Browns defense collapses against Bengals
CLEVELAND -- As bad as the Browns offense played in the 30-0 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns defense shared just as big a portion of the blame.
The Bengals offense turned the tables on the Browns from the two team's previous meeting, running the ball right down the Browns throats to the tune of 244 rushing yards. Overall, the Bengals had 347 yards, but didn't need to throw the ball for most of the game.
Mike Pettine said the defense didn't have the 'it' factor or 'edge' necessary against the Bengals.
"I talked to the guys about (how) there's an 'it' factor that you have to have when you go out and play, an edge to you whether it's the focus, the intensity and we didn't have it today," Pettine said. "That's frustrating because you only have so many opportunities to go out and play. It's frustrating because it was a very meaningful game for us. To me, one of the hardest things in sports is finding that edge and playing with it every time. That's something that we obviously have to do a better job at."
Specifically, Pettine said the defense didn't tackle well.
"I could notice in-game (that) our pad level wasn't good, we didn't tackle well," Pettine said. "When we've had good defensive performances we've tackled well, and we didn't have that today."
In the Browns 24-3 win on Nov. 6, the Browns rushed for 169 yards in the dominating win.
Jeremy Hill stirred things up after the Browns first win by saying:
"They're probably worse than I thought, to be honest with you."
However, Hill rushed 25 times for 148 yards (5.9 avg.), including two touchdowns. Gio Bernard added 79 yards on 15 carries. Third-string running back Rex Burkhead put more salt into the wound with a 10-yard touchdown run with 23 seconds left in the game.
Pettine said it was frustrating to not be able to stop Hill, especially by the way he made himself a target.
"Extremely," Pettine said. "We did not play complimentary football. To me, you want to get the offense out there and maximize your opportunities. We just gave up too many long drives, and we were on the field. The end of the game was a perfect indication."
Jabaal Sheard said it was tough to let Hill go off like he did.
"Yeah, that's definitely frustrating," Sheard said. "He did talk a lot, but he backed it up with his play. I don't want to say he did anything spectacular. I think it was more on us. It was on us up front. We didn't get off our blocks and finish our tackles."
Despite the Browns being decimated by injuries in the secondary, the Bengals didn't need to throw the ball. Joe Haden, who drew the assignment of Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green left in the second quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return. Green ended up as the Bengals leading receiver with just five receptions for 49 yards.
The Bengals scored the first four times they had the ball and put up 20 points to take a 20-0 lead into halftime. However, a big play on the Bengals opening drive changed the momentum.
On third-and-6 from the Bengals' 47, Andy Dalton threw high for an incomplete pass to Green to force a punt, but Barkevious Mingo was called for a personal foul for roughing the passer as he hit Dalton in the helmet after the pass.
Pettine didn't want to talk about the call.
"I don't want to talk about it because that's the...Again, we'll submit what we think are questionable, see what feedback we get from the league."
Browns all but out of Contention in Division: The loss dropped the Browns back to .500 at 7-7 with road games in Carolina and Baltimore to end the season. The Browns hadn't been at .500 since losing to Jacksonville on Oct. 19 and dropping to 3-3.
With wins by the other three teams in the AFC North, the Browns find themselves in last placed behind Cincinnati (9-4-1), Baltimore (9-5) and Pittsburgh (9-5). The Browns would fall short in virtually any tiebreakers in the division and conference.
Rough Debut: QB Johnny Manziel was just 10-of-18 for 80 yards in his first NFL start for a rating of 27.3. He was sacked three times and threw two interceptions. Manziel had 13 yards on five rushes, including a long of 10 yards.
Only QB Jeff Garcia (2004) and QB Brian Hoyer (20130 won their debut as Browns starting quarterbacks.
Injuries to Secondary: The Browns went into the game short in the secondary with DB K'Waun Williams and DB Robert Nelson inactive with hamstring injuries and lost more players during the game.
DB Joe Haden suffered a shoulder injury and had to leave the game as did rookie Justin Gilbert, who suffered a concussion. Pettine said that Haden will have an MRI on Monday. WR/KR Marlon Moore also was forced to leave the game and didn't return.
Rookie DB Pierre Desir and DB Jordan Poyer were pressed into service for most of the second half with Buster Skrine drawing the assignment of covering WR A.J. Green.
Home Cooking: After starting 4-1 at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns dropped their final three home games to finish 4-4 at home.
Sack Leader: LB Paul Kruger sacked Dalton in the third quarter to give him 10 on the season to lead the team. DL Desmond Bryant sacked Dalton in the first half to give him five on the year.
Tough Sledding: While the Bengals rushed at will over the Browns, RB Terrance West had five carries for just 23 yards, while RB Isaiah Crowell had just 17 yards on seven carries. Manziel rushed five times for 13 yards for a total of 53 yards on 17 carries (3.1 avg.). West started the game in place of Crowell.
Rough Receiving: The Browns leading receiver was WR Josh Gordon with just three catches for 48 yards, including a 32-yard play. RB Isaiah Crowell had two catches for 10 yards, while WR Andrew Hawkins had two for just seven yards.
Robertson Shines: LB Craig Robertson had the biggest defensive play of the game for the Browns as he intercepted QB Andy Dalton. However, the Browns were unable to capitalize on the turnover and failed to score. Robertson has two interceptions on the season. Robertson led the Browns with 10 tackles.
Captains: Former Bengals and current Browns WR Andrew Hawkins, TE Jordan Cameron, LB Barkevious Mingo and LB Eric Martin were captains. The Browns won the toss and deferred to the second half.
Brown Out: The Browns wore their all brown jerseys, while the Bengals donned black pants and white jerseys.
Hartley Debut: K Garrett Hartley was signed on Saturday after K Billy Cundiff was waived. Hartley did not get in the game as the Browns tried no field goals, had no PATs and P Spencer Lanning kicked the ball off to start the game.
Smith: WR Rodney Smith was active for the second time this season, both Cincinnati games.
Dansby Out: The Browns were hoping that linebacker Karlos Dansby would be able to return for the key AFC North game with the Bengals. Dansby was declared inactive along with RB Glenn Winston, OL Vinston Painter, DB K'Waun Williams, DB Tashaun Gipson, TE Gary Barnidge and DB Robert Nelson.