Week 11 Game Recap: Miami Dolphins 0, Cleveland Browns 22
What you need to know
A week after putting up huge passing numbers against the New England defense, the Dolphins were unable to move the ball through the air with either Sage Rosenfels or Gus Frerotte at the helm. Rosenfels completed five of ten passes for fourteen yards and two interceptions before being removed in favor of Gus Frerotte, who opened the game on the bench due to a sprained right index finger. The return of Frerotte did little to spark the Dolphins passing game, as he completed just four of eighteen passes for 53 yards.
Chris Chambers led all Dolphins’ receivers in targets with nine and receptions with three, though these amounted for just twelve yards. Despite being targeted eight times, Marty Booker failed to catch a ball, and Wesley Welker added just two catches for twelve yards. Randy McMichael also failed to officially catch a pass in this game, despite five targets, and had a touchdown nullified by penalty. The Dolphins did not utilize their running backs out of the backfield much in this game, as Ronnie Brown was targeted only once all game for a two yard catch.
While the passing was erratic and downright dismal, the Dolphins were able to move the ball on the ground with some regularity, though it did not lead to any points on the day. Ricky Williams picked up 83 yards on thirteen carries, and Ronnie Brown added 56 yards on twelve carries.
The winner of this game would move to 4-6, and renew their outside shot at the playoffs with a strong finish down the stretch, and it was the Browns who seized the opportunity and looked dominant on both sides of the ball in a 22-0 win at home. Trent Dilfer started this game, before giving way to Charlie Frye in the second quarter with a 9-0 lead, and giving Romeo Crennel the opportunity to evaluate his rookie quarterback in a game situation. Dilfer returned to start the third quarter, but once the Browns opened up a 22-0 lead, Frye returned in the fourth quarter. Dilfer had mixed emotions about Frye’s appearance in the game, openly expressing his displeasure to the coach, but also saying the right thing by stating that Frye deserved a game ball.
Dilfer had a mistake free game, completing eleven of eighteen passes for 137 yards and one touchdown, a short six yard pass to the fullback Travis Smith. His counterpart, Frye, completed six of eleven passes for 58 yards with one interception, on a bobbled ball by Braylon Edwards. Despite being responsible for this interception, Edwards had a fine day in his first start this season for the Browns in a two wide receiver set. Edwards responded with six catches for 90 yards, and seemed to be on the same page with both quarterbacks, but especially with Frye. Antonio Bryant drew heavier coverage, but was still the leading target for the Browns, and caught four balls for 60 yards. Dennis Northcutt had a quiet game, and caught just one pass for five yards. At the tight end position, Steve Heiden continued to assert himself as the pass catching tight end for this team, bringing in four balls for 31 yards. Out of the backfield, Reuben Droughns added just one catch for three yards.
The Browns’ dominance of the line of scrimmage began from their very first offensive play of the game, when Reuben Droughns took the opening handoff 75 yards for a touchdown, showing the ability to power through tackles, spin away from defenders, and cut back against blocks when his speed was not enough to get him into the end zone. He continued his big day by carrying a total of thirty times for 166 yards, inching closer to becoming the first Browns’ running back to gain 1000 yards on the season since both Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner did so in 1985, twenty years ago.
What you ought to know
Frerotte entered the game after Rosenfels had thrown two interceptions, but proved to be no more effective himself, completing just 22% of his passes, and averaging less than three yards per passing attempt. Frerotte’s sprained right index finger seemed to affect his passes, and led to just a 39.6 passer rating on the afternoon.
Rosenfels had completed half of his passes before exiting, but two of his ten passes were intercepted, and coach Nick Saban clearly felt it was time to go with his injured veteran as Sage was averaging just 1.4 yards per passing attempt, and had just a 16.7 passer rating.
Williams saw an increased role in the offense this week as he was able to run with greater authority and hit the holes quicker than he had in previous weeks. Williams averaged 6.4 yards per carry on the afternoon, but like his counterpart, did not break off a big one, with a long of just fourteen yards on the afternoon.
|RB Ronnie Brown, Rush: 12 - 56 - 0, Rec: 1 - 2 - 0 (1 targets)|
Brown split carries with Ricky Williams again and was not able to develop enough of a rhythm to put up big numbers as the result of both playing from behind and in the limited role. Despite this, Brown averaged 4.7 yards per carry, but was unable to get deep into the Browns secondary, with a long of just eleven yards. After being used with much success last week versus the Patriots in the passing game, he was forced to spend most of this game blocking, and only caught one ball out of the backfield against the Browns.
Chambers clearly is Gus Frerotte’s favorite target, however, due to the Dolphins ineffective passing, Chambers had very few catchable balls in this game. Chambers did a better job hauling in those balls thrown to him than he had versus New England the previous week, but finished with just twelve yards on the afternoon.
