ReFo: Browns @ Chiefs, Week 8
The Chiefs stayed unbeaten but weren't as comfortable as they would have liked against the Browns. Gordon McGuinness looks at the performances of note.
ReFo: Browns @ Chiefs, Week 8
In a game that they looked likely to run away with early, the Kansas City Chiefs were able to hold off a battling performance from the Cleveland Browns behind their third starting quarterback of the season in Jason Campbell.
For the Browns it showed that they aren’t likely to be pushovers for many teams down the stretch, even if it ultimately winds up just being in the role of the spoilers, with glimpses of better days to come mixed up.
Meanwhile, for the Chiefs it brings up the same question we keep asking ourselves, how good are they really? They’ve beaten everyone on their schedule so far, so you can’t take that away from them, but it’s going to be interesting to see how this team handles squaring off against Denver in two of their next four games.
That’s for another day however, what’s more important is how the Browns and Chiefs performed on Sunday, so with that in mind let’s take a look at the key performances.
Cleveland – Three Performances of Note
Change at QB goes as Expected
It’s doubtful that many expected the insertion of Jason Campbell (+0.2) into the starting line-up to suddenly turn the Cleveland offense into the Ohio version of Peyton Manning’s Broncos, but the change did bring about an expected result. Campbell came as advertised, not making many throws that blew you away, but not making a large number of mistakes either, something that allowed the Browns to stay in the game.
Of his 35 aimed passes, 14 travelled 10 yards or further beyond the line of scrimmage, with six completions for 134 yards, including the flea-flicker touchdown pass to Josh Gordon on 1st-and-10 with 2:53 to go in the first half. He handled pressure well, going 8-for-14 for 176 yards and a touchdown on plays under pressure, good for a QB rating of 125.6 which was higher than his 92.4 rating without pressure. He had less impressive moments, like floating a pass that was almost picked off by Sean Smith in the end zone on 3rd-and-10 with 21 seconds remaining in the first half, but that was the closest any of his throws came to being picked off.
Dynamic Duo on Offense
All the talk as we head toward the trade deadline is about whether or not the Browns would be willing to part ways with more players as they continue to rebuild. And while it’s always good to stockpile draft picks provided you use them wisely, they would be wise to keep hold of tight end Jordan Cameron (+1.4) and wide receiver Josh Gordon (+0.7).
Cameron was his usual productive self on Sunday, catching all four of the passes thrown his way for 81 yards, including a fantastic 37-yard reception on 2nd-and-10 with 11:43 left in the game. Losing his balance as he adjusted for the ball, he was still able to locate it and pull it in on his way to the ground.
The decision on whether or not to keep hold of Gordon obviously centers around his off-the-field issues. On the field however, there is no denying how talented he is. On Sunday he highlighted how good he can be again, just in case we needed reminding. Catching five passes for 132 yards from 39 snaps in route, he had a Yards Per Route Run Average of 3.38.
Taylor Stout Against the Run
Phil Taylor’s (+4.8) third season in the league has been a little lackluster, with a couple of solid performances but nothing really to write home about. That changed on Sunday with Taylor receiving the highest grade we’ve given him since entering the league after a standout performance against the run. Proving a real handful for Chiefs’ center Rodney Hudson throughout, including beating him to record a stop on 3rd-and-2 with just 1:06 left in the game.
From the 15 snaps he played against the run, he recorded three tackles, with all three resulting in a defensive stop. That gave him a Run Stop Percentage of 20.0%, tied for third among all defensive tackles with just Monday Night Football to go. It was the kind of performance we expected from Taylor after some early promise in his rookie year, with the challenge now being to ensure he can use this big day to kick on and have an impressive second half of the season.
Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
Struggles Along the Offensive Line
While Rodney Hudson (-5.7), was the least efficient of their offensive lineman, the blame on Sunday wasn’t his alone, with only right guard Jon Asamoah (+1.2) finishing with a positive grade. First overall draft pick Eric Fisher’s (-3.2) tough rookie campaign continued, struggling against the run and allowing a sack, a hit, and three hurries from 47 pass blocking attempts. Left Guard Jeff Allen (-1.2) didn’t struggle as much against the run, but was doomed by his pass blocking with a sack, two hits, and a hurry allowed. It was the opposite for left tackle Branden Albert who allowed less pressure, but struggled more against the run. On the whole, the line currently sits fifth from bottom in Week 8 in terms of Pass Blocking Efficiency, with a PBE rating of 71.2, not a good outing indeed.
Derrick Johnson Leads the Way
In a game where the Chiefs struggled more than probably even they expected to, they were able to have linebacker Derrick Johnson (+4.9) back at the level we saw from him in Week 1. Seeing just 12 snaps against the run, he was able to register five solo tackles and an assist, with two of those tackle resulting in a defensive stop.
Where he really stood out, however, was in coverage where he would allow just 14 yards receiving on four receptions. That included two tackles for no gain, one of which came on 3rd-and-2 with 3:52 left in the opening quarter. Reading the out route perfectly, he was able to meet running back Willis McGahee as he caught the ball, tackling him instantly.
Running Backs Making Plays, Even When not Running
To look at the box score might make it feel like the Chiefs should have run the ball more, their 29 runs included four quarterback scrambles and a kneel down, the game plan itself features getting the ball to Jamaal Charles on a regular basis. Despite missing time in the third quarter with a minor injury, Charles still finished with 18 carries as a runner and six targets as a receiver turning those touches into 120 yards and a combined seven missed tackles.
And then there was the play of fullback Anthony Sherman (+2.4) who delivered some solid work as a lead blocker for Charles and added three receptions for 23 yards. The highlight of his day will obviously be reaching the end zone for the first time in his career on a screen pass on 3rd-and-10 with 10:33 to go in the first half. However it’s his play as a blocker that has been on display all year, with Sherman’s +10.1 run blocking grade for the year now well beyond his nearest contender.
– With 10 missed tackles on defense, the Browns had twice as many as the hosts.
– Chiefs’ cornerback Sean Smith was responsible for 128 of the 293 yards they allowed through the air.
– From 14 snaps against the run when lined up within eight yards of the line of scrimmage, Browns safety T.J. Ward made five tackles, with four resulting in a defensive stop.
PFF Game Ball
On offense, Jamaal Charles gave him a run for his money, but Derrick Johnson’s standout performance lead the way as the Chiefs improved to 8-0.
Follow Gordon on Twitter: @PFF_Gordon
Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.