Olindo Mare’s 51-yard field goal in the closing seconds gave the Dolphins a 10-7 win over the Browns Sunday night at Pro Player Stadium.
Lee Suggs ran for 143 yards on a franchise-record 38 carries, but it wasn’t enough to keep the hard-luck Browns from dropping their ninth straight game.
“He hit one left; he hit one right,” Browns coach Terry Robiskie said. “The more we gave it to him, the more he found his creases.
“We believed if we were going to win the game, Lee would have to win it for us.”
The Dolphins defense stayed strong – the Browns didn’t advance past the Miami 25 in the second half – and Miami created just enough offense to win its second straight game and improve to 4-11.
The Browns slip to 3-12.
Sammy Morris’ 13-yard run to the Browns’ 38 in the final minute was the key play of the Dolphins’ eight-play, 40-yard game-winning drive. Mare’s kick was the 10th game-winner of his career.
The flow of the game was befitting of the Browns’ season: Excitement early, just enough drama in the middle to keep things interesting, and a gut-wrenching ending.
Missed opportunities haunted the Browns. Suggs fumbled at the goal line in the second quarter – the Browns turned the ball over four times in all – and Phil Dawson missed a 43-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Dawson said his kick hit the knob on top of the upright, causing the ball to bounce back into the field of play instead of putting the Browns up by three points.
“It’s a cruel game sometimes,” Dawson said.
The teams traded scores in the first quarter, but no one got on the board again until Mare kicked the game-winner with seven seconds left. The nationally-televised matchup of the Browns’ 28th ranked offense against the Dolphins 30th ranked offense was everything ESPN hoped it wouldn’t but certainly thought it might be.
That’s not to diminish the efforts of Suggs, who carried the full load - literally. William Green didn't play.
“(The carries record) is a great accomplishment,” Suggs said. “But it’s a team game. We didn’t win.”
Jim Brown set the previous franchise record of 37 carries on Oct. 10, 1959, at the Chicago Cardinals. Suggs’ 38 carries also tied the NFL season high, set by Ruben Droughns of the Broncos against the Raiders on Oct. 17.
Suggs ran 13 times for 56 yards in the first quarter and 21 times for 80 yards in the first half. Suggs has now posted back-to-back 100-yard rushing games for the first time in his two-year career; he ran for 105 yards last week against San Diego.
The Dolphins scored first as A.J. Feeley threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Derrius Thompson. The Browns answered with a 58-yard scoring pass from Luke McCown to Dennis Northcutt.
McCown rolled left to avoid Jason Taylor and found Northcutt, who came across the field and made the catch at the 22. He ran untouched into the endzone to complete the play. It was the longest scoring play of McCown’s short career and equaled Northcutt’s previous long.
The Browns converted a pair of third downs – one on a pass to Northcutt and another by penalty – on their final drive, but a sack by David Bowens forced Cleveland to punt at the two-minute warning.
“It was a defensive struggle,” Dolphins coach Jim Bates said. “We gave up too much rushing yardage, but they didn’t have the long run. Their longest run was 13 yards.
“And in the fourth quarter, the defense really came alive.”
Monday, December 27, 2004
Sunday, December 12, 2004
You watch Cleveland Browns games these days and you wonder: What in the world can the Browns do?
I mean, they try and they play and they come up with little plays here and there, but things have deteriorated so bad this dismal season that there's little they can do.
Some teams have luck. The Browns wind up with the officials that can't spot the ball right after a replay.
Three games are left in the season, and you'd kind of wish there were a 10-loss rule like the 10-run rule in kids baseball. Team loses 10 more games than it wins, season's over.
Terry Robiskie admitted that at times in Sunday's 37-7 loss to Buffalo it was "men against boys."
He admitted his team is beaten and whipped.
"Coaches, players, front office," Robiskie said. "We are a beaten group. We are. We are a whipped group.
"But we won't quit fighting."
Robiskie may be criticized for his words, but he's just being honest. This is a drawn-and-quartered team that is severely outmanned. It tries and gives its all, but only has so much to give.
While Ross Verba said he wouldn't be beaten, at least one player agreed with Robiskie.
"We got a lot of room to make excuses," safety Robert Griffith said. "We are definitely a beaten, battered team right now. But what do you do? We got three games left. We can cry all we want to, but come next Sunday guess what we're going to be doing."
Sunday in wintry Buffalo the Browns lost starting center Jeff Faine to an ankle injury, quarterback Jeff Garcia to a knee injury and starting defensive tackle Orpheus Roye to an ankle injury. All were driven off on a cart. Safety Earl Little (hamstring) and tight end Aaron Shea (ankle) were at least able to walk to the somber locker room.
It prompted Robiskie to wonder when all the injuries would end and to say "I don't know" when asked if the Browns could win another game this season.
