Some early Giants mistakes had this game showing all the signs of an upset as rookies Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson made the kind of plays Cleveland had hoped for after their first-round investment.
But, as has all too often been the case for the Browns, the Giants’ offense executed with more consistency down the stretch to pick up a much needed win. Eli Manning put forth another quality performance and the Giants’ running game assumed a form on Sunday that no one likely expected, as they ran for 243 yards against a defense allowing on average less than half of that total.
It is ill-fated that, much like in Week 2, the Browns’ worst defensive performance of the year had to come at the same time as one of the offense’s best. Cleveland’s front seven got a complete workout by the Giants’ line, and no facet of the Browns’ defense worked well. No stat can really illustrate that point better than the fact that they gave up 41 points and 502 yards. In a game where there was a lot of really good, and a lot of really bad, here is what stood out.
Cleveland – Three Performances of Note
On Sunday, Richardson (+3.1) showed everything that you would hope for out of the third overall pick in the draft. The two-time national champion looks like he has finally recovered from offseason knee surgery that cost him his whole preseason. Richardson finished the day with 132 total yards on only 22 touches, and was able to break seven tackles — two more than any other game he’s had this season. He was well on his way to an even bigger day before the deficit grew to such a point that the Browns had to pass. Still, Richardson showed he could take some pressure off his struggling quarterback, and looks primed to make an even bigger impression going forward.
Skrine’s Tough Matchups
Covering the Giants’ wide receivers is never an easy task and Buster Skrine (-5.0) found that out the hard way. Skrine’s slight 5’9” stature did not make for a good matchup against any of the Giants 6’+ receivers and it showed early on. There was a sequence in the first quarter where Reuben Randle beat the Browns’ corner on four straight passes before Victor Cruz ultimately beat Skrine for the Giants’ first score of the game. Skrine also committed multiple penalties and had two missed tackles. In the end, he only gave up 58 yards through the air but he allowed 67% of passes and was ineffective overall. The Browns will get some help though, as Joe Haden is set to return next week.
Replacing D’Qwell Jackson
L.J. Fort started his career off with a bang by recording three tackles, a sack, and an interception in the Week 1 loss against the Eagles. Unfortunately, Fort’s positive momentum did not carry over to this Sunday. When D’Qwell Jackon went down in the second quarter with a concussion, it was the rookie Fort that came in at the middle linebacker position. He played the final 38 snaps of the game (-1.3) in far less impressive fashion then his 38 snaps (+2.8) in Week 1. With Fort in, the Giants racked up 24 points and moved the ball through the air and ground with ease. His struggles came to a head in the fourth quarter when guard Chris Snee got to the second level and took Fort right out of the hole on David Wilson’s 40-yard touchdown scamper.
New York Giants – Three Performances of Note
Boothe’s Best Game
Even though the Giants’ offensive line has looked much improved as a unit this year, left guard Kevin Boothe was not contributing to that progress. Boothe had given up multiple pressures in three out of four games and was coming off a -5.1 grade against the Eagles. That all changed on Sunday as Boothe put up his best performance in the PFF era, finishing with a +3.6. He only gave up one hit on the day and nothing else. When a team runs for over 200 yards and doesn’t give up a sack, the offensive line is doing their job, and no one did it better than Boothe on Sunday, as he constantly found his way to the second level and made it count.
The Giants cycled through linebackers all game long, adjusting to the Browns’ formations and trying to find a combination that worked. By the end of the game the Giants were still searching. The group combined for a total grade of -6.5 and was the main reason the Browns were able to match their season high for points with 27. Now, some of their shortcomings can be chalked up to having to deal with Richardson the whole game, but the unit still didn’t cover well or generate a single pressure blitzing. No linebacker played worse though than the one that actually played the most, Chase Blackburn (-4.9). In 48 snaps Blackburn was able to miss three tackles (a fourth was nullified by a penalty) and struggled when linemen got their hands on him. To Blackburn’s credit, his end-zone interception was crucial, but it likely wouldn’t have been that close had he made more plays earlier in the game.
Ahmad Bradshaw ran over, around, and through the Browns’ defense all day long. Even when there was no secret as to what the Giants’ offense was going to do, Bradshaw got the job done. Any talk of splitting carries with Andre Brown and Wilson was hushed by Bradshaw’s 200 yards on 30 carries. He only missed four snaps the whole game and continued his elite pass blocking, not allowing any pressures on 11 attempts. It wasn’t pass blocking that provided the bulk of Bradshaw’s +4.1 grade though, it was his six broken tackles and 70 yards after contact. After the Giants finished dead last in rushing in 2011, this performance should send a scare to the 31 other defenses around the league.
– The Browns’ offensive line gave up just two quarterback disruptions all game.
– The Giants deflected four passes at the line of scrimmage.
– Receiver Josh Norwood caught all nine of the balls thrown his way.
Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled the ball on the first snap from scrimmage. That may have been the best thing that could have happened to him as he was in makeup mode the rest of the game. To say he did would be an understatement with as polished a running back performance as you’re likely to see all year.
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