78 yards (the field goals) and 53 and 9 yards (the TDs). When you don’t travel a total of 25 yards and you get 10 points, that’s hardly your doing.

It’s reasonably likely that the Browns would have won anyway, but it’s not certain.

You never give a win back, but neither do you take pride in a game like this.

2. “Was it a takeaway or a giveaway?” Football is a a zero-sum game– every time there is a turnover, one played is charged with the loss and the other credited with the gain.

A Detroit linebacker named DeAndre Levy is credited with 12 career interceptions. One of them is Brandon Weeden’s “Swing Your Partner Fllippity Flop!” pass. The sport of tennis would call that an “unforced error” and a just world might give the Lion who had Weeden in his grasp partial credit.

Levy deserves credit for being alert enough to see the ball in the air and skilled enough to make the catch– which a lot of guys would miss. But the majority of the responsibility belongs to Weeden.

Similarly, if you look at the turnovers:

  • The interception on the busted trick play was 80% Matt Schaub stupid decision/bad throw and 20% Tashaun Gipson catch. (The 35-yard runback, on the other hand, is 100% Gipson,and why the play is impressive.)
  • The hit by Paul Kruger that forced a fumble was a blown blocking assignment by Oakland RT Khalif Barnes. He went the wrong way on an option block; according to Oakland Coach Tony Sparano’s postgame, it’s the second time it’s happened.
  • On the other fumble, RG Austin Howard got knocked backwards into his QB. You give credit for the the Browns moving the pile, but that was a lucky break
  • Donte Whitner‘s big hit was a good tackle, but he wasn’t going for the ball– Darren McFadden gave it up. Joe Haden gets some credit for being in the right place– and all the credit for taking it back 34 yards– but I didn’t see an Oakland player within 10 yards. Someone in an orange helmet would have gotten it.

Similarly, the Browns were lucky that when Travis Benjamin dropped his latest punt, Earl Martin was there to grab it.

And Brian Hoyer is very lucky that Charles Woodson didn’t pick him off at the end of the first quarter– and that Jim Dray, not an Oakland player, got to the ball tipped in the fourth quarter.

3. Credit where credit is due. The good thing about the game is that Cleveland didn’t quit.

The Raiders did. When Whitner whacked McFadden and Haden ran it back to midfield, you could see the Raiders’ defense collapse.The Browns went 53 yards on 4 plays.

On the following drive, they had plays of 10 and 11 yards. On the next, a 12-yard pass and three non-stuffed runs. After that, Oakland handed them the ball inside the 10.

I’ve seen a lot of Browns teams fold in exactly the way Oakland did.  This is what Pettine was referring to when he said “mental toughness” and “attitude”. Against an 0-6 team, if you keep playing-, the opponent will probably beat itself.

You don’t have to play well– you just have to not beat yourself, and wait for the opponent to do it.

So good for that.

4. The Quarterback Rating Formula. The formula was devised in an era when defense dominated, and the mark of a great quarterback was (a) he completed a high percentage of his passes and (b) he completed them for long yardage.

The formula underrates touchdown passes by 20%. It doesn’t measure the impact of sacks (down lost or yards lost). It doesn’t account for the quarterback’s yards or score gained rushing. Which is the basic reason I always mention a QB’s rating, but follow it up with the TD-INT ratio.

Out of Brian Hoyer’s 111.5 rating:

  • 56.5 points came from the 67.8% completion percentage
  • 43.1 points came from averaging 9.5 yards per pass
  • 11.9 points came from the TD pass
  • 0 points came from avoiding an interception

It wasn’t a bad game, but it was hardly an epic performance. It’s possible for an 85.5 game to be better.

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