The first half seemed too good to be true. Despite Mike Pettine’s questionable decision to run the ball three times at the end of the half and punt to the Cardinals, essentially handing them three points, the Browns were up 20-10. Josh McCown tossed two beautiful touchdowns to Brian Hartline (who had four ugly drops on the day as well) and one to breakout tight end Gary Barnidge. At the half the Browns had 156 yards of total offense and zero turnovers. In the second half, an injured Josh McCown (more on that later) led the Browns offense to 56 yards of total offense and two turnovers including an ill-advised heave to the end zone.
The defense forced four turnovers, but in the end it just wasn’t enough as the Cards went on to score 27 (yes, 27) unanswered points en route to a 34-20 home loss for the Browns. Here are three major takeaways from another frustrating Sunday at The Factory of Sadness.
Major losses in the secondary
Cornerback Joe Haden and safety Donte Whitner both exited Sunday’s contest with concussions suffered in the third quarter. Haden, who missed the previous two games with a concussion, has not been the same player this season. He was injured with 11:46 remaining in the third quarter on a play that he let Michael Floyd get behind him for a 60-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer. Pierre Desir has been the third corner this season, but surprisingly Johnson Bademosi stepped in for Haden and played 43 snaps, compared to Desir’s one. Whitner was injured on the very next drive in a collision with Cardinals receiver Jaron Brown. Backup safety Jordan Poyer was inactive with a shoulder injury, forcing rookie Ibraheim Campbell to step in. All in all a disastrous Sunday for the Browns defense. It is unlikely Haden or Whitner will be ready for Thursday’s road game against the Bengals. AJ Green must be drooling.
Josh McCown led the team in rushing
Yes, you read that right. Josh McCown led the Browns in rushing with 18 yards on five carries. Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson and Robert Turbin had a total of 20 yards on 14 carries Sunday. If you add in a one yard scamper from Johnny Manziel in garbage time, that’s a total of 39 yards on 20 carries. Yikes. Wasn’t the offensive line supposed to be a strong point for this year’s team? And why isn’t Duke Johnson being used more? Johnson had no first half carries, and only one in the second half. He was electric on two first half receptions for 68 yards. Crowell could not find any room to run and Turbin had two fumbled handoffs, one leading to a crucial second half turnover in Cardinals territory. I need some answers Coach Pett, and I need them fast.
Why wasn’t McCown replaced in the second half?
McCown came into Sunday’s game with an injured shoulder and bruised ribs. He was listed as questionable, but there was little doubt he would be behind center come game time. In the first half he completed 11 passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns. No turnovers were committed and the veteran quarterback was not sacked once. The second half was a different story. He was sacked only once, but was hit seven times and fumbled on three occasions, losing one. He also threw an ugly pick in the end zone that led to a Cardinals touchdown. On several occasions McCown was kneeling over in pain. Coach Pettine’s policy has been it is up to the players to say they are injured and remove themselves from the game. Like every policy or rule, there needs to be exceptions. With the game out of reach, why was McCown not replaced by Manziel until late in the fourth? The team has a short week coming up and leaving your starting quarterback in the game to take more hits does not make any sense. Sure, Josh is a tough son of a bitch and wanted to stay in, but the player is not always in the right. McCown’s status is uncertain for Thursday; it could be Johnny Football time in Cincinnati.
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