Observations from the Browns' 27-17 season-opening loss to Cincinnati:
Coach Pat Shurmur's play-calling. The series I hated most came in the fourth quarter with the Browns leading 17-13 and taking over at their 11 with 10:40 to go. I thought they were way too predictable, featuring running back Peyton Hillis on five of the seven offensive plays, including one pass for a 4-yard loss. Hillis ran for 2, 6, -1 and -5 yards (a total of 2 yards), along with the negative reception. The other plays were a 13-yard completion to Joshua Cribbs and a 12-yarder to rookie Greg Little on third and 2. I'm amazed that tight ends Ben Watson and Evan Moore didn't get the ball here.
Use of Watson and Moore. The official stats say Watson was targeted seven times and Moore six, catching three for 45 with a TD and three for 35 and a TD, respectively. But there were times when even radio analyst Doug Dieken was wondering why Moore wasn't on the field. Those target numbers need to be in double digits for both. Moore may be 6-foot-6, but he's more than a red zone weapon. Watson led the team in all three receiving categories in 2010 and I have no problem with him doing it again. The two are the Browns' best receiving threats and Shurmur needs to find a way to get them on the field together on almost every down.
The mysterious case of Brian Robiskie. I know of no player I'd want to have as my son than the former Buckeye, but there's something wrong when Colt McCoy attempts 40 passes and Robiskie is shut out. The stats say he was targeted three times. Is he not getting open? Does he have no chemistry with McCoy? If he can't produce, I'd rather have Moore lining up as a wide receiver.
The punting of Richmond McGee. On the series the Bengals scored, McGee's punts went for 20, 48, 45, 50 and 28 yards, with Cincinnati's final TD coming after the Browns turned the ball over on downs. The first and last were particularly damaging, with the Bengals taking over at their 41 and 38, respectively, and getting 10 points. If the Browns were minimizing the impact of losing Reggie Hodges to a torn Achilles, they aren't any more.
Penalties. Seven penalties for 48 yards in the first quarter is ghastly and embarrassing, the total of 11 for 72 is Raider-like. Cornerback Sheldon Brown denied the Browns were unprepared. Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson blamed it on young players' jitters. ??? of the seven were called on players with less than two years experience (guard Shawn Lauvao, two false starts; defensive end Jabaal Sheard, neutral zone infraction; safety T.J. Ward, unnecessary roughness). But Brown had a defensive holding, left tackle Joe Thomas a false start and coach Pat Shurmur was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for running over a referee on the sideline. Perhaps the Browns should return to running Eric Mangini's laps this week in practice.
Browns defense. There was a lot to like. Cornerback Joe Haden's five pass breakups, Jackson's 11 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble, defensive tackle Phil Taylor's six tackles, two for losses, a QB hurry and the hit on Andy Dalton's wrist that knocked him out of the game and Sheard's three tackles, two for losses. But safety Usama Young may have gotten away with leading with his helmet on the last play of the first quarter and the Browns let Bengals running back Cedric Benson ramble for 121 yards (4.8 per carry) and an untouched 39-yard TD to close out the scoring.
An unrelated nugget about Ted Ginn Jr. The Glenville High School and Ohio State product reportedly took a pay cut from $2.2 million to $1 million (plus $400,000 available in incentives and the chance to become an unrestricted free agent after this season) to stay with the 49ers. In a 33-17 victory over Seattle, he showed his worth with two touchdowns in a span of 61 seconds on a 102-yard kickoff return an a 55-yard punt return. Ginn became the 12th player in league history to score on both a punt and kickoff return in the same game and the first to do it on opening weekend. He recorded a franchise record 268 yards. "You do it on the video games a lot,” Ginn said on NFL.com. “But you don’t really see it too much in real life.” Lost in the hoopla is the fact that Ginn is now being coached by Brad Seely, the 49ers special teams and assistant head coach who held the same titles the previous two years in Cleveland under Mangini. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
In a previous blog I touted The Golf Channel series "Feherty" and my anticipation over his interview with British Open champion Darren Clarke. David Feherty topped that with his one-hour turn with Greg Norman, visiting the "Shark" at his Colorado ranch and spending time fly fishing and target shooting. A fascinating piece. The season concludes with Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.