Sunday, November 24, 2013

View From the Dawg Pound, Game 11

 Another Sunday and another disappointing loss for the Browns. What can be said that hasn’t been said before? No running game, inconsistent quarterback play, special teams that aren’t, and an attacking defense that spends too much time on the field.
 The lack of a quality running game will not be addressed until the off-season. The trading of Trent Richardson still has to play out for the Browns, but it left the team without a true number one running back who showed consistency and flashes of potential last year as a rookie. They need to replace Richardson with several young, strong backs. The Browns had a meager 55 yards total rushing against the Steelers.
 Jason Campbell did not look great, and Brandon Weedon looked inconsistent against the Steelers. However, what you did see on several plays when Brandon Weedon looked deep for Josh Gordon you saw the offense the team wants to run.  The NFL offense circa 2013 is a downfield passing game, ala Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The most improved quarterback in the league is Carolina’s Cam Newton, who has made the transition from a running quarterback to one who can throw the ball downfield. That is why I have said over and over it is not about Brian Hoyer or Jason Campbell in the Browns’ long-range plans.  They are looking for someone with Brandon Weedon’s arm. How the Browns address this I am not sure. The best college prospect is still two drafts away, and might be spending the upcoming offseason fighting rape charges. Against the Steelers, Jason Campbell went 14 for 22 for 124 yards, while Weedon went 13/30 for 209 yards and one pick and one touchdown. Probably not too bad of a combined day considering no ground game.
 Travis Benjamin’s injury has been a bigger blow to the Browns than anyone first thought. It took away the team’s only real speed receiver, his threat on gadget reverse plays, and, of course, his threat as a return man on kicks. In some ways he took over Josh Cribbs’ many roles on the team. Now those things are done by a committee of players and none of them scare the other teams during games.
 Very good NFL quarterbacks take apart attacking defenses. What Ben Rothlisbergher did Sunday was typical. When the Browns attacked he knew what areas were vacated and hit a ‘hot’ receiver with a completion. That is why the most attacking of teams don’t do much attacking against the Mannings, Tom Brady, and Ben Rothlisberger.
 Sooner or later an attacking defense has to be able to sit in its base defense and play football. But constantly rushing five, six, or seven men on play after play just leaves too much of the field open for good teams to take advantage of.  The Browns have a good defense, but it can’t rely on its blitzing packages and stunts to win every game. In games like Sunday’s with the offense sputtering and the defense spending too much time on the field, the opponent’s offense has seen all you have to offer by halftime.
 It was another winnable game for the Browns in a season of winnable games, even considering the Richardson trade, playing three quarterbacks, and only drafting two players. This is turning into the strangest of a series of strange seasons, another losing season that we will have to live with for another long winter and into next year.

