By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
Here are some final thoughts on the Browns’ 38-21 loss against the Redskins at Cleveland Browns Stadium:
>>File this one under, “Be careful what you wish for.” So Robert Griffin III wasn’t able to play because of that knee injury he suffered in Week 14. So what? Kirk Cousins, the Redskins’ other rookie quarterback, stepped in with a phenomenal performance. Had RGIII had Cousins’ passing numbers (26-of-37, 329 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 104.4), his rookie-of-the-year campaign might very well have been sealed. Cousins was poised, efficient, and highly accurate (except for a tipped pass that became an interception). He doesn’t have anything close to Griffin’s mobility, but still managed to run three times for 22 yards, including a 17-yard carry on a naked bootleg.
>>The Browns’ three-game winning streak was tremendous fun while it lasted. I don’t know what sort of impact winning four in a row (or six in a row, for that matter) would have on what will happen at the end of the season. But that really doesn’t matter. Winning creates a more positive atmosphere around the team, and the streak gave so many of us new and better topics of discussion. The loss to the Redskins doesn’t undo all of the good that came from the 3-0 stretch. It just gets us back to a less enjoyable narrative.
>>Was it possible the Browns took the RGIII-less Redskins too lightly? Sure. At least one player, cornerback Joe Haden, told me he was surprised by how well Cousins performed. But the fact is the Browns shouldn’t have been all that surprised. Although the Redskins didn’t use the read-option plays that RGIII runs so effectively, they still used some basic elements of their standard passing game that Cousins had operated well in brief relief appearances before his start against the Browns. Cousins is incredibly diligent when it comes to studying videotape and making certain he is well prepared for a game. He didn’t simply begin doing that this week because of Griffin’s uncertain status. He does it all the time. Much of what Cousins accomplished during the game was due to his fairly thorough understanding of all aspects of the Browns’ defense, including the tiniest details about each player’s tendencies.
>>The Browns’ defense started strong, but then collapsed. Some of the problem was being on the field far too often because of the ineptitude of the Browns’ offense. Some of it could very well have been the result of taking Cousins too lightly. But most of the defense’s issues seemed to stem from an inability to handle the many bootleg plays that Cousins ran. It was incredible/maddening how the Redskins were able to repeatedly find success with Cousins running or throwing while bootlegging. Each time, the Browns’ front seven would take the bait on Cousins’ fake to the opposite direction and be woefully out of position to make a play. At some point, it seemed that the defense would finally catch on, but never happened.
>>Brandon Weeden picked a horrible time to have one of his worst performances of the season. He missed open receivers on multiple throws. On many occasions, he seemed confused with the Redskins’ coverage and overall defensive scheme, holding the ball and mostly being slow to get rid of it. That caused throwing windows to close before he had a chance to exploit them and resulted in his being intercepted twice and often having nowhere to go with the ball. Weeden also had several passes knocked down at the line, which has been a problem for the rookie this season. The game was a clear backward step in his development, but he does have two more games to try and make up ground.
>>The Browns’ running game was almost non-existent beyond Trent Richardson’s rushing for a pair of touchdowns. Richardson only had 28 yards on 11 carries, but ran only twice in the second half. His scoring runs of six yards, in the first quarter, and one yard, in the second, were impressive. On the first, he showed tremendous power to force his way through a pile of bodies and keep pushing across the goal line for his 10th touchdown of the season, breaking Jim Brown’s rookie record. On the second, he showed good judgment in bouncing the play outside and pulling away from a pair of defenders for the score.
>>Travis Benjamin’s 69-yard touchdown catch of a beautiful throw from Weeden represented the biggest of the Browns’ few highlights. When he is lined up one-on-one against a defender, as he was on that play, Benjamin can simply use his incredible speed to simply streak into the clear on a go route, which was what he ran. The Browns’ coaches have worked with him about getting into a more explosive stance to get the best possible take-off he can, and Benjamin demonstrated that he is taking that coaching well.
>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.
>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 855-363-2459.
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