Week 12 Game Recap: Cleveland Browns 12, Minnesota Vikings 24
What you need to know
The Browns turned the ball over five times, which spelled doom on the road, and the likely end to any slim playoff hopes which may have yet existed. Trent Dilfer threw two interceptions and twice had the ball popped loose while being sacked. Dilfer completed the day with 23 completions in 35 attempts for 214 yards and a touchdown, however the turnovers were too much to overcome. Dilfer took a hit to his right knee and had to exit the game for a series, bringing in backup quarterback Charlie Frye, who threw just one pass, which was intercepted.
The leading receiver on the day was tight end Steve Heiden with five catches for 55 yards. Braylon Edwards led the team in targets, and pulled in four balls for 42 yards, outpacing starter Antonio Bryant, who caught just two passes for 16 yards in a day he would like to soon forget. Dennis Northcutt didn’t see a target until the fourth quarter, but caught both balls thrown his way for 17 yards, pulling one in for a touchdown. Fourth wide receiver Frisman Jackson was utilized on the final series to find the seam in the zone, and caught five passes on that series for 38 yards. Reuben Droughns was used extensively in the passing game, gaining 46 yards on five receptions.
The entire focus of the Browns’ rushing game was around Reuben Droughns, however they did not hold the ball long enough to allow Droughns to effectively take over this game as he did the previous week against Miami in a 22-0 victory. Droughns picked up 73 yards on nineteen carries in a game the Browns trailed from the outset.
Brad Johnson led the Vikings to a fourth straight victory, and took advantage of the strengths of his teammates when given short field after short field on this day by the ball hawk Vikings defense. Throwing for three touchdowns, Johnson completed 19 of 28 passes for 207 yards with just one interception on the afternoon.
Marcus Robinson was targeted just three times on the afternoon, but all three throws were caught for touchdowns spread over 32 yards receiving as Robinson used his big body to win the ball in the air and cleanly come down with it for the score. Early in the game, Johnson looked often to Travis Taylor, who finished the game with five catches for 70 yards. As the game progressed, Koren Robinson was worked into the offense more and more, and caught four balls for 29 yards on the afternoon in addition to maintaining his kick return duties. While Troy Williamson was deactivated, Nate Burleson was active, but did not play much due to his lingering injury, and did not catch either of the two balls thrown his way. Amongst the career leaders in completion percentage, Johnson is efficient in involving his tight ends, and has a special connection with Jermaine Wiggins, who pulled in five balls for 67 yards on the afternoon. Running back Mewelde Moore was used less in the passing game this week, as the Vikings led throughout most of it, and caught just two passes for nine yards.
Coach Mike Tice continues to ride the hot hand of Mewelde Moore in the backfield, and gave Moore 21 carries on the afternoon. Moore gained 67 yards, and had a six yard touchdown called back due to a holding call. The role of the short yardage back in this offense has been taken over by rookie Ciatrick Fason, who did not find the end zone this week, but added fourteen yards on three carries. Michael Bennett was a virtual non-factor in this game, losing three yards on three carries.
What you ought to know
|QB Trent Dilfer, Pass: 23 - 35 - 214 - 1 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0|
A passer rating of 68.0 fails to capture Dilfer’s two fumbles, and just how poorly he played for most of the afternoon. While one of the interceptions which Dilfer threw bounced off the receiver’s fingertips and was not his fault, Dilfer failed to show the leadership in this game which he had exhibited in previous weeks. Much of Dilfer’s statistical output came late in the game when the Vikings were dropping their guys back into a deep zone and Dilfer was hitting the open man underneath. Due in part to this, Dilfer completed 66% of his passes for an average of 6.7 yards per passing attempt.
Dilfer suffered a minor knee injury to his right knee in the third quarter which caused him to miss a series, however it is surprising that despite the fact that Charlie Frye threw an interception in his only attempt, that coach Romeo Crennel immediately reinserted Dilfer. With the Browns suffering a loss in this game, it will be interesting to see how the coaching staff approaches the brewing quarterback controversy in Cleveland.
Droughns continues to be the most complete player in the Browns lineup, compiling 119 all purpose yards and doing whatever it takes to get things done. Unfortunately, he did not get as many attempts this week as he had in recent weeks due to Browns inability to hang onto the ball. Droughns averaged 3.9 yards per carry, and 9.2 yards per reception.
Jackson caught all five balls thrown his way as he was used to find the underneath hole in the deep zone which the Vikings were utilizing late in the game while leading 24-6.
