COMMENTARY | Well, that was a letdown.
After a successful preseason, there was plenty of optimism amongst Cleveland Browns fans heading into the 2013 regular season opener against the Miami Dolphins. The hope was Cleveland would end its eight-game losing streak on opening day against the offensively challenged Dolphins.
Unfortunately, after a demoralizing 23-10 loss to Miami, Browns fans will have to lean on a familiar refrain in Cleveland in regards to this unenviable streak -- wait till next year. The opening day slide is up to nine, and Cleveland's loss cost them the chance to spend a rare week atop the AFC North standings.
Cleveland's defense was so-so against the Dolphins. First-year defensive coordinator Ray Horton's unit lived up to the hype when it came to pressuring the quarterback, and the Browns' run defense completely shut down Miami's ground game, allowing just 20 rushing yards to the Dolphins. Cleveland's secondary did struggle in the second half, so there still is plenty of work to be done on the defensive side of the ball heading into a Week 2 matchup versus the Baltimore Ravens.
Sadly, there is not much good that could be said about the Browns' offensive effort against the Dolphins, and most of the blame can be put on Cleveland's game plan versus Miami.
It's no secret in the football world that Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner are in love with the forward pass. Both coaches have been successful in their careers when they have combined their vertical passing game with a solid rushing attack.
In 2007, running back Jamal Lewis gained 1,304 yards as the Browns went 10-6 with Chudzinski as their offensive coordinator. That same season, Turner led the San Diego Chargers to an 11-5 mark, with tailback LaDainian Tomlinson running for 1,474 yards.
While Cleveland's offense doesn't necessarily need running back Trent Richardson to put up such lofty numbers to be successful in 2013, it would certainly help if he at least got some more opportunities to carry the football.
Cleveland ran 70 offensive plays against Miami -- only 13 of them were on the ground. After four rushing plays on their first drive of the game, the Browns ran less and less as the game wore on, literally abandoning the ground game by the fourth quarter. Unbelievably, Cleveland had zero rushing attempts in the final 15 minutes against Miami, even though they were only down a field goal entering the last period. The ridiculousness of that last statistic is beyond words to this writer.
Cleveland's pass-first, pass-second game plan arguably helped Miami's cause more than their own in this game. With no running game to worry about, Miami's defensive interior had a field day teeing off on Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, who was sacked six times on the day. Thankfully, Weeden emerged relatively healthy after Miami's defensive onslaught, but he's probably happy he won't have to cross paths with Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake again in 2013.
Now that we've all seen how lackluster the Browns' offense is when it is completely skewed towards the passing game, hopefully a slight shift in philosophy will be in order against the Ravens. A nice idea for sure, but it will be tempting for Chudzinski and Turner to air it out against a Baltimore secondary that got absolutely ripped to shreds by Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Week 1.
Let's be honest. though. Weeden isn't Manning, and the Browns aren't the Broncos, so the Cleveland offense needs all the help it can get. A good start would be a steady diet of Trent Richardson to keep Baltimore's linebackers honest, because Weeden might not be lucky enough to make it through another game of relentess pressure unscathed.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for over 25 years.
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