Monday, November 18, 2013

View From the Dawg Pound, Game 10

Well, the best thing that happened is that we did not go to the game. We had traveled to Nashville on Friday to see the Vanderbilt/Kentucky game Saturday afternoon, and our plans were to get up early Sunday and get to Cincinnati in enough time to buy some tickets on the street and see the Browns/Bengals game. We did leave Nashville early on Sunday morning, but we hit terrible wind and rain and it took longer than we thought to get to Cinci. Also, none of the three of us had brought enough rain gear to comfortably survive the storm, so we quickly decided instead to watch the game with the Greater Cincinnati Browns Backers in a place called Slatt’s in Blue Ash, fifteen miles north of downtown. The weather remained terrible and the Browns played worse, so it ended up being a good decision.
The first notes I wrote down about the game were that Jason Campbell looked shakey, and the defense looked good. I think that pretty much sums up the game, although I don’t blame Campbell as much as others. It is quite obvious that the Browns don’t have a solid running game, and as long as defensive coordinators know this the Browns are going to have trouble on offense. And Campbell is not going to look good.
The Cincinnati Browns Backers were an older crowd compared to the Charlotte Browns Backers who we did a game with earlier in the season. Charlotte’s Browns Backers were mostly young professionals in the twenties and early thirties who grew up in Northern Ohio. Cincinnati’s Browns Backers were old school, many of them coming from families who were Browns fans back in the day when there weren’t even Bengals.
I was surprised to see so many of them at the sports bar considering the Browns were playing in town. However, I heard the same thing over and over again, that Paul Brown Stadium was an expensive and not very friendly place to see a game. Seats that go for $45-$50 in our end zones in Cleveland go for $85 in Paul Browns Stadium.  And most of them never really understood all that “Who Day?” stuff that goes on at the games. I know I’ve been there for three Browns/Bengals games over the years and it does get old fast.
The sports radio shows on the way home covered the obvious. The Browns should have gotten touchdowns instead of field goals early in the game, and very easily could have been leading 21-0 at the end of the quarter.
And, of course, the second quarter brought disaster. Fumbles, interceptions, two blocked punts, and 31 unanswered points on the board. It really took the life out of the crowd at Slatts, who were enjoying the game until then.
But what hasn’t been mentioned in the media, was the times in the second half were the Browns could have gotten back in the game. The Browns got down to the Bengals 34 yard line on the first drive of the second half and were stopped. The second drive Josh Gordon makes a great catch and the game is suddenly 31-20.  The hold the Bengals and make them punt, but on the next drive Campbell throws a pick on the third play. The Browns hold them again, but go three and out themselves. The Bengals then get another touchdown to make it 38-20 and put the Browns away going into the fourth quarter.
The Browns had three chances to make it a one score game after Gordon’s touchdown at the beginning of the second half and couldn’t do anything. As bad as the second quarter was, they still had a chance until the Bengals scored a six at the very end of the quarter.
Next week we are back at home against the Steelers. The Browns know what mistakes they have to eliminate from their game, but the Steelers will know that the Browns are weak at the run and will be sending all sorts of stunts and blitzes at Jason Campbell.
When I look back on my football weekend in Nashville and Cincinnati, I think of something that happened late Saturday afternoon after the Vanderbilt/Kentucky game. We were hanging out in the live music bars on Broadway in downtown Nashville and were inundated with Chicago Blackhawk fans, because the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks were playing the Predators that night up the street in the Bridgestone Center. There had to be, and I am not exaggerating, thousands of Blackhawk fans in the bars and on the street. Everywhere you looked you saw Blackhawk uniforms. The Nashville paper the next day estimated there were over 5,000 Blackhawk fans at the game, over 25% of capacity of the arena. That many fans traveled over seven hundred miles to see their team play. I then I said to my self, that is what happens when you win championships.

Greg Cielec (
Section 120, Row B, Seats ¾
Photos by Dave Hostetler

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Kentucky at Vandy in Nashville 11.16.2013

Our 2013 Football tour continued to Nashville for the Vandy/Kentucky game. Another great time was had by all, special thanks to the Ally Martin and the Vandy cheerleaders. Photos by Dave Hostetler.

Monday, November 4, 2013

View From the Dawg Pound, Week 9

On a beautiful late fall day, in front of an enthusiastic crowd dressed in their best orange and brown, the Browns played like the Browns of old and defeated the Baltimore Ravens 24-18.

The Browns did what they hadn’t done all year, scoring first and holding the lead until the final whistle. On offense there were plenty of heroes, including quarterback Jason Campbell who went 23 out of 35 for 262 yards, for 3 touchdowns and no interceptions; Devon Bess making up for last week with 2 touchdown catches; and Greg Little having his best day as a pro with 7 catches for 122 yards.

Campbell made some great plays when they were needed on the Browns last drive. He scrambled and then ran for 12 yards and a first down on a third and 3 play, then later in the drive scrambled then threw a little flip pass to Chris Ogbonnaya for another first down. Both plays kept the drive going that lead to the Browns’ last field, but more importantly took time off the clock and kept the ball out of the Ravens’ hands.

