Before I do a game review, I usually watch the game once or twice to see if anything occurs to me. This week, I ended up watching tapes of seven game– six different ones:
- The Browns win over San Diego
- Cleveland’s 25-20 loss to Baltimore
- Their 30-24 loss to Miami in overtime
- Sunday’s game– again
- Last season’s 30-27 loss to the Chargers
- San Diego’s last two close (7 points or less) losses: 19-16 to Oakland and 28-21 to Tampa
It wasn’t a deliberate plan– I’d watch a replay, it would remind me of something, and I’d go look at the game. My takeaways, in no particular order are:
1. The Browns could very easily have lost the game. What happened Sunday was a replay of the Ravens game– Browns start very well, jump out to a big lead and then the opponent comes back. The difference, very simply, is that the Ravens made plays and the Chargers didn’t. San Diego missed two field goals– yes I count blocked field goals as the kicking team’s failure. Before the first miss, Philip Rivers threw two bad passes into the end zone. On the drive before, the Chargers (who hadn’t run the ball successfully all day) called a “Metcalf up the middle” run on third and one, killing the drive.
If the Chargers make any of a number of plays, they win. It’s as simple as that.
2. Point #1 notwithstanding, San Diego didn’t deserve to win. I don’t see the Chargers play very often– so, after I watched the 2015 Chargers Browns game (very similar game, more in a moment), I decided the see if these sorts of losses happened to the Chargers often.
The answer, very simple, is that they did. They were very, very similar types of games. The Chargers could have won all three games, but they did nothing to suggest that they should have. The offense scored a below-average number of points (21, 16 and 17, respectively) gained an OK amount of yards (263, 330 and 356), but turned the ball over five times (two in two games, one in the Browns game), and had trouble running,
The defense allowed 349, 345 and 254 yards, which isn’t terrific. They forced two turnovers against Oakland, one against Tampa and none against Cleveland.
Kicker Josh Lambo missed three field goals– all with extenuating circumstances. Against Tampa he missed a 53-yarder. Long, yes– but in good weather. One of his misses against Cleveland was due to poor blocking; the other he didn’t have a lot of time to get set.
In all three games, the Chargers came up short on big plays– turnovers, penalties, poor throws, dropped passes, strange playcalls. They were, to be blunt, exactly the sort of team Bill Parcells was talking about when he said “You are your record.”
Yeah, the Chargers could have won all three of the games– but they didn’t. None of the game-changing plays were flukes– interception off a tip, bad call by Jeff Triplette. defender slips and flare pass goes 86 yards.
3. The Browns got compensation for the Miami loss– and last year’s Chargers game. The Browns should never have gotten to 0-14. They should have won game three against Miami, but kicker Cody Parkey missed three fields goals– including a 46-yarder that would have been a game-winner with a few secodns left.
The Browns lost last year’s game to the Chargers due to the same type of last-second screwup– but on the defensive side. Cleveland tied the game 27-27 with 2:13 left, but the defense let San Diego march from their own 27 to the Cleveland 20. with two seconds left, Lambo missed a 39-yard field goal– but Tramon Williams was called for offsides. The Chargers got a re-kick five yards closer, and Lambo made that one.
4. The Chargers need to fire both GM Tom Telesco and Coach Mike McCoy. The striking thing about the replay of the 2015 game was hearing the announcers make the same excuses for the team. Both teams had terrible offensive lines and pass coverage problems– allegedly because they had so many starters hurt. The running game wasn’t working; there were some problems with missed tackles. Their kicking teams were terrible.
The simplest test whether the people running the team know what they are doing is “Can they fix problems?” You don’t have to go from worst to first in a year– but three of the five starters on the rotten 2015 offensive line started in 2016– and a fourth was on the bench. All of them were 25 or older– past the point where you say “Let’s give them some time.” . You’re definitely not going to make progress if the names of the players don’t change.
A lot of the players who were hurt in 2015 were hurt in 2016. Luck plays some part in the ability to stay healthy– but if a guy is hurt year in and year out, that’s probably not an accident. Whether or not it is, you can’t keep playing someone who isn’t 100%– or in the lineup– year after year.
I’m talking a lot about the Chargers, because I want the frame of reference to be clear. This wasn’t a great game for the Browns– proof that the rebuilding process is paying off and only the first of many wins.
The Browns ran 71 offensive plays– meaning a total of 781 snaps. They used 19 offensive players. Seven of them were players they chose in this year’s draft– but they played only 164 total snaps, or 20.9% of the total.
Two players– LG Spencer Drango (71) and WR Corey Coleman (61)– accounted for the overwhelming majority of those snaps. WRs Rashard Higgins (10 snaps) and Ricardo Louis (3) haven’t been able to displace Andrew Hawkins (41 snaps).. The seven snaps given to TE Seth DeValve do not inspire confidence that he’ll someday displace Gary Barnidge (68).
The Browns all-but-officially gave up on 40% of the offensive line. RT Austin Pasztor (a free agent who won’t be re-signed) will be benched and C Cam Erving will play right tackle. That’s 142 snaps that went to players not p[art of the future. That news makes the failure of Shon Coleman (who got two snaps as an extra tight end) to break into the lineup even less excusable.
To finish up the linemen, RG Jonathan Cooper is a journeyman who has trouble pass-blocking, so he hardly qualifies as a building block. Neither, great as he is, does LT Joe Thomas.
Cody “Smooth as Silk” Kessler was playing behind Robert Griffin. Griffin gained 6.56 yards per pass– but took seven sacks for 37 yards, driving the new yards down to 3.96. He’s almost certainly out of the team’s plans.
Isaiah Crowell (58 all-purpose yards on 20 touches) got 38 snaps and Duke Johnson (49 on 9) got 33. Neither looks like a solution at running back. Terrelle Pryor (3 catches for 36 yards) had another underwhelming game and can be a free agent. The other two players are both blockers– FB Danny Vitale (12 snaps) and TE Randall Telfer (14).
The defense presents the same story. Five players got 90% of more of the 68 defensive snaps– journeyman LB Chris Kirksey (68 snaps), journeyman free safety Ed Reynolds (68), over-the-hill CB Tramon Williams (63), developmental CB Jamar Taylor (64) and former Pro Bowl LB Jamie Collins (68).
Three rookies who have been one-dimensional players got 70-80% of the snaps: LB Emmanuel Ogbah (57), DE Carl Nassib (53) and slot corner Briean Boddy-Calhoun (52).
Five players who have been disappointing to varies degrees played between 50-60% of the snaps: DL Xavier Cooper (45), Jamie Meder (43) and Danny Shelton (40), then CB Joe Haden (39) and LB Cam Johnson (34).
So they beat a bad team– with a history of self-destructive behavior (San Diego is 13-23 in close games). Big deal. It’s game 15 and there hasn’t been any rebuilding. Most of these players are too old to have any chance to develop– they’ll be on the bench or off the team in a few years.
The #1 draft pick (Coleman) had five passes thrown his way. He caught two– for 15 yards. The #2 (Ogbah) and #3 (Nassib) picks combined for six tackles. Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus says the players with the highest game grades (which are subjective at best and just plain goofy at worst– but represent someone else’s opinion) were Pasztor (on offense) and Tramon Williams on defense, neither of whom will be on the team next year.
I have watched a lot of teams rebuild– I think I would recognize a rebuilding team if I saw it. While it is nice to not have a team go into the record books as “Worst Team Ever”, this win provided no other contribution.