The Morning After is our weekly recap of the Browns game from the day prior. For the first two weeks we could of re-title this Mourning After, but not this week. The Browns continued to play well against the run on defense, showed life on offense and trick plays on special teams later led to points.
The first half started off concerning for the visiting Browns. The Vikings marched down the field, 80 yards, and scored a touchdown on their opening possession. The defense again couldn’t make big plays on third down to get the stop needed, the Vikings converted 3 third downs. Adrian Peterson ran for 28 of the 80 yard drive, including the 2 yard touchdown run. QB Christian Ponder converted two big pass plays to keep the defense from really stacking the box. The Browns offense looked like the same Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson led one of the past two weeks on their first series, going 3 and out and gaining only 1 yard. After the defense held the Vikings to a 3 and out of their own the Browns offense found a rhythm in the passing game. New QB Brian Hoyer completed 3 passes, including a 47 yard beauty to returning WR Josh Gordon for a touchdown. The Browns defense again held the Vikings to 3 and out and took over going into the second quarter, where Hoyer hit developing star tight end Jordan Cameron for a 19 yard touchdown. The Vikings answered with another 80 yard drive for a touchdown, capped off by a quarterback draw by Ponder for a 6 yard score.
The Browns broke out a trick play on their next possession. On 4th and 1 the Browns lined up to punt but directly snapped it to backup safety Josh Aubrey who broke off a 34 yard run, ending up leading the team in rushing for the game on that one run. The Browns kicked a field goal to take back the lead. The Browns intercepted Ponder 2 plays later but the drive stalled at the 11 and the Browns lined up to kick the field goal. No Viking noticed Cameron standing near the sideline and Punter/Holder Spencer Lanning threw it to Cameron who ran it in for a touchdown to put the Browns up 10. 2 trick plays in 2 offensive series, new and inventive for the team.
The Vikings kicked a field goal after their Travis Benjamin muffed the Vikings punt leading to great field position. Hoyer threw his first interception on the Browns’ last possession of the half but the Vikings were unable to turn that into points when Ponder was sacked and lost the fumble on the play going into half. After half the Browns and Vikings exchanged turnovers on Hoyer’s second pick and a Peterson fumble. The offenses couldn’t get anything going until the Vikings picked off Hoyer for the third time leading to another Ponder QB draw for a touchdown. The game was tied going into the fourth.
The Vikings took the lead on their first possession of the quarter on a 30 yard field goal by Blair Walsh after a 13 play 53 yard drive. The teams each punted on their next two possessions. The Browns started their last possession of the game down 3 with 3:21 left on the clock. Hoyer led a 11 play drive, of all passes, which included 2 third down conversions, the second of which being a 7 yard touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron for his third touchdown reception of the game. The Browns made the extra point and were up 4 with 51 seconds remaining. Ponder was able to lead the team down to the Browns 34 but was sacked on the last play of the game to give the visitors the win.
Factory Player (For the Browns’ Star Player of the Game)
Brian Hoyer – It was tough to choose between Cameron and Gordon for Factory Player but realizing both receivers had stellar games led to Hoyer being named. Hoyer wasn’t perfect, throwing 3 picks and only completing 56% of his passes, but he led the team to a win. Hoyer was more precise with many of his throws and threw receivers open more then we have seen in the past year. Hoyer also did a good job of not always locking in on his primary receiver. Hoyer’s touch on the final touchdown was outstanding, thrown where only Cameron could catch it. No one is saying Hoyer is the QB of the future, but he may just play the team out of a top 5 pick if he continues this way the rest of the year.
Sadness Player (For the Browns’ Player who Made Fans Sad)
Running Back Committee – The Browns are hoping their running back by committee can replace the limited production that Trent Richardson gave them, 3.2 yards a carry. Taking away the Aubrey run on the fake punt and Gordon’s 22 yard run on a reverse the Browns ran for 47 yards on 15 carries, a 3.1 YPC average. While not far off from Richardson’s average, and production in his first Colts game, it still left Hoyer throwing the ball 54 times. They will have to improve here if they want to be competitive throughout the year.
Later today and early tomorrow we will continue our wrap up of Week 3 and then start to spin it ahead to Week 4.