Josh Gordon and Greg Little both continue to show how good they possibly could be. Little especially had a terrific game against the Ravens, but still showed his immature side that still hasn’t completely gone away. He was flagged for two personal fouls. The first was a bad call when he got shoved to the ground by a Raven defender. However, the second was all his fault as he taunted the same defender later in the game. The sky is the limit for this kid; let’s hope he makes it.

The defense was lead by defensive back Chris Owens with nine tackles, and linebackers D’Qwell Jackson, Craig Robinson, and Paul Krueger had solid games. The Browns pressured Joe Flacco all day, finishing with 5 sacks from 5 different players. The only real negatives on the defensive side of the ball were giving up a 46-yard pass completion that allowed a Ravens touchdown with :09 left in the half. The Browns looked confused on the play, as well as on the scoring play. And allowing a two-point conversion after the last Raven touchdown, that got the Ravens within a field goal in the fourth quarter.

The Browns special teams, especially their punt return team, miss Travis Benjamin. The field goal team had a major snafu when they decided to pooch punt instead of attempting a 51-yard field goal. The punt was a good one, but the team failed to down the ball before it rolled into the end zone for a touchback, resulting in a net 14-yard punt.

From our seats in the Dawg Pound we had great views of more than a few big plays, including several of Little catches and two of Campbell’s touchdown passes. What about Joe Haden’s interception? It was a total effort by the complete defensive backfield.

There is a saying that running backs and receivers use when they make a cut in open field to cause a defender to fall down, “breaking his ankles.” That is exactly what Davone Bess did to a Ravens defensive back on his second touchdown. To me, it was the best play of the game.

The worst play of the game was not by the Browns or the Ravens, but the fans in the stands. Brandon Weedon came in for several plays and the boo birds returned. I know he has been a disappointment as a starter, but he is still a Cleveland Brown and I was there a month ago when he came off the bench and took over the Bills game for a 37-24 victory, after being down 10 points in the first quarter. Grow up people.

Two other highlights of the afternoon for me had little to do with the Browns. After they did recover a muffed punt on the Ravens 11 yard line, it was great to see the often raved about Ravens defense go through a period of confusion that allowed the Browns to score a touchdown. They were clueless in the three plays it took the Browns to score. Gosh, was that good to see. That was only topped by catching the end of the Steelers game after the Browns game was over. The Patriots were scoring at will, Big Ben was running for his life, and the Steelers coaching staff didn’t have an answer for any of it.

Final Notes…Dave Sefchik is a life long Browns fan who hosts a great tailgate party every game day in one of the public lots in the Flats near the Flat Iron CafĂ©. His parties revolve around “The Vessell,” a converted delivery truck that he turned into a mini Browns museum. On November 24 before the Steelers game “The Vessell” will be hosting former Browns kicker Don Cockroft who will be selling and autographing copies of his book “The 1980 Kardiac Kids.” Dave says everyone is invited.

If you need a live football fix this week with the Browns bye, there is plenty of great football going on all around Ohio. In all corners of the state it will be the first round of the state high school football playoffs. In northern Ohio there are some great local college football games. This Saturday 6-2 Baldwin Wallace visits undefeated Mount Union, while undefeated John Carroll hosts 7-1 Heidelberg College. Next week JCU hosts Mount, while BW hosts the ‘Berg. Two of those four teams will make the National DIII Playoffs. If you check out any of these games you won’t be disappointed.

Enjoy the bye week; see you in Cinci in two weeks.

Text by Greg Cielec
Photos by Dave Hostetler

Section 120, Row B, Seats 3 and 4.

Vanderbilt at Texas A&M, 26 October 2013

Our Fall '13 Football Tour continued to College Station where we had big fun. Special thanks to the Vandy cheerleaders and all the great, friendly people we met in Texas.