Saturday, October 26, 2013

Does Weeden deserve the blame for Lions lost?

 Karl Kimbrough (pictured), Cleveland Urban News.Com Sportswriter (kimbrough@clevelandurbannews.com).  Cleveland Urban News.Com and The Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.Com, Ohio's No 1 and No 2 online Black news venues (www.clevelandurbannews.comReach Cleveland Urban News.Com by email at editor@clevelandurbannews.com and by phone at 216-659-0473

CLEVELAND, Ohio-Sometimes the finger is wrongfully pointed at one player as the reason for a lost at the most recent home game at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland, a pro football, baseball and basketball town ripe with all the trimmings of a major American city . From the criticism that Brandon Weeden received for the Cleveland Browns lost that day to the Detroit Lions one may think he falls into this category. Phone lines have been burning up at sports call in shows as fans have been calling in to complain about Weeden's wild toss that was intercepted in the fourth quarter. Some sports writers from local newspapers, like the fans have pointed to Weeden's unthinkable blunder as the main reason for the lost.

Weeden's lame duck pass towards the sidelines was intercepted with just 4:36 remaining in the game. That play pretty much put a cap on the Browns lost to the Detroit Lions, which ended with a score 31 to 17. However, is Weeden the one player to blame for the lost and is the Cleveland offense incapable of putting together a good performance for more than one half as they have failed to do so often this season.

Cleveland lead Detroit 17 to 7 at the half in this game and had totally out played the Lions at that point. This includes Weeden having out performed counter part Detroit Q.B. Matthew Stafford, Weeden connected on 12 of his 20 passes in the first half and threw two touch downs as Cleveland scored all of their 17 points in the first half. The passing game was augmented by 115 yards rushing in the first half which was their highest since 2004 for one half. The defense likewise played at a high level in the first half by keeping star running back Reggie Bush in check with 14 yards rushing on 7 carries. All of this changed after half time

Reggie would total 121 yards, receiving and rushing combined in the second half. Suddenly, the Lions offensive line began having their way with the Browns front seven. Detroit ended the game making 8 out of 14 third down conversions. Defensive captain D'Qwell Jackson agreed that to much blame has been put at the feet of Weeden. Jackson said, “ I don't know what all the fuss is all about Brandon, we (the defense) have to get off the field on third down.” Browns running back Willis McGahee admitted that the Lions wanted the win more than the Browns did. Browns tight end Jordon Cameron concurred when he said, “ The energy wasn't there, (in the second half) and our head wasn't in it and we had some bad plays.” Cameron committed two false starts in the second half helping to stall drives. Cameron went on to say, “ We've got to come out and not get comfortable with the lead, and really push it. When we get the lead, we've really got to step on their throats.”

There is no doubt that the Browns were comfortable with their lead. The team as a whole did not display the same energy and effort as they did in the first half. Conversely, Detroit was amped up and not ready to go away without a fight. For example, on the Lions first possession in the second half it was third down and six at their own 25 yard line and Stafford dropped back to pass, finding no one open the Browns had him trapped for a 9 yard lost, but he got away and ran up the middle for a first down. After he got up he did a Tiger Woods fist pump and slammed the ball to the turf. That emotion and tenacity gave his team mates encouragement and let them know he was ready to bring them back. That run was only 8 yards, but it glavanized his offense and the Lions began to believe.

They made an adjustment, using Bush as a wide out when he was not lined up as a running back. This move put Bush man to man with linebacker Craig Robinson who struggled all day covering tight end Joseph Fauria. Twice Fauria caught touchdowns against him. Robinson was also covering Bush as he caught an 18 yard touchdown. On offense in the second half the rushing game that had been outstanding with 115 yards in the first half only managed a meager 11 yards on five carries. Which is an indictment on both the coaches for not calling more running plays in the second half and the offensive line because they did not block well after the half. The coaches also failed to use play action in the second half, which is one of the worse sins a coordinator can commit after establishing a good running game. Play action passes always draw linebackers in towards the line of scrimmage and give the quarterback an opening in the second level of the defense. Cameron, who was the offensive go to receiver the first four games and possibly Cleveland's most productive offensive weapon this season did not catch his second pass until 5:29 was left in the fourth quarter. Again why didn't the coaching staff make an effort to get him more involved earlier in the second half.

So as we can see there were plenty to blame for this lost and many players and coaches who didn't step up in the second half that are culpable in the 31 to 17 lost to the Lions. However, Weeden has much more of a responsibility to lead this Browns team than the other players. Unlike Stafford when he would not be denied, showing toughness going after the first down, on his third down run, Weeden did not step up when needed. There were many opportunities to show his teammates his resolve to make plays or a play to jump start them in the second half. For example, after Detroit scored their first touchdown in the second half Weeden's first pass was way off target to Greg Little on first down. After a team hits your defense for a touchdown the players are looking for the leader, the quarterback to come back and make a play. Weeden did not and in his previous two starts this year he has not shown the fortitude to let his team know that they can rely on him.

Again, on third down after Bush's touchdown Weeden had a chance to make a play to keep the offense on the field, but he did not see running back Chris Ogbonnaya as his outlet receiver standing all alone to his left. Weeden should have thrown him the ball for a first down, but he kept the ball and ran for no gain, which shows poor pocket presence.

On the Lions next possession they drove to Cleveland's 29 yard line before Stafford threw an interception in the end zone to Tashawn Gipson. Here was another chance to turn the momentum back to the Browns, but Weeden came under pressure after not finding his primary receiver and held the ball to long, so he threw the ball to tight end Gary Barnidge a split second before being hit. The problem with this pass, Barnidge was two yards behind the line of scrimmage so he lost two yards. These type of last second throw aways have been common for Weeden and it speaks again to his lack of pocket presence and not making decisions with the ball fast enough.

On the next possession Weeden took a 9 yard sack after not getting the ball out soon enough. It is as if the pro game is a bit to fast for him at this time,especially when he's stressed in the pocket. Weeden was asked what he learned about quarterback Brian Hoyer while he filled in for him. Brandon said, “ He is very smart and he gets the ball out quick.” Some might think that Weeden would now get the ball out quicker after watching Hoyer. No, Weeden still can not read the defense quick enough to know where the ball should go pre snap or post snap. This is his biggest issue, along with having lost some of the confidence which he gained in the preseason because of his lack of success.

Good NFL quarterbacks believe in themselves and transfer their confidence over to their teammates and help them believe. At this point in the season the offensive players are not sure if Weeden can lead them. So even though many players are responsible for the October 13, 2013, lost to the Detroit Lions, Weeden bares a heavier obligation. Which he and his coaches must find a resolution for before this season is over before it's over.