Cleveland Browns: Tom Brady

First and 10 following yet one more nearly inexplicable defeat ...

  1. 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.
    Browns WIn ProbabilityESPN Stats & InfoThe Cleveland Browns' chances of beating the New England Patriots as Sunday's game progressed.
  2. 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.
    BrownsESPN Stats & InfoThe Cleveland Browns' chances of beating New England as the fourth quarter progressed.
  3. 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.
  4. It wasn’t the onside kick that New England recovered that sent the Browns' chances plummeting, but the (improper) interference penalty on Leon McFadden and the touchdown pass to Danny Amendola.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Rapid Reaction: Cleveland Browns

December, 8, 2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 27-26 loss to the New England Patriots:

What it means: Could a loss be more crushing? The Browns followed a teeth gnasher against Jacksonville with a spirit breaker in New England. Although Cleveland was up 26-14 with 3:04 left, Tom Brady somehow led the Patriots to two scores and the win. Oh, the Pats also recovered an onside kick in that time and got the benefit of a pass-interference call in the end zone in the final minute. Does anyone doubt anymore what folks refer to when they say OIC -- Only In Cleveland?

Stock watch: The Browns do have heart, and they do believe in their coach. No team could play in New England the way the Browns did without both those traits. The Browns were woeful a week ago against Jacksonville. They were the exact opposite against the Patriots. It’s hard to explain the NFL sometimes. Brady is the virtuoso of quarterbacks, and he plays his best when the games mean the most. The Browns nearly flipped that script -- but Brady came through (again) when it mattered most.

Bounce back: Jason Campbell had 391 yards and three touchdowns on a day when there was doubt he would even be on the field. Campbell brought some calm back to the Browns' offense, and he avoided Brandon Weeden's turnover bug. Campbell took care of the ball and did enough to keep the Browns in the game, then led the Browns on an impressive 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter to score a touchdown that should have sealed the game. Not bad for a guy whose first full practice in 11 days was the Friday before the game.

Ward takeout: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was the victim of a low hit from safety T.J. Ward, and the NFL rules. There used to be an unwritten rule in the NFL not to hit a guy low from behind. But the NFL has legislated so severely against the high hit that players now aim low. That’s what Ward did to Gronkowski, and the result was what appeared to be a serious lower right leg injury to the Patriots' standout tight end.

Gordon’s mastery: It’s tough to find the words to describe the way Josh Gordon has played the past four games. He’s done everything, as he did in New England, where his day included an 80-yard touchdown, a 34-yard run on a reverse, and a clutch first-down catch on third-and-17 in the fourth quarter with Aqib Talib draped all over him. He has played like a superstar -- a 22-year-old superstar.

What's next: The Browns return home to face the Chicago Bears for the final home game of the season.
NFL coaches can usually find a kind word, or a thousand, about an upcoming opponent.

Even a bad team becomes disciplined and well coached when they’re the upcoming opponent.

So perhaps Ray Horton’s adoration of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady should be taken with a grain of salt.

Or perhaps it shouldn’t.

“I believe he’s the greatest draft pick in the history of football,” Horton, the Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator, said. “I might go so far as to say he may be the greatest player that’s ever played. That’s not just because we’re playing him.

“That’s my belief.”

He continued.

“The things he’s overcome, his will, his heart, his preparation for the game, I don’t know if there’s a better player in the history of the game than Tom Brady,” Horton said.

Brady was a sixth-round draft pick, someone every team in the league passed on several times before New England chose him in 2000 -- after the Browns had taken Spergon Wynn.

Horton’s challenge now is drawing up a way to defend Brady.

“You’ve got to give him different looks,” Horton said. “You’ve got to pressure him. You have to play at your best because I’m pretty sure he’s going to prepare; he won’t take any game, an opponent lightly.

“It’s an ultimate test for me as a coordinator, this one player. I think he’s everything you want in a franchise quarterback.”
The revolving door at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns continues on its trend-setting pace.

No NFL team has had more starting quarterbacks than the Cleveland Browns since 1999, the year the team returned to the field.

Nineteen different players -- some noble, some not so noble -- have taken the first snap. Jason Campbell becomes No. 20 on Sunday.

This season's Browns will have three different starters in the first eight games.

"It's something I'm used to," left tackle Joe Thomas said. "It's not like I've ever played with one quarterback a whole season."

Thomas joined the Browns in 2007. He hasn't missed a play since he was drafted. In that time, the Browns have had 11 starting quarterbacks, with No. 12 set to go in Kansas City on Sunday.

The teams with the fewest starters are not surprisingly among the better and most consistent teams in the league. Teams with talented quarterbacks win, and part of being a dependable player is being reliable. The best play well, and play often.

New England has had three starters -- Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady and Matt Cassel.

Green Bay has had three -- Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn when the Packers gave Rodgers a couple late-season games off.

Indianapolis has had five -- but three started games in 2011 when Peyton Manning missed a season. One could say that Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins were underpaid, because they gave the Colts the chance to go from Manning to Andrew Luck.

On the opposite end, Miami ranks second to the Browns with 18 staters since 1999, and Chicago has had 17.

The average per team is 11.3, which means the Browns will be far above average when they hit 20. Nearly double in fact.

When players shrug off the changes and call it life in the NFL -- which some Browns have done -- it's not really accurate.

It's more life in Cleveland.