Welker continues to get mixed into the offense to complement his special teams skills, and adds a spark every time he touches the ball, but only touched the ball twice against the Browns.
The first pass of the day intended for Marty Booker was intercepted, and it was another two quarters before either Dolphins quarterback went back to him. However, he was the intended recipient of another third and fourth down passes late in the game, but could not pull any of them in, and ended up with no catches on the afternoon.
McMichael pulled in a 23 yard touchdown early in the game, but had it erased when the officials ruled he had stepped out of bounds prior to catching the pass, and an illegal touch was called. The Dolphins tried to get him involved again throughout the game, but like teammate Marty Booker, failed to catch a pass.
Mare did not attempt any extra points or field goals. Early in the game, the Dolphins had driven down to the Browns 33 yard line, but lined up in punt formation, and did not attempt the field goal. In the fourth quarter, trailing 22-0, the Dolphins again passed on a potential field goal attempt.
The Dolphins missed a number of tackles and gave up a heartbreaking 75 yard touchdown on the opening carry. The Dolphins did bear down a bit after that, but were worn down for another 106 yards on 38 more carries, and could not control the line of scrimmage or time of possession in this game.
The Dolphins gave up just one touchdown through the air, and did pick off one pass, but failed to assert a pass rush and did not record an official sack on the afternoon. Injuries to Zach Thomas (separated left shoulder), Junior Seau (left foot injury) and situational exits by Jason Taylor left the Dolphins without the playmakers necessary to slow down the Browns.
|QB Trent Dilfer, Pass: 11 - 18 - 137 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 3 - 0|
Dilfer completed 61% of his passes for an average of 7.6 yards per passing attempt in his split role as the Browns quarterback against the Dolphins en route to a 103.2 passer rating on the afternoon. Coach Romeo Crennel used Dilfer in the first and third quarters of this game, and worked in teammate Charlie Frye in the second and fourth quarters. As the Browns moved to 4-6 with an outside shot at the playoffs, one might believe that Crennel would stick with the veteran, however this is a situation that bears watching throughout the week leading up to their game next week versus Minnesota.
Frye saw his first real opportunity to shine during the regular season as Romeo Crennel mixed him in, and he delivered, showing good leadership, protecting the lead given to him in both the second and fourth quarters of this game when he entered. Frye completed 55% of his passes for an average of 5.3 yards per passing attempt, but was credited with an interception on a pass bobbled by Braylon Edwards, and as a result saw his passer rating limited to just 31.6. The team rallied behind Frye’s performance, and while he may not have taken the starting job away, he played well enough in this situation to give confidence to Browns fans should he called into action. Romeo Crennel will be faced with many questions regarding the Browns quarterback situation, but it is unclear whether he will make a decisive decision or remain coy on the issue.
Droughns took the opening handoff from the 25 yard line to the right, powered through a few defenders, spun out of the tackle of a linebacker, and sprinted towards the opposite sideline, before nearly being caught at the opponents 30 yard line, where he cut back twice, and clearly winded, slowly made his way into the end zone on a play that consumed eighteen seconds of clock time, but netted the Browns a touchdown and a 6-0 lead. Droughns bulled his way to a total of 166 yards on the afternoon with his north-south running style, and through the injuries of his teammates has clearly asserted himself as the primary running back on this team.
After a public outcry for more playing time, Edwards got his first start of the season in a two wide receiver set, and played with confidence, providing good results. Edwards was responsible for Charlie Frye’s interception when he bobbled a pass thrown his way, but the young quarterback still showed considerable faith in him, and consistently threw Edwards the ball and asked his rookie receiver to make the play, which Edwards did consistently in this game.
Bryant continues to be the most targeted receiver on the Browns, but also faces a number of double teams, and often sees his output limited as the result of this. The emergence of Braylon Edwards in this game should provide more breathing room for Antonio Bryant as the season continues.
With Edwards in the starting lineup and used in the majority of two wide receiver sets, Northcutt saw his role reduced in this game. Northcutt will continue to be used in three wide receiver sets and in the punt return game, where he will be counted on to produce big plays.
Heiden received six targets to fellow tight end Aaron Shea’s two targets in this game, and continues to be the tight end sent out on receiving routes. Heiden has proven very capable with his hands, and continues to make the most of his opportunities.
Dawson started off the day with an ugly miss off the left upright on his first extra point attempt, but responded by connecting on all three field goal attempts on the day from 23, 24 and 40 yards.
The Browns rush defense gave up 139 yards on the day, however due to the great play of the secondary in stopping the pass, these 139 yards were spread over many drives, and did not amount to any points allowed.
The secondary absolutely shut down both Gus Frerotte and Sage Rosenfels in this game, allowing just 67 yards through the air on 28 passes. The defense came up with two early interceptions, and provided a heavy pass rush all afternoon, though they picked up just two sacks.