ReFo: Buccaneers @ Browns, Week 9
After laying down a marker against the Steelers a couple of weeks ago the Browns had faltered. A week after beating the Raiders though they stayed on their winning ways when the Buccaneers came to town to remain firmly in the race of the AFC North – a division currently featuring all four sides above .500.
Tampa Bay remains rooted to the foot of the NFC South – a division currently featuring no side above .500.
The fact that this game was close and went down to the wire shows that the Browns are not quite over their rough patch yet however. Let’s dive inside both teams to see who stood out.
Buccaneers – Performances of Note
Mike Evans, WR, +3.2
Breakdown: This was the breakout game for the Tampa Bay rookie who notched his first 100-yard game of the season, catching seven passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. It could have been more but for an incomplete pass that wasn’t challenged as he dragged his toes to get both feet down.
Signature Play: Q3, 02:56. Evans scored a touchdown over Cleveland cornerback Buster Skrine, beating him easily down field and making a nice adjustment to the pass.
Johnthan Banks, CB, +3.1
Breakdown: This might be the best game of Johnthan Banks’ young career. The 2013 second round draft pick has had plenty of struggles but was always supposed to be a talented prospect, this was the game we saw that promise fulfilled, at least for sixty minutes.
Signature Stat: Was thrown at six times and allowed a passer rating of just 5.6 on those targets.
Alterraun Verner, CB, -1.4
Breakdown: Verner, the veteran of the corner stable in Tampa Bay, was the player making the rookie mistakes. He did not have a good game; with perhaps the best thing he did laying a huge hit on wide receiver Andrew Hawkins on a crossing route.
Signature Stat: Quite the contrast to Banks, Verner was targeted nine times but gave up 108 yards, a touchdown and a passer rating of 135.4, and it could have been worse had Hoyer connected on the last play of the game.
Browns – Performances of Note
Joe Thomas, LT, +3.0
Breakdown: Joe Thomas probably doesn’t get enough credit for just being excellent in every damn game. He was perfect in pass protection for the third time this season, and ensures that the Browns just don’t have to worry about heat coming from his man.
Signature Stat: Thomas allowed no pressures on 40 pass blocking snaps.
Nick McDonald, C, -8.1
Breakdown: Alex Mack might be the best center in the league, and if he isn’t the best, he is in the conversation. To fall from that to an -8.1 grade is about as far as you can go here. McDonald surrendered a sack and two more hurries, but he was victimized in the run game, regularly driven into the backfield by Bucs defenders.
Signature Play: Q1, 08:35. OK, so he is tripped a little by his left guard, but just look at what Gerald McCoy does to McDonald on this play en-route to a sack.
Joe Haden, CB, +4.2
Breakdown: There’s no denying that Joe Haden had a rough start to the year, but as I wrote here, he was getting beat despite being in decent position a lot of the time. Now he’s coming out on the right side of those plays and was fantastic in this game.
Signature Play: Q1, 00:38. We could have gone with either one of a couple of great Haden plays, but let’s go with the one that actually stood. He plays the deep ball perfectly, cushioning it back in the air for safety Donte Whitner to take an easy interception.
PFF Game Ball
There were plenty of excellent performances in this game but let’s give the game ball to one of the game’s elite finally showing why he got paid this off-season. Joe Haden earned this one.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam