By Eric Szczepinski
The Cleveland Browns offense failed to capitalize on stellar play from the defense and lost a heartbreaking game. The frustration from the defense was felt in the locker room as one player said, “I’m not talking, I’ll say something bad.” It was the first time in 15 years an NFL team has scored 2 defensive touchdowns and forced 4 turnovers and lost the game. The Browns let a game with huge playoff implications slip away. Browns safety Donte Whitner said post game, “playoff teams win these games.” With the 25-24 loss the Browns fall to 7-6 and must win the remaining 3 games for any chance of the postseason.
Following last week’s quarterback controversy it appears Head Coach Mike Pettine and his staff made the wrong decision. They hoped Brian Hoyer would have a bounce back game and instead, he played atrociously. Hoyer finished the game 14-31 for 140 yards with 2 interceptions and no touchdowns. Throughout the game Hoyer made poor decisions and was extremely inaccurate. He missed Gordon and Gabriel on wide-open touchdowns down the field. On both throws he over threw them. If it wasn’t for the two defensive touchdowns and a drive before the half to score there might have been a quarterback switch. Tied at 7 before the half Hoyer led the Browns on a 9-play 77-yard drive capped off by an Isaiah Crowell touchdown run. If it wasn’t for this drive and a 14-7 halftime lead the switch to Johnny Manziel may have taken place at halftime. In the 3rd quarter the Browns offense was on the field for nine total plays. All three drives resulted in 3 and outs. However the Browns led and were in control the entire game. The Colts didn’t take the lead until their game winning touchdown with 32 seconds left. Another reason for not switching is because the Browns were winning and Pettine thought the Browns could squeak out the victory. When is the last time a quarterback has been pulled in a close game when his team is winning?
Hoyer’s play has been baffling. With yesterday’s performance Hoyer became the first quarterback in Browns history with three straight games of 0 TD passes and 2 interceptions. The reason for Hoyer’s early season success was because he controlled the offense and didn’t turn the football over. He was also aided with a great run attack early in the year. Simply put, Hoyer is not doing what he did early in the year to keep the Browns offense at a steady pace. The Browns offense has one touchdown in their last 29 drives. Hoyer has regressed over the course of the year and he is out of chances.
Hoyer was given one last chance against the Colts and couldn’t make the most of it. A solid performance and win would have put the Browns in the thick of the playoff hunt and would have shown Hoyer is capable of winning with this football team. However, Hoyer failed to meet expectations and the Browns are on the outside looking in on the playoff race. With three games remaining it is time to turn the keys over to rookie Johnny Manziel.
Coach Mike Pettine has begun to build a winning culture in Cleveland and must get an accurate evaluation on Johnny Manziel over the next three weeks. Playing Manziel will also allow Manziel to build for next season and allow the Browns to continue to grow towards a winning culture. Heck, Manziel may lead us 3-0 and straight into the playoffs. It’s time to see what Johnny Manziel the rookie sensation has in store for the future of the Cleveland Browns.