"I really don't know if we can win another game," he said. "I know we've got a lot of guys that want to. We have a lot of guys that have a lot of heart, a lot of desire. We have a lot of guys that have a lot of fight in them."
What do they say about the size of the fight in the dog? This dog is a tired old hound, and most teams they're playing or have played recently are nasty Dobermans.
Buffalo needed a win to keep its playoff hopes alive. They got one - and ran gadget plays and reverses on punt returns in the second half.
Did the Bills have any feeling for the Browns?
"No," receiver Eric Moulds said. "Because we have been there before."
Men against boys? It showed up in the offense, which totaled 17 yards - the worst in team history. Rookie quarterback Luke McCown had 62 yards passing - but lost 74 yards in sacks. William Green gained five yards on 11 carries and lost a fumble for the second week in a row.
The line gave McCown no protection, and opened few holes for the running game.
It was bad.
"They had Sam Adams in the game, they had London Fletcher in the game, Takeo Spikes, (Jeff) Posey," Robiskie said. "With their group, I just got a sense standing on the sidelines that it was too big for us.
"Me as a coach standing on the sidelines looking, we were running running plays and we couldn't block them on runs. We were running passing plays and we couldn't block them on pass. Third downs we had passes called up and we couldn't pass protect them."
In the third period, Robiskie tried to spark things by putting Jeff Garcia in for McCown. Garcia got sacked and fumbled the ball to the Bills. Garcia and center Jeff Faine both got hurt on the play, when the most experienced lineman on the field - Verba - gave up a sad sack.
It's what the Browns have turned into - the sad sacks of the NFL, and it's tough to watch. Very tough.
That sack Verba gave up - well it shows how when things can go wrong they do. On the play, a pump-and-go, the quarterback is supposed to take a five-step drop. Garcia took a three-step drop. Verba set up for a deeper drop, which allowed Aaron Schobel to cut underneath him and sack Garcia.
That little miscommunication not only led to a sack and fumble and eventually a Buffalo touchdown, but also to injuries to Garcia and Faine.
This three-game stretch has to be close to as low as this franchise - and maybe any franchise - has ever hit. It started with a loss in Cincinnati when the Bengals scored 58 points, continued with a 27-point loss to New England and winds up with a performance in Buffalo that saw the Browns gain 17 yards - worst in team history.
At this point the nice thing to do would be to look forward - except doing that produces very few answers.
The Browns have questions for 2005 at so many positions it's almost mind-boggling. Quarterback, running back, offensive line, offensive line and offensive line are only a few of the areas where decisions are needed. And those come after the decision on the new general manager and coach.
It'll be just a tad busy.
What's starting to come out, though, is lingering bitterness with former coach Butch Davis, who resigned two days after the loss to Cincinnati and walked away with the remaining $12 million due him in his contract.
Safety Earl Little already told the Plain Dealer that Davis quit on the team, and Sunday a few other guys responded to questions by expressing bitterness and frustration at the situation Davis left the coaches and players.
"This is his team," Griffith said. "These are all his guys. You can write whatever you want after that. These are all his guys."
"A coach comes in and tells you not to quit, but it seems like things got rough and he bailed on us," cornerback Daylon McCutcheon said. "I'm not complaining about it because for me I feel like it was a good decision. I don't feel like he was helping us win any more football games.
"I'm glad that we have Terry as our head coach now, but (Davis) didn't leave us in the best situation."
These are not malingerers and malcontents speaking. In fact, Griffith and McCutcheon often were used as examples of the kind of professionals that Davis and the Browns wanted.
Suffice it to say players are angry. Angry at the injuries, angry at the 3-10 record, angry at the lack of depth on the team, angry at the way veterans have been sent packing, angry at the way the team was run and angry at the way things are going in this most dismal of seasons.
Right now, they're playing for each other and for their coaches and for Robiskie, whom they all like and respect, and for their organization.
But what they have is quite simply not good enough.
"Mo-jo is not on our side right not now," Verba said, one of many understatements of this dismal season. "My heart goes out to the fans."
They no doubt appreciate that sentiment.
But come 2005, they'd appreciate some wins more.
Monday, November 08, 2004
BALTIMORE – It was a nightmare come true.
The Browns were driving for the tying touchdown in the final minute against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night. There was a TD that ensued, all right, but it was the Ravens and not the Browns who scored.
On second-and-goal from the Baltimore 5 with 45 seconds remaining and the Browns trailing 20-13, quarterback Jeff Garcia threw to tight end Aaron Shea at the goal line on a quick slant. The ball went off the hands of the diving Shea and into the those of safety Ed Reed, who played for Browns coach Butch Davis when he was at the University of Miami.
Reed made the interception by grabbing the ball inches off the turf and raced 106 yards – an NFL record – for a TD that made the final score of 27-13.
