The Morning After is our weekly recap of the Browns game from the day prior. We had two weeks of Mourning, two weeks of celebration and now we get a little bit of both. The Browns Vs. Bills turned into a battle of backup QBs for unfortunate reasons.
The Browns went 3 and out on their first drive and a good punt return by the Bills gave them the ball inside the Browns 40. A long pass interference on All World CB Joe Haden gave the Bills the ball on the 1 and an easy touchdown run followed. On the next drive Cleveland’s Mourning started. On 2nd and 9 QB, and local hero, Brian Hoyer, dropped back to pass, failed to find anyone and took off running. Near the sideline he attempted a feet first slide but was hit up top as he started. Both of Hoyer’s knees buckled and his helmet was eschew. Hoyer did not get up but later was walking under his own power, giving the fans hope.
Brandon Weeden entered the game and promptly went 3 and out. The Bills kicked a long field goal on their next drive and many Browns fans saw the light at the end of the tunnel, the all to familiar #7 Train on its way to run over our season once again. Weeden and the Browns again went 3 and out but after holding the Bills to 1 first down Travis Benjamin’s 57 yard punt return put the team in business. Weeden was unable to get the team in the endzone but a field goal gave the Browns their first points of the game. After another hold by the defense Weeden led a long scoring drive, assisted by 2 Bills penalties that was finally capped off by Willis McGahee’s 1 yard touchdown run, after what seemed liked 10 attempts from inside the 5.
Benjamin added to the score with a little over 2 minutes left in the half with a huge 79 yard punt return. The Browns took a 17-10 lead into the half with the Bills receiving the kick. The game of runs continued as the Bills scored 2 TDs on their next 2 possessions, on a 54 yard CJ Spiller run and a 1 yard Fred Jackson run, to take a 24-17 lead. On their 2nd touchdown drive Bills’ QB EJ Manual injured his knee, joining Hoyer on the sidelines, the battle of backups was on. Following the second TD, the Browns answered on what was a 2 play scoring drive, a deep pass to Greg Little and a deep pass to Josh Gordon for the TD.
As the fourth quarter began the raucous crowd backed their team’s national TV game. The Browns took the lead on the first possession of the 4th quarter on a 24 yard field goal, a lead they would not give up. The Browns gave up a total of 4 first downs in the 4th as the Bills struggled with their rookie, undrafted FA backup Jeff Tuel. Weeden put together another solid drive leading to a 44 yard Billy Cundiff FG and a 6 point lead. TJ Ward salted the game away with a interception return for a touchdown with less then 2 minutes remaining and the Browns have won 3 games in a row and are in first place in the AFC North.
Factory Player (For the Browns’ Star Player of the Game)
Travis Benjamin - Benjamin was electric on this day. He set a franchise record in punt return yards, also a sign of our stout defense, including his long touchdown. Benjamin had been pulled from some punt return duties last week and had seen little action on offense. His dynamic speed and vision can be useful, or amazing, in spots but his diminutive size makes his use sparing. Thursday night that was all the team needed.
Sadness Player (For the Browns’ Player who Made Fans Sad)
Brandon Weeden - While Weeden led the team on scoring drives and the come from behind wins, his QB skills and football IQ were sorely lacking. Similar to the Tim Tebow effect, the win will mask some of the concerns from fans and media. On every drop back, as can be remembered without film study but was noted while game was in progress, Weeden only looked at 1 receiver. He was often given time but did not move his head in any other direction until the pass rush was on him, then he started to move and look in other places. With his lack of foot speed this didn’t last long. One particular play Josh Gordon was his primary receiver, Gordon was pressed off the line, almost feel down and struggled getting back into the route. Weeden kept waiting for him to get open. Weeden also continues to wait for his receivers to get open instead of leading them as they get open. Weeden has a strong arm, and character, but good DBs will just read his eyes and follow it to INTs, linemen do the same thing leading to pass deflections. Dishonorable Mention: Tashaun Gipson - For celebrating and taunting over a injured EJ Manuel. He should of been flagged and should be disciplined by the Browns in some way.
As we have extra days between games we will roll out our analysis, and extra articles between now and early next week. Updates on Hoyer, possible addition of a QB and other factors will be the order of the week. For now bask in the win Cleveland, your team is in first place.