The Browns’ defense was shaky in the early stages of the game giving up large chunks of yardage on the ground, and through the air. The Browns would right the ship on both sides of the ball in the second half, which aided in their comeback effort, but the Browns would eventually fall to the Pittsburg Steelers. The Browns now have the longest streak for consecutive opening-day losses with 10.
Final Score: Steelers 30, Browns 27.
The Cleveland Browns offense led by Brian Hoyer started quickly but would only put up three points in the first half. In the second half the Browns’ offense erupted for 24 unanswered points as a result of their hurry up offense, run game, and execution. Head coach Mike Pettine spoke about the Browns second half up-tempo offense after the game.
“I think the tempo helped. I think the information you gather over a half limits the defensive call sheet when you pick the tempo up. So you’re getting looks that you’re comfortable with, and you’re not getting a lot of movement and guys are just getting lined up.”
Ben Tate read his keys exceptionally well early in the game but sustained a knee injury in the 1st half and finished the game with 41-yards on six carries all in the 1st half. Rookie Isaiah Crowell’s first two carries resulted in two touchdowns as he exhibited power and ability to identify rushing lanes. Crowell did a great job running behind his pads, and finished his runs exceptionally well.
The other rookie running back Terrance West showcased his ability to make defenders miss in the backfield, in an effort to get around the edge on multiple occasions. His balance and change of direction gives him an opportunity to be special in the Browns’ zone blocking scheme. West also proved to be elusive in the open field as he had 16 carries for 100 yards on the afternoon.
Andrew Hawkins was the best wide receiver all preseason, and it was no surprise that he was Hoyer’s best target in the first game of the season. Hawkins had eight receptions for career-high 87 yards and was instrumental in the Browns ability to sustain drives. Hawkins has the ability to find holes in the secondary to settle in, and is seemingly always running free to keep the chains moving.
Jordan Cameron only had two catches for 47 yards in the game, and was used primarily as a flex tight end. With a shortage of talent at the wide receiver position, Cameron will see little, to no time at all lined up as a traditional tight end. Travis Benjamin had just two receptions but one of them was an 11-yard touchdown. The Browns will certainly be getting Benjamin more involved as a “Z” receiver along with rookie Taylor Gabriel.
Christian Kirksey did an outstanding job covering Legarette Blount stride-for-stride down the field after a critical penalty, which negated a LeVeon Bell touchdown. Kirksey had a positive outing overall but did struggle with eye discipline on misdirection plays. However, Kirksey did register a sack in his lone tackle of the game.
The entire linebacker corps struggled in the first half with run fits, but settled down to make crucial stops in the second half. Despite their second half efforts, Bell finished the game with 109 yards on 21 carries. Karlos Dansby had a very good game particularly in coverage picking off a Ben Roethlisberger pass in the 2nd quarter while patrolling the flat. The interception was the 16th of Dansby’s career.
Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard did a fine job applying pressure on the quarterback as the game went along. Kruger finished the game with five tackles and two sacks; Sheard also recorded a sack. Barkevious Mingo ran down multiple plays in backside pursuit, but occasionally got too far up the field, thus taking himself out of plays. Mingo had four tackles on the evening.
The route Justin Gilbert has routinely done well defending is the takeoff route. In this game he was beaten by Marcus Wheaton on a 40-yard bomb which led to a Steelers touchdown. Gilbert must continue to work on his weakness, which is getting out of breaks to defend short to intermediate routes; and take advantage of his strength, which is defending the fly route. Gilbert MUST play with more confidence in week 2. Pettine commented on rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert’s performance after the game,
“It was his first game as a rookie, for all the rookies it’s a learning experience. Those were some pretty good wideouts.”
When the safeties, are cleaning up the leakage as opposed to linebackers, there is certainly cause for concern. Donte Whitner led the Browns in tackles with 13, but many of those tackles took place well beyond the point of attack. A safety leading his team in tackles, speaks volumes to the opposition’s ability to establish a new line of scrimmage.
Pettine elaborated on the Browns performance on defense.
“It’s unacceptable by our standards. We went through a phase where we had one guy making a mistake and they were finding it. We had an end line up on the wrong side on the long touchdown run and they ran the play right back to where we were missing a guy, we had two off the same side. It was a comedy of errors in the first half defensively.”
Hopefully the Browns are able to start faster next week on both sides of the ball.
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