What also entered into the play was that middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who also played for Davis at Miami, appeared to interfere with Shea. He looked to have his right arm wrapped around Shea’s stomach before the ball got there, but there was no call.
After all, this is Baltimore and Lewis is one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history. There isn’t going to be a call in that situation.
“I thought the guy got there early,” Shea said. “If that’s what pass interference is, then it was pass interference.
“The ref didn’t call it, though, so, in reality, it wasn’t interference. They picked it off and ran the other way for a TD. But I still should have caught it. I think I should catch everything that I get my hands on.”
Browns middle linebacker Andra Davis was more decisive with his comments about the play.
“Ray Lewis grabbed Aaron then threw him to the ground,” Davis said. “Everybody saw it. We just didn’t get the call.”
Browns coach Butch Davis also defended Shea, saying, “It’s hard to catch the ball when the guy’s dragging you down.”
Was it interference?
“Yes, but they don’t let me officiate,” the coach said.
It was a shame the game had to end that way. With three gutsy third-down conversions on a 13-yard pass to Frisman Jackson, a four-yard run by Garcia and a 15-yard pass to Antonio Bryant, the Browns had moved from their 41 to the 5 in 11 plays.
Then, after Lee Suggs was stuffed for no gain on first down, they got the matchup they wanted with Lewis on Shea.
“Aaron sold the play to the outside and then had Ray beat going back inside,” Garcia said. “Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out.”
Monday, November 01, 2004
The Browns didn't come off their bye week quietly, as free safety Earl Little made his feelings clear about being demoted in favor of Chris Crocker.
"Is it fair?" Little said Monday. "Honestly, I don't think so."
As proof, Little offered the grade sheets from each game. He held them in his hands, and said they showed he has not been making mental mistakes this season.
To buttress his claim, Little said he made none of the 35 mental errors attributed to the defense in the loss to Philadelphia, had one mental error against Baltimore and none against Cincinnati, when he graded out at 100 percent.
So... what do you think? Who deserves it more?
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Sunday, October 17, 2004
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
So what if a good portion of the starters are out with injuries? Cleveland proved its depth is near the top of the league as the Browns shut down the Redskins 17-13. The offense was led by the return of Lee Suggs, who rushed for a team-high 82 yards and scored the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. His first carry of the season was a 25-yarder, which infused life into the offense. Not to be outdone, the defense came up big by forcing Washington receiver Laveranues Coles to fumble with two minutes remaining to seal the victory. "We just had to have this, we needed a win," said defensive end Kenard Lang. "It's really big. Look at me, I'm smiling now. I'm just happy that we won."
Monday, September 27, 2004
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – The Giants offense was sharp against the Browns’ injury-depleted defense, and the Browns offense faltered – again.
The result was a 27-10 Giants victory here Sunday that, for the Browns, was as bad as the final score indicates.
The Browns didn’t score in the first three quarters, converted just 2-of-10 third downs, had three turnovers, lost a touchdown to a holding penalty, and fought an uphill battle all day with an average starting field position of their own 21-yard line.
Giants quarterback Kurt Warner threw for 286 yards against a Cleveland secondary that was without starting cornerbacks Daylon McCutcheon and Anthony Henry. New York running back Tiki Barber ran for 106 yards and a score.
The Browns had the momentum only once, on the first series of the second half, but two plays changed everything.
Trailing 10-0 but driving, Garcia fumbled the snap on first and goal from the New York 5, and Michael Strahan recovered the loose ball.
Barber was then dropped for a loss of four, but a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty on Robert Griffith got the Giants out from the shadows of their own goal line. Griffith hit Tim Carter after Michael Lehan broke up a pass intended for Carter.
There was no helmet-to-helmet contact, but the Giants got 15 yards and a first down –and ended up putting together an 11-play, 95-yard scoring drive that chewed more than six minutes off the clock. Warner’s 1-yard run and Steve Christie’s extra point made it 17-0.
Cleveland got on the board on a 49-yard field goal by Phil Dawson early in the fourth quarter. Dawson’s 17th consecutive successful field goal try made it 17-3.
The Browns had to settle for a field goal after William Green had a 49-yard touchdown run negated by a holding call on Dennis Northcutt 20 yards downfield.
A 3-yard touchdown pass to Quincy Morgan with 3:36 left made it 20-10, but New York’s Jack Brewer recovered the ensuing onside kick, and the Giants marched 41 yards in five plays.
Mike Cloud’s 5-yard run with 2:02 left capped the scoring.
The Giants improved to 2-1, while the Browns fell to 1-2.
A week after throwing three interceptions and compiling a quarterback rating of zero, Garcia finished 21-of-31 for 180 yards. He was sacked four times and threw an interception on a desperation Hail Mary on the final play of the first half.
