First and 10 following yet one more nearly inexplicable defeat ...
It’s not exactly rocket science, but the win probability chart below shows just how much in control of the game the Browns were Sunday in New England. For much of the game the Browns' chances to win were more than 75 percent. Until ... well ... the finish.
The fourth-quarter chart (below) is even more tough for Browns fans to take. Cleveland’s likelihood of winning was 98 percent after the touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron with 2:39 left. Ninety-eight percent. Simple math -- yes it’s possible -- says Tom Brady had a 2 percent chance to win with 2:39 left. And he won. What’s even more interesting is that the Browns' chance to win after the touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with 1:01 left and ensuing (improper) penalty on Jordan Poyer were still 97.6 percent. So Brady only increased the chances of New England winning .4 percent with that touchdown drive.
The reason for that was that the odds of recovering an onside kick are so slim. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski himself admitted it’s a “low-percentage play.” It was only the 11th onside kick recovered by New England in team history, and the first that led to a game-winning touchdown drive.
Even with that, though, the Browns' chances were almost 60 percent again before the game ended. This chance came after Cameron caught a pass at the Patriots' 40. It’s tough to figure why it rose that high; a long field goal was a long shot (obviously) and the chances of a Hail Mary were longer still. Sixty-six percent seems a tad high. These charts, mind you, are done by folks far, far smarter than me, but I’d probably have put the Browns' chances at 40 percent after that completion.
It also shows why Rob Chudzinski using a timeout after the interference penalty with the Patriots on the 1 was an egregious mistake. That timeout was the Browns' last -- thanks to mishandling the play clock earlier -- and it meant they had to try for a game-winning field goal without a timeout. Had they had one, they conceivably could have moved past the Patriots' 40 for the attempt -- which would have only increased their win probability.
Why Brady is not mentioned in every annual discussion for the league MVP is absurd. This season the names bandied about are Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson and Russell Maryland ... well ... OK ... not him. But Brady is every bit as deserving to be in the discussion as anyone. Don’t believe it? Think about that 2 percent chance he had to win -- which he converted. Quite simply, Brady is the best quarterback of our generation.
This Browns loss brought to mind the game in Chicago against the Bears in 2001. That’s the game when Chicago scored two touchdowns in 24 seconds, recovered an onside kick, tied the game on a Hail Mary, then won the game in overtime when Tim Couch’s pass to the left was batted in the air and right into the hands of safety Mike Brown, who returned the interception for a touchdown. The sight of James Allen being horizontal as he caught the Hail Mary and of Brown running right into the locker room after the game-winner does not go away. Heck, Brady’s a slacker. He needed 31 seconds to score his two touchdowns and recover an onside kick. Shane Matthews did it in 24. OIC, folks. OIC.
The shame of the loss, besides the simple fact of the loss, is how well the Browns played. They followed a week of uncertainty at quarterback and a downer of a loss to Jacksonville with a tremendous game in New England -- until the final two minutes. They showed more heart than many thought they had.
The other shame of the loss might not even be a shame at all. Because there were some more than impressive individual performances. Jason Campbell threw for 391 yards and showed how important it is to not turn the ball over; Campbell returned from a concussion to play a tremendous game. Cameron had his best game in a long time, with nine catches in nine targets for 121 yards and a touchdown. And Josh Gordon continued his other-worldly play that he started a month ago. These are the parts of the game coaches look at when they talk about growth and improvement. Unlike the loss to Jacksonville that was discouraging and disappointing, this loss to the Patriots was simply disappointing.