AFC North: Eric Martin

First and 10: Scoring and scoreboards

November, 19, 2013
First and 10 talks Steelers, scoring and stadiums ...
  1. The Browns talked big things a week ago when they said they were up to the task of playing in a big game in November. Now they are 4-6 and the half-full view says that with games at home the next two weeks, they could be 6-6 in December. How the rest of the season goes will depend on how the Browns fare against the Steelers on Sunday.
  2. But a week after feeling good and upbeat after a win, the Browns now look like a team that has lost four-of-five, which it has. The Steelers? After an 0-4 start, they’ve won four-of-six.
  3. No team has treated the Browns since 1999 like the kid brother Rob Chudzinski mentioned than the Steelers, with thrashings and embarrassing losses piled on each other. The lone Browns win in a game Ben Roethlisberger started might have even been a loss, because it started a streak of wins that saved Eric Mangini’s job for one season. To say the Steelers have owned the Browns is an insult to ownership.
  4. By the way ... that motivational speech from the former playmaker himself ... Michael Irvin ... Never mind.
  5. Give coach Rob Chudzinski credit for one thing -- he is very adept at defusing things in his media get-togethers. He was asked if the second quarter against Cincinnati was a snowball going downhill, and he simply said a lot of atypical things happened. Which was wise. He took what could have been an issue -- “how could a coach let things get away that badly” -- by stating a simple fact. It was a very deft statement.
  6. How advantageous is it to intercept a pass and return it for a touchdown? Consider that Sunday was the 88th time that had happened in Browns history (Joe Haden did the deed for the Browns). The Browns have won 79 percent of those games, having gone 69-18-1. The one in five they lost was last Sunday.
  7. Backup linebacker Eric Martin must have some unbelievable potential. The guy is a penalty machine on special teams, and he was part of the duo that missed the block on Cincinnati’s blocked punt. His penalties have been downright bizarre. Against Cincinnati, he was flagged for unnecessary roughness when the Bengals sent a kickoff 5 yards out of the end zone. Against Green Bay he was flagged for the same when he blocked a Packers player out of bounds, then blocked him again on the sidelines. On the blocked punt, Martin blocked down on a player already engaged with a Browns protector, which provided the gap for the block. Yet while the bottom of the roster is juggled, Martin remains. Interesting.
  8. Cincinnati’s 31-point quarter was not a record by a team against the Browns. Green Bay holds that mark, as the Packers scored 35 points on Nov. 12, 1967, in the first quarter of a 55-7 rout over the Browns. Longtime Browns watchers recall a player named Travis Williams not once, but twice, returning a kickoff for a touchdown in that game.
  9. The 31 points by the Bengals matched the worst second quarter in Browns history. The team had given up that amount twice -- in 2013 against the Bengals and in 1990 against the Houston Oilers.
  10. It’s really something to hear a mayor of a struggling major city in the rust belt and an NFL team president make a convincing case that $30 million from said city’s general fund is not a bad cost for cosmetic repairs to a stadium. Then you think what $30 million can do for a city, and how that compares to beautiful scoreboards. Cleveland City Council should have fun with this vote Monday, but it would be a surprise if it didn’t pass. Art Modell’s decision was not that long ago.

Breaking down the punt-team breakdowns

November, 18, 2013
Breakdowns by the Cleveland Browns and good plays by the Cincinnati Bengals led to the crucial special teams mistakes that contributed significantly to the Browns' 21-point loss.

“We had two major breakdowns there,” coach Rob Chudzinski said.

One tipped punt and one blocked punt gave the Bengals two touchdowns and helped turn the momentum toward Cincinnati.

The first rush came up the middle, as the Bengals drove a rusher into center Christian Yount and looped Shawn Williams up the middle. Williams was able to tip the ball, which was not considered a block because it went beyond the line of scrimmage.

But the nine-yard “punt” set up the Bengals' second touchdown.

Yount said he should have changed the protection before the play. He also said his snap drifted right, which took punter Spencer Lanning closer to Williams as he rushed.

The second was a block, by Jayson DiManche. He lined up on the left side of the Bengals' rush, and split the gap between linebacker Eric Martin and linebacker Barkevious Mingo. He also easily avoided fullback Chris Ogbonnaya to reach out with his left hand and block the punt.

Mingo lined up off Martin’s right shoulder, a couple yards off the line of scrimmage. When DiManche took an outside-in move, Martin went inside to help and Mingo basically whiffed. As did Ogbonnaya.

In the scramble for the ball, Lanning also had a chance to touch Tony Dye when he recovered the ball, but Lanning said he was trying to recover the ball.

Though Mingo took the blame, coach Rob Chudzinski said the scheme called for zone blocking, so both players were responsible. Chudzinski hinted the responsibility was more on Martin.

“There needs to be help from the inside guy, and he ultimately is responsible for that guy,” Chudzinski said.

Martin actually turned inside to help on a player a teammate was blocking.

The Browns have shuffled players on the punt team, in part because of an injury to special teams captain Quentin Groves.

Mingo had played in various spots on the punt protection, including that one, Chudzinski said.

“The effect of losing Quentin is having to move guys around,” Chudzinski said. “But that’s no excuse. There’s no excuse for getting punts blocked.”