CANTON,Ohio- It finally happened. The Cleveland Browns won their first game of the 2016 season. It took 15 weeks, but the Browns finally ended up on the winning end of a 20-17 win, as they beat the San Diego Chargers Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy stadium.
It didn’t start out the way the Browns wanted it to, as Phillip Rivers caught formers Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin for a 50-yard pass play to start the game. My first thought? Here we go again. Going into this game, I knew Cleveland would have to score at least 24 points. Turned out that 20 was enough.
The Chargers can score with the best of them, but they leave a lot to be desired on defense.
What shocked me the most was Cleveland’s ability to put pressure on Rivers. The Browns did not record one sack, but they made Rivers feel very uncomfortable on many occasions and even forced him out of the pocket at times. Rivers went 23-46 for 322 yards. He threw two touchdowns and 1 interception. One thing Rivers did well in this game was distribute the ball to many different targets. From Antonio Gates to Derek Watt. In total, he passed the ball to 6 different players. But Rivers also fumbled the ball as well.
I’ve seen enough of Robert Griffin III at this point to say he shouldn’t be brought back next year. I’d rather have a quarterback competition with Cody Kessler, a free-agent veteran not named Josh McCown, a draft pick and yes, another quarterback. Where he’ll come from whether it’s free agency or the draft, I don’t know. Why do I think there should be that many QB’s in camp? Well, we’ve managed to go through six quarterbacks this year. Until we see significant progress on the offensive line, we’re going to need a decent number of quarterbacks. Hopefully the Browns address the offensive line in free agency.
Griffin is in concussion protocol and it’s likely that Cody Kessler will get the nod in what will be a glorified preseason game at Heinz field on Sunday after the Pittsburgh Steelers locked up the AFC North by defeating the Baltimore Ravens on Christmas day. As a matter of fact, Ben Roethlisberger is already lobbying for the starters for the Steelers to rest this game and get healthy for the playoffs. I think this is a smart move if Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin does decide to do so.
What I’ve seen from Robert in the few games he’s played for Cleveland, is the inability to go through his progressions, taking too long to make decisions and not switching out of bad plays into another play that would likely be more successful. Knowing the defense is setup to stop the current play. Now to be fair, Griffin, along with every other QB, has played all year behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL.
Here are some stats that helped the Browns pull off the Christmas Eve miracle.
Time of Possession: (Chargers-27:31)- (Browns-32-29). That never happens in favor of Cleveland. How about penalties? (Chargers-9-92)- (Browns-4-44). The number of penalties seemed higher to me, but it was 9. Cleveland had 23 first downs compared to San Diego’s 19. The Browns out-rushed their opponent for once, 124, while the Chargers only rushed for 34.
All that and it still came down to two key plays. Jamie Meder blocked a 32-yard field goal attempt by Chargers kicker Josh Lambo with 3:49 left in the 4th quarter. Meder rushed up the middle and got a piece of the football.
Next? Cody Kessler was able to convert a third down conversion with a nice pass to wide receiver Cory Coleman. But the drive stalled shortly after.
San Diego had no timeouts remaining and Philip Rivers made a very nice throw to Antonio Gates on 4th down and earn a new set of downs. Rivers then fumbled the ball with 43 seconds left. Rivers then completed another pass to Gates up to the Cleveland 27-yard line. But San Diego had no timeouts and the Chargers field goal unit had to rush onto the field with time running out. Lambo pushed the football wide right. Not by much, but enough. Cleveland fans rejoiced as the Browns were no longer in danger of going 0-16.
Believe me when I say I was a firm believer that this was going to be an 0-16 season. I had no faith that the Browns were going to pull this off.
Some of my friends messaged me after the game saying the Browns screwed up their own draft. My response? Did you see that San Francisco beat the Rams 22-21? Now with that being said, no team should want any part of going winless in a season. Losing is no good. Some may say it depends on the draft. I say the draft is nothing but players with potential. There are no guarantees in the draft. You hope who you draft turns out to be an impact player right away or turns out to be a player that will be productive for you sooner or later.
If your team is purposely playing for a better draft pick, you need a new front office. It’s the coaching staffs job to prepare the team to win every game, regardless of their record, or who they could potentially draft. The Cleveland Browns have had so many high picks that have turned out to be trash. So it doesn’t matter where your’re drafting. If you can’t hit on your picks, it means nothing. The good to great teams that have sustained long term success know how to draft, regardless of what spot they are drafting in.
The Browns now head to Pittsburgh to end the 2016 season. Who knows, maybe Cleveland can pull off a New year’s day miracle. This game means nothing to either team.
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