Edwards continues to see more and more balls in this offense, and given time, his ability as a playmaker should shine, however he seems limited with Dilfer at quarterback. He has lobbied for Charlie Frye at quarterback, and seems to respond more when Frye is in the game. Edwards had a little better success than teammate Antonio Bryant in catching the ball in this game, however was often overthrown.
Bryant had a difficult day, allowing balls to bounce off his fingertips, and seemed to lose some of the rhythm had been developing with Trent Dilfer over the last half of the season. Bryant was the intended recipient of two of the Browns’ interceptions on the day.
Northcutt did not see a pass targeted his way until the fourth quarter when the game had already been decided, but did make the most of it, catching a nine yard pass for a touchdown.
Heiden was the most effective receiver on the day, and continues to outpace Aaron Shea in terms of targets and receptions, though they rotate in and out of the game often when not being utilized in two tight end sets.
Dawson’s only official attempts of the day came on 32 and 38 yards which he connected from. Early in the game, he lined up for a 55 yarder, but took a direct snap and pooch punted to the opponent’s six yard line. Late in the game, the Browns neglected to kick the extra point following the Northcutt touchdown in an effort to try to cut the lead from twelve to ten points, costing Dawson owners an extra point, which would have cut the lead to a more ideal eleven points.
The Browns’ rush defense played well, holding the Vikings to 81 yards on 31 attempts, and did not give up any long runs or any rushing touchdowns, however this success was limited by what the Vikings were able to accomplish in the passing game and on defense.
The Browns pass defense only gave up 207 yards through the air, however, allowed three touchdowns, in part mainly to the short fields their offense kept presenting them with. While the unit did pick up two sacks and one interception, they clearly were not able to put the same pressure on Brad Johnson that they had been able to accumulate in recent weeks.
|QB Brad Johnson, Pass: 19 - 28 - 207 - 3 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - -2 - 0|
Johnson had an efficient day, completing 67% of his passes for an average of 7.4 yards per passing attempt and three touchdowns en route to a 110.4 passer rating on the day. Johnson clearly recognizes the strengths of those players around him, and utilizes those strengths throughout the day in situations where he finds them most useful and necessary. This is especially evident in throwing the fade to the big body of Marcus Robinson in the end zone, and taking advantage of the mismatch each time Jermaine Wiggins slides out for a pass to pick up a first down.
Moore did not see quite as many touches in this game as he had in previous weeks, however maintained the bulk of the rushing load, and was the only receiver out of the backfield to see a pass thrown his way. Moore had an early six yard touchdown called back due to a holding penalty, however this may have been a blessing in disguise, as he appeared to fumble just as he was crossing the goal line, and this may have been a reviewable play resulting in a touchback had not the holding penalty occurred.
Fason has assumed the role of the short yardage back in this offense, though he did not find the end zone this week. On Marcus Robinson’s two yard touchdown on first and goal in the fourth quarter, Fason was the back lined up in the backfield, however it was apparent the coaches wanted to ride the hot hand of Robinson.
Taylor continues to be among the team leaders in targets every week, though disappears at times throughout the game. Most of Taylor’s targets came early, and he did a good job of pulling them in.
In addition to his kick return duties, Robinson was elevated to the starting lineup against the Browns. Robinson caught a few passes early, and seems to have overcome his problem with dropped passes which contributed in part to his demise in Seattle.
Robinson made the most of his three targets, catching a touchdown pass on each of them. Despite lining up in multiple formations throughout the game, Brad Johnson and the Vikings seemed determined only to throw his way in the red zone, but appeared to have absolute trust in the big receiver’s ability to come down with the jump ball or on the fade route.
Burleson was active, but rarely used due to his lingering injury, and as a result, failed to record a pass reception.
Wiggins seems to have the best rapport with Brad Johnson, and responded with five catches in this game. He is an integral part of this offense, and takes advantage of his opportunities in this offense which is beginning to regain some of its confidence.
Edinger made an early field goal from 43 yards, and connected on all three of his extra points.
The Browns gave the Vikings just one look in the rushing game, and that was the north-south running style of Reuben Droughns. Holding the lead throughout most of the game, the Vikings were forcing the pass, and did not have to focus their attention on the running game of the Browns, who had just 78 yards on the ground on the day.
Led by Darren Sharper, the Vikings’ ball hawk defense created five turnovers and caused five sacks, helping to provide the offense with a short field on each of their touchdown scoring drives.