Sunday, December 15, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Cleveland Browns
By Pat McManamon
CLEVELAND -- A few thoughts on the Cleveland Browns’ 38-31 loss to the Chicago Bears:
What it means: The Browns' defense needs work. Players and coaches can point to numbers and stats and justify whatever they want, but against Chicago, the Browns gave up 21 fourth-quarter points. They started the fourth quarter with a lead, then gave up three touchdowns. On one, Alshon Jeffery made a circus catch; on another, a good punt return gave the Bears a short field. A good defense makes big stops when needed. The Browns' defense is not doing that.
Stock watch: Maybe Josh Gordon was simply due an off week. After four otherworldly games in a row, Gordon was average against Chicago. He missed a couple of passes that he had been catching. Jason Campbell missed him at times. And at others he was open, and Campbell didn’t look his way. Gordon’s stock should not drop, but the Browns clearly needed more from him than a late touchdown when the game was already decided.
Walk the walk: Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson had effusive praise for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler during the week leading up to the game, but he also said Cutler would give the Browns' defense a chance to make plays. Gipson proved he wasn’t kidding, with two first-half interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. The big blemish: Gipson misjudged a long pass and allowed Jeffery to make a circus catch in the fourth quarter to tie the game.
Safety awareness day: At one point it appeared the Browns' safeties were headed to a big game against the Bears and Cutler. Too bad games last four quarters. Gipson had the interception for a touchdown, and T.J. Ward returned a second-half fumble for a score. The two helped to produce 17 of the Browns' first 24 points, with Gipson’s first pick leading to a field goal. But in the second half, Gipson let Jeffery make the TD catch behind him, and Ward was nowhere to be found on the second-longest touchdown run of Michael Bush's career.
Haden injured: Browns cornerback Joe Haden left the game in the third quarter with a hip injury. It appeared Haden either hit the ground awkwardly trying to make a tackle on a Bears run, or he was kneed in the hip by Jermon Bushrod as Bushrod was blocking. Haden's leaving, combined with an earlier injury this season to Chris Owens, put rookie Leon McFadden on the field at corner with Buster Skrine.
What's next: The Browns travel to face the New York Jets on Sunday in the penultimate game of the season.