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Browns’ defense continues slide

Posted Dec 22, 2013

Senior Editor Vic Carucci offers his thoughts on the Browns’ 24-13 loss to the New York Jets Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Here are my final thoughts from the Browns’ 24-13 loss to the New York Jets Sunday at MetLife Stadium:

>>If this was supposed to have been a playing-for-pride game, then pride was severely shortchanged. For the most part, the Browns did not seem to put forth anything closely resembling a prideful effort. For the most part, players appeared to be something less than fully engaged with performing at top capacity. There were too many dropped passes, too many misfired throws, too many missed tackles, and other assorted mistakes on both sides of the ball. How do you get inside the opponent’s 20-yard line FOUR times and come away with only THREE points? Unacceptable. The Jets, who had also been eliminated from postseason contention, had no more incentive to play at a high level, yet they looked more inspired from start to finish.

>>Let’s dispense with any notion that the Browns have a good defense that has been performing poorly of late. That is being far too kind. The Browns’ defense has been on such a steady run of bad play, it’s getting hard to remember when it was good. Bad defenses allow fourth-quarter leads to disappear, as the Browns did in three consecutive games before Sunday. And bad defenses do what the Browns did on Sunday: give up touchdown drives of 80, 81, and 80 yards and 12-of-18 third-down conversions against one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL, rookie Geno Smith. Smith was able to beat the Browns with his arm and his legs. He threw for a pair of touchdowns (to David Nelson, a receiver the Browns signed as a free agent in the offseason and then released in training camp) and ran for 48 yards, including a 17-yard score. Smith entered the game as the NFL’s lowest-rated passer (with a rating of 62.9) and second in the league with 21 interceptions. On Sunday, he threw no interceptions and his rating was 91.7.

>>This is now two games in a row in which the Browns have allowed a 100-yard rusher. Last week, it was Matt Forte. On Sunday, it was Chris Ivory, who had 109 yards on 20 carries (an average of 5.5 yards per gain). Opponents are simply overpowering the Browns’ defensive front, which is supposed to be one of the stronger areas on the team.

>>Jason Campbell had a disastrous showing. He wasn’t helped my multiple drops, including a couple that would have been touchdowns, but he also was repeatedly off-target on his throws in completing 18 of 39 attempts for 178 yards, with an interception and a passer rating of 48.9. Campbell was sacked three times, and wasn’t truly able to find any sort of comfort in figuring out what the Jets were doing with various coverages and blitzes.

>>The statistics show Josh Gordon with six catches for 97 yards, but they don’t paint an accurate picture of a day in which he struggled with drops and generally didn’t play at his best. Gordon was targeted a game-high 16 times, so the Browns clearly made a concerted effort to make him the focus of their offense, but he didn’t make a meaningful dent in a solid Jets defense.

>>One bright spot: Edwin Baker. The young running back showed that his eye-opening Browns debut a week ago was not a fluke. Facing the NFL’s third-ranked run defense, Baker ran 17 times for 64 yards, averaging a solid 3.8 yards per carry, and his second touchdown in as many games. He continued to show the nice burst and explosiveness that caught the attention of so many of us against Chicago, which has the league’s worst run defense, last week.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 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 daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.

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