Another slow start hurt the Browns offense. Cleveland had just one first down in the first quarter and five in the first half. New York outgained the Browns in the first half, 221 to 89.
Warner-to-Amani Toomer passes keyed both of the Giants’ touchdown drives. They hooked up for a 47-yarder in the first quarter – Barber scored from eight yards out on the next play – and for 38 yards on the game-deciding drive in the third quarter.
Two plays later, Warner scored his first rushing touchdown since he quarterbacked the Rams in the Super Bowl against the Patriots in January 2002.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Jeff Garcia completed only 5-of-13 passes, but did throw his first touchdown pass of the season in helping Cleveland beat visiting Chicago 24-10. Garcia's 37-yard strike to Andre' Davis put Cleveland ahead 7-0. "It was nice to end on a scoring drive," Garcia said. "We needed to get the ball in the end zone to have any sort of positive feel about today's game." Then backups Kelly Holcomb and Luke McCown exploited a depleted Bears secondary. McCown threw touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to Andre King and Richard Alston to break a 10-10 tie. However, Cleveland fumbled four times (but lost none) and gave back 60 yards on nine penalties. The defense registered four sacks and held the Bears to 202 total net yards. Cleveland will begin the 2004 regular season Sept. 12 at home against Baltimore.
Let it begin!!
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
'Looks like Mr. Thompson might be back in the game-hopefully today's practice went well and he can play on Friday against Chicago.
In other news: Casey Wiegmann is a sorry son-of-a-bitch. The whistle was blown and he slams Westmoreland with his friggin' elbow: that's cheap, real cheap. "Caught up in the moment" he says. I'm not buying that line. I hope the league slaps him with a huge fine.
Sunday, August 29, 2004
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
The Browns have established through two preseason games and a scrimmage that their offensive line can do a pretty good of run blocking.
But what about the pass protection?
That’s the big question concerning the first-team line – and, in many respects, even the team overall – heading into Saturday night’s preseason game at Kansas City. It’s the thing that probably most concerns Butch Davis, offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie and the rest of the offensive staff.
After quarterback Jeff Garcia got sacked on two of the Browns’ first three plays in the preseason-opening loss at Tennessee, the line had nowhere to go but up. To its credit, the line responded by showing improvement, as Garcia was sacked just once Saturday.
But the pass blocking is by no means a finished product.
“Oh, yeah, our protection was much better the other night than it was against Tennessee,” left tackle Ross Verba said before practice Monday as the Browns returned from a day off and started getting ready for the Chiefs. “Any time you give up two sacks on the first possession, it’s like, ‘Oh, no.’ But we settled down after that first drive, and now we’re just trying to build on it.”
The building process has been hurt by the fact the Browns have had a revolving-door situation at left guard. First it was Chad Beasley and then Enoch DeMar. Now it’s Paul Zukauskas, who started in last Saturday's 17-10 triumph over the Detroit Lions and is expected to get the nod once more against the Chiefs.
Maybe more than any other position area on the team, the offensive line needs time to mesh and develop. But because of all the changes at guard, that’s been a virtual impossibility.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
The quarterback and tight end positions were upgraded in the offseason, but it didn't seem to matter against Tennessee. Jeff Garcia completed three passes for 23 yards, and rookie Kellen Winslow had one catch for 10 yards as the Titans flexed their muscles in a 24-3 preseason win over the Browns. It wasn't all bad as Winslow's one catch early in the second quarter set up Phil Dawson's 50-yard field goal. Kelly Holcomb and Luke McCown combined with Garcia to throw for 220 yards. "When you come down here, there are a couple things you want to try to get accomplished," coach Butch Davis said. "One of them was that we wanted to play a hell of a lot better than we played."
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
It's clearly the most intriguing storyline heading into the Browns' 2004 training camp. And no matter how the Lee Suggs-William Green scenario eventually plays out, the Browns believe they're in a win-win situation. Suggs was last seen spinning, darting, and dashing his way through the Bengals' defense en route to a 168-yard, two-TD day in the 2003 regular season finale. Green had a monstrous finish to his rookie season in 2002, helping the Browns make the playoffs, then posted two 100-yard games last season before injury and off-field issues brought his season to a premature end. Throw RB James Jackson in the mix and the Browns have themselves a formidable backfield trio. "I'm a starting running back in the NFL and I've been dreaming about it since I was about six years old," Suggs said. "Now, that I've got the chance, I'm going to do everything I can to keep it."
Sure, maybe I can be considered lazy for pulling directly from nfl.com... perhaps that consideration deserves consideration... I just want to keep this blog going until the season heats up. Cleveland rocks! Argh!
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
*so maybe I don't say that, but I definitely think that, and after a few beers I'll probably accidently say something along those lines, which will most likely lead to me sharing Izzy's sleeping space for a night.