ReFo: Browns @ Bengals, Week 11
Thoughts of Cleveland closing to within a half game of the AFC North division lead were looking more reasonable at the end of the first quarter in this Week 11 all-Ohio matchup between the Browns and Bengals. A 13-0 lead built on the back of two Andy Dalton to Joe Haden picks certainly was an encouraging sight, but all would come crashing down in the 31-point Cincinnati-dominated second frame.
An interception to end the first quarter immediately preceded a 25-yard score to open the second, then a tricky throwback pass from Mohamed Sanu to Giovani Bernard set up a Cincy TD, a blocked punt was taken in for another, as was a scoop & score fumble return and by the time Mike Nugent hit a 41-yard field goal to wrap up the half, the game felt like it was over.
Add in a steady rain after halftime and a Cleveland offense unable to push the ball downfield and the Bengals head to their bye with a two-and-a-half game lead over the knotted division below them.
Cleveland – Three Performances of Note
With 9:40 to go in the third quarter, Jason Campbell launched a thing of beauty deep down the left sideline to a striding Josh Gordon that was hauled in 37 yards from the line of scrimmage and taken another 37 for the score. If that were the only throw you saw in the game, you might guess that Campbell was having an attacking and accurate day, but that idea couldn’t be further from the truth. The painfully careful Campbell (-6.5) didn’t complete another attempt aimed more than 10 yards downfield all afternoon despite dropping back 60 times. Sure, there was a weather factor to consider, but the bottom line was his team was trailing from early in the second quarter and 44 short passes weren’t going to turn the tides.
Looking for Footing
A relative lack of pass rush impact to this point has colored Barkevious Mingo’s rookie season but it was his run defense (-2.7) that hit his overall grade hardest this week. Taken inside, kicked out, or just over-pursuing on his own, Mingo was no match for the blocking matchups he faced, primarily the Cincinnati tight ends. With his snaps limited for the fourth straight week since returning to a reserve role, he saw 19 run plays with little of a positive note to show for it. Generating nothing as a pass rusher and having troubles on special teams as well all worked to turn out a less-then-memorable day for the young linebacker who is now carrying a -10.0 grade on the season and struggling to find the success he enjoyed in the season’s first week.
A pair of the leaders at their respective positions, center Alex Mack (+2.3) was back to form this week after falling off schedule in his two previous outings and left tackle Joe Thomas (+3.9) continued his green-graded ways. Mitchell Schwartz, over on the right, even took the cue and turned in a two-way positive (run blocking and pass blocking) as well. While Mack traded blows with Domata Peko on the inside and Thomas saw a lot of Michael Johnson, Schwartz got a heavy dose of Carlos Dunlap and did a respectable job – half of the trouble he found came in garbage time with the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter and Dunlap charging upfield with no concern for anything but getting to Campbell’s drop.
Cincinnati – Three Performances of Note
With much made of the Joe Haden-A.J. Green showdown each time these teams meet, this instance was squashed quickly with the issue not being forced past the first quarter. After motioning Green behind the formation to set up a swing pass away from Haden’s side on Cincinnati’s opening play (an effort that resulted in a catch for -1 yards that was washed away by penalty) Green’s lone catch came on a short stop route that Haden closed on quickly, delivering a crunching blow short of the sticks. That was it, Green’s day was done. He’d see two more first-quarter targets, but neither made their way to him, both ending up in Haden’s hands instead.
A Burfict Day
In what was as active a day as you’ll see from a linebacker, Vontaze Burfict’s missile-like persona was on full display. Logging five defensive stops, he was a downhill force not only against run plays but – taking advantage of the check-down happy Browns offense – came up to make those unlucky enough to be running the under routes in the passing game pay as well. His forced fumble and subsequent scoop & score in the final minutes before halftime (Q2 2:55) was the signature moment, but a late statement dislodging the ball from Brian Tyms on a crossing route showed his pace carried through to the end of the game. An unnecessary roughness penalty and getting caught handled by a couple blocks were his only down marks on the day, one which – pending final review – would log as one of the best we’ve seen from a 4-3 outside linebacker.
Ears Pinned Back
A dream opportunity for a pass rusher, knowing every play is going to be a drop-back so you can charge forward without worry, is essentially what Carlos Dunlap saw on Sunday. He got to get after the passer on 55 snaps and along the way notched four knockdowns (a sack and three hits) to go with a pile of pressures. His grade was muted by the fact that the bulk of them came either unblocked, in pursuit of scrambles, or solidly into Cleveland’s extended 19-play, 18-pass garbage-time drive late in the fourth, but the message remains – give Dunlap a sure target and he’ll bring it home. He has now rushed the QB on more snaps than any other 4-3 DE this year and his 51 total pressures are third at the position.
– Andy Dalton took 10 shots targeted 10 yards or more downfield. He completed two to his guys and two to Joe Haden (and those were on back-to-back passes).
– Linebacker Vincent Rey saw 14 passes targeted into or under his coverage and nine were completed but they produced just a 4.3 yard average per attempt.
– 46 of Campbell’s 60 drop-backs saw him hold the ball for 2.6 seconds or longer. On those, his passer rating was a paltry 39.1.
PFF Game Ball
His inescapable presence in this game makes it an easy choice, Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict takes home the game ball.
Follow Rick on Twitter: @PFF_Rick