By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
- Browns notebook: Safety Tashaun Gipson had no ill intent on flagged Jermichael Finley hit
- Marla Ridenour: Brandon Weeden not only playmaker failing Browns
- Browns' Billy Cundiff defends coach's decision not to kick field goal
- NFL Notebook: Quarterbacks injured in multiple games Sunday
- NFL roundup — Oct. 20
- 2013 Browns results and schedule
GREEN BAY, Wis.: Quarterback Brandon Weeden will need to keep his earmuffs on tight and distribute additional pairs to several of his teammates after the Browns suffered a 31-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers on a windy, rainy Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
Weeden failed to bounce back from the backhanded, shovel-pass interception he threw last week during the fourth quarter of a 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions. The flip pick prompted Weeden to insist that he was tuning out rampant criticism by wearing “earmuffs.”
In a moment of desperation, Weeden also threw an underhanded pass to fullback Chris Ogbonnaya with 1:49 left against the Packers. The play was reminiscent of the interception against the Lions, except this time the pass fell incomplete.
“You can cuss me all you want, but I’m going to leave everything out on the field,” Weeden said. “I’m going to fight till that clock says zero.”
“I was trying to throw a groundball to Obie. I just didn’t want to take a sack there. My mistake.”
Two plays later on fourth down, wide receiver Greg Little dropped a would-be touchdown pass from Weeden in the end zone with 1:21 left. Although the Packers (4-2) had complete control by then, the sequence epitomized a mistake-riddled performance by the Browns (3-4), who have lost their past two games after winning three in a row.
Weeden completed just 17-of-42 passes (40.5 percent) for 149 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He posted a passer rating of 48.6 and took three sacks. The offense couldn’t find a rhythm early, and Weeden had a passer rating of 1.7 in the first quarter. The Browns fell behind 14-0 in the opening quarter, 17-3 at halftime and spent all game trying to catch up.
But Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said he did not consider replacing Weeden with backup quarterback Jason Campbell in an effort to create a spark.
“Not in this game,” Chudzinski said. “That didn’t cross my mind at any time in this game.”
What about going forward?
“We’ll look at it and evaluate everybody and see where we’re at,” Chudzinski said. “We’ll always put the guys out there that we feel like give us the best chance to win.”
Weeden, though, wasn’t the only member of the Browns who faltered.
Wide receivers Josh Gordon, Davone Bess and Little, running back Willis McGahee and Ogbonnaya each dropped a pass. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers shredded the defense, even though two of his top three receivers — Randall Cobb (fractured fibula) and James Jones (knee ligament damage) — did not play. Rodgers completed 25-of-36 passes (69.4 percent) for 260 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, posting a passer rating of 117.8 and taking just one sack. The Browns converted 7-of-18 third downs (39 percent), and the Packers went 7-of-13 (54 percent).
It’s easy to say the Browns lost because they have Weeden, and the Packers have Rodgers, who’s known for elevating the players around him.
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great quarterback,” said McGahee, who rushed for 39 yards on 11 carries (3.5 average). “But I think Brandon’s good, too. It’s just we’ve got to back him up. We’ve got to help him out. That goes with me with the run game. I think if we moved the ball, there wouldn’t be so much pressure on him where he’s got to throw the ball every play. If you’re throwing the ball every down, it’s going to break.”
Gordon fell short in a crucial situation. With the Browns trailing 17-6, Chudzinski elected to go for it on fourth-and-15 from the Packers’ 31 with 11:15 left in the fourth quarter because he and kicker Billy Cundiff agreed that they were out of field-goal range considering the way the wind was blowing on the north side of the stadium. It would have been a 49-yard attempt.
The gamble backfired when cornerback Davon House, who had an interception on fourth-and-1 in the first quarter, broke up Weeden’s pass to Gordon at the 5-yard line. Chudzinski suggested Gordon should have fought harder for the ball.
“It seemed like it was a playable ball,” Chudzinski said. “And you’d like to see him come up with that catch.”
Gordon appeared to wait too long to let the ball come to him.
“I jumped up at it and tried to make a play on the ball, but the defender came back and got his hand in there and knocked it out,” said Gordon, who had only two catches for 21 yards. “I definitely think I did attack it the way I usually do, and the DB made a great play on the ball.”
The Packers went ahead 24-6 during the next possession when Rodgers threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who beat the coverage of cornerback Joe Haden with quick a slant route. Travis Benjamin returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards before being tripped by cornerback Micah Hyde and falling at the Packers’ 20-yard line. Seven plays later, Weeden threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron in the back of the end zone, trimming the Packers’ lead to 24-13 with 6:09 left in the fourth quarter.
It was too little, too late.
Haden recovered Cundiff’s ensuing onside kick, but the play was negated because linebacker Eric Martin was called offside. Forced to re-kick, the Browns tried another onside kick and Haden was called for illegally touching the ball before it traveled the mandatory 10 yards.
So the Packers got the ball, and four plays later, cornerback Buster Skrine slipped and fell in coverage. Wide receiver Jarrett Boykin capitalized by catching a 20-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers with 3:44 remaining, giving the Packers a 31-13 lead.
“We’re obviously very disappointed,” Weeden said. “We want to play well week in and week out, and that's what we're paid to do. There’s no shortage of confidence. We’ve got our guys in. We’re healthy and we’re doing some good things. We’re just not doing enough at the right time to get over the hump. But we're battling. We're fighting till the very end. It starts with head coach. He wants to fight till the very end, and that's kind of the mindset we have as a football team.”
Weeden’s teammates made it clear that he shouldn’t take all the blame for the loss. But after another dud of a game, many will continue to wonder whether he’s capable of getting the offense on the right track.
“I think he’s fine,” inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “It comes with the territory. When you play the quarterback position, you take a lot of scrutiny and you get a lot of glory. He’s built to be able to handle all of that. I don’t think it’s an issue in the locker room with us. We go into every game thinking we’re going to win.”
Weeden, meanwhile, is doing his best to keep his head up with the Browns set to visit the Kansas City Chiefs (7-0) next week on the road.
“I’m not discouraged,” Weeden said. “I told the guys when there was a minute left, ‘Hey listen, there is a lot of football to go. We got nine games to go, another big one on the road next week, the last thing we need to do is get discouraged this early.’ There’s so much that can happen. I’ve still got a lot of faith in the guys on this team.”
Unfortunately for Weeden, not many in Browns Town have faith in him.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.