Some fans might call it old school football. Most would likely call Cleveland’s 7-6 home win over San Diego Sunday the ugliest game of the seasons, something along the lines of terrible television. From the weather to the box score lines to the individual plays and players, nothing about this game was appealing to viewers. Since you probably averted your eyes from this mess of a game, let’s run down some of the low-lights (and the lone highlight).
1. Robert Meachem Dropping An Easy TD
With just under nine minutes to go in the third quarter trailing 7-3, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers spotted a wide-open Meachem streaking past his man on a seam route on a 3rd-and-long. The announcer sums it up pretty perfectly: “How did Meachem drop that pass?!” Rivers lofted a perfect ball to his receiver. Meachem turned to reel it in. The ball hits his hands. The ground next. The way the offenses were slogging through this game, it seemed like one big play was all either team needed to seal the game. This should have been that play. Meachem let his squad down and let the Browns off the hook with this drop.
2. The Browns’ Offensive Offense
Cleveland piled up 70 yards of offense on its first drive of the game. That was good. Over the next 49-plus minutes, they picked up 180 more yards and punted an astonishing nine straight possessions before kneeling on the ball to end the game. That’s bad. The Browns actually made it into San Diego territory on nearly half of those drives (four), yet still punted the ball away on each. I understand not wanting to give away field position, but in a game where neither team could move the ball, it’s tough to figure out why Pat Shurmur didn’t try to go for it on some of those fourth downs on the right side of the 50. If just one of those drives turned into points, it could have very well put this game away. Shurmur knows he’s likely coaching to keep his job under new ownership, and playing it that conservatively isn’t going to score him points in Jimmy Haslam’s book.
3. Both Quarterbacks
While neither Rivers nor Brandon Weeden turned the ball over — which has to be considered a victory in a game this sloppy — neither QB could accomplish anything with the ball in their hands. They went a combined 29-61 for a total of 283 yards. In a league where the top-15 quarterbacks average better than 250 yards per game, that figure seems especially pathetic. While the rainy weather provides a convenient excuse, NFL fans have seen countless standout performances in worse conditions. For Weeden, this could just be a case of a rookie struggling. There seem to be bigger issues for Rivers, however, who is clearly nowhere near the player he was just a few years ago. Whether it’s injury, play calling or the lack of talent around him remains to be seen, but something is going on with the former All-Pro.
Norv Turner said earlier in the season that if Mathews couldn’t correct his fumbling issues, they’d become another coach’s problem. It’s looking more like Norv will be gone from San Diego before Mathews, but that’s besides the point. The Chargers’ starting RB coughed up another ball in the first quarter on Sunday, and has now lost two fumbles on only 82 carries this year. By comparison, only five other running backs around the league have two or more fumbles on as few touches. None of them, save for perhaps Fred Jackson should be considered in Mathews’ class from a talent standpoint, which only adds to concerns for the former first round pick. Other running backs have fixed fumbling issues, but so far it’s followed Mathews throughout his first few season. While Mathews continued to carry the ball after his fumble, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more Jackie Battle or Ronnie Brown going forward if these issues continue.
(Thank the Football Gods, there was one watchable moment during this game)
The most apt description I’ve heard for Richardson is “bowling ball.” He’s almost as broad as he is tall, he’s tough to stop once he gets rolling and, yesterday especially, he bounces off everything he comes in contact with. On this particular run, he shook off three Chargers defenders and almost got taken out by one of his own linemen before getting some help and righting himself to sprint into the end zone. While you can question the Browns trading up (and paying a hefty price) to draft a running back, one of the most replaceable positions in the game, Richardson looks more and more like he’s ready to carry the franchise on his back.