EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.: The Browns’ defense was steamrolled, dissected and battered.
It all contributed to an ugly 41-27 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw lost control of the ball after he bumped into guard Chris Snee during the first play from scrimmage, and cornerback Sheldon Brown recovered at the Giants’ 22-yard line to set up rookie running back Trent Richardson’s 15-yard touchdown run with 14:08 left in the opening quarter. But Bradshaw atoned for his turnover in a big way, rushing 30 times for a career-high 200 yards (6.7 average) and a touchdown.
Once the Giants’ running game started rolling, the Browns couldn’t stop the bleeding.
“I know in the back end, I missed some tackles that I was so pissed off and you wish you could have them back,” said free safety Usama Young, who started despite dealing with an injured knee. “When it’s all said and done, if it gets to [the safeties], you’ve got to look at the front [of the defense].”
Bradshaw had 120 yards rushing in the second half with Browns starting middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson sidelined with a concussion he suffered late in the second quarter. Jackson was replaced by undrafted rookie L.J. Fort. Giants rookie running back David Wilson added a 40-yard touchdown run with 5:41 left in the fourth quarter.
“DQ is the middle of our defense, so it was hard missing him,” strong safety T.J. Ward said. “Even then we had opportunities to get off the field and we should have, but we didn’t.”
Ward started despite undergoing surgery to repair his broken right thumb a little more than a week ago. He wore a cast on his hand during the game.
“I couldn’t grab anything,” Ward said. “It was uncomfortable. I should have made the tackles that I missed. One time I didn’t even try. It was so late in the game I just went for the strip.”
The secondary took some nasty lumps in coverage, too. Wide receiver Victor Cruz caught five passes for 50 yards, connecting with quarterback Eli Manning for three touchdowns. Manning completed 25-of-37 passes for 259 yards with one interception.
With 3:22 left in the first quarter, Cruz beat Skrine on an out route in the end zone and caught a 3-yard touchdown pass. The Giants repeatedly picked on Skrine and reaped the benefits during the 11-play, 92-yard scoring march.
“They definitely came at me on that drive and they did a good job at doing it,” Skrine said. “I had tight coverage. They were just good balls thrown and they made some good plays.”
Cruz later beat cornerback Dimitri Patterson on a corner route and was wide open when he caught a 7-yard touchdown pass with 1:10 left in the second quarter. After Patterson left the game early in the third quarter with an injured left ankle, Cruz blew by rookie cornerback Trevin Wade on corner route and caught a 28-yard touchdown pass with 5:06 left in the third quarter. When asked if the young defensive backs were hanging their heads, starting cornerback Sheldon Brown said, “If you know me, you’ll understand that I don’t really care about nobody else’s household. I can take care of my own, and that’s the way I’m going to continue to do it.”
Patterson was seen leaving the locker room on crutches and in a walking boot. Starting defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin also wore a walking boot after suffering what coach Pat Shurmur described as a lower leg injury.
Shurmur defended his decision to call a passing play instead of a run on third-and-1 from the Giants’ 25 with four minutes left in the second quarter. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden threw his first interception during the play, and the Giants used the momentum to score 17 points in the final two minutes, 52 seconds of the first half.
During the Browns’ previous possession, Shurmur elected to give the ball to rookie running back Trent Richardson on third-and-1 from the Giants’ 12, but Richardson was stuffed for a loss of 2 yards, and the Browns settled for Phil Dawson’s 32-yard field goal with 13:39 left in the second quarter.
“We have third-and-1 passes and runs and we mix it up through the game,” Shurmur said when asked about his decision. “Had we completed that third-and-1 we wouldn’t be having this discussion, right? It could have been easy to say, ‘Man, Pat, on the third-and-1 previous to that one when Trent got bottled up, why the hell didn’t you throw it?’ Isn’t that how that works?”
Rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon, a second-round pick in the supplemental draft, left MetLife Stadium with a football after scoring his first pro touchdown, a 62-yarder from Weeden in the first quarter that gave the Browns a 14-0 lead. Weeden found Gordon covered by linebacker Chase Blackburn on the play that was the fourth-longest touchdown pass by a Browns rookie quarterback and the longest since 1999, when Tim Couch hit Terry Kirby on a 78-yarder on Nov. 28.
Gordon caught only two passes and both went for touchdowns, the other a 20-yarder.
Gordon sat out the 2011 season at Utah after transferring from Baylor. Asked about his breakout game, Gordon said, “Personally, I think it was something that I need to get done for myself. But I really have my mind set on team goals and aspirations and really just battling and trying to get a win. When I contribute to a win, that’s when I’ll consider it a breakout game.”
University of Akron products Blackburn and receiver Domenik Hixon played key roles for the Giants.
With receiver Hakeem Nicks out with foot and knee injuries for the third consecutive game, Hixon started and caught five passes for 55 yards.
“I feel blessed to be out there running around and living the dream,” Hixon said.
In the fourth quarter, Blackburn picked off a Weeden pass intended for tight end Ben Watson in the end zone after the Browns had driven to the Giants’ 10. It was Blackburn’s fourth career interception, not including one in Super Bowl XLVI. Blackburn was glad to atone after being burned on Gordon’s 62-yard touchdown.
“It wasn’t my best game,” Blackburn said. “I had some things I needed to adjust to a little bit and make better plays and tackle in the middle of the field a little bit better. So it was nice to make the interception in the end zone to kind of redeem yourself a little bit.”
Banner on way
Joe Banner, former president of the Philadelphia Eagles, could be introduced as a top official with the Browns at the Oct. 16 league meeting in Chicago, according to a report by Jason La Canfora, the NFL insider for CBS Sports. The sale of the Browns to Jimmy Haslam III is expected to be approved by a vote of league owners at the meeting.
Banner will report directly to Haslam, regardless of his title, La Canfora said. Haslam said last week that he would wait to make personnel moves in the front office until after the season, but that might not apply to Banner, who presumably would make president Mike Holmgren expendable. La Canfora said Banner’s arrival would likely spur settlement talks with Holmgren, whose contract with the Browns pays him about $8 million per year and runs through 2014. La Canfora reported that Haslam has not told Holmgren about his plans for changes.
Skrine didn’t agree with the pass-interference penalty for which he was called late in the first half that allowed the Giants to kick a 40-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.
“It was an awful call,” Skrine said. “I don’t even know what [the official] saw right there.”
Weeden’s 1,288 passing yards are the second most by a rookie through the first five games, trailing Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton’s 1,610 in 2011. … Browns second-year receiver Greg Little, under fire for his dropped passes, was targeted only twice and shut out. “That’s a coincidence,” Weeden said. “There’s nothing behind it. Greg had a great week of practice, and we’ve got to get it in his hands. He’s a great player.” … Neither team recorded a sack. … Richardson became the first Browns rookie to rush for a touchdown in four consecutive games. … With receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin inactive with hamstring injuries, Jordan Norwood recorded career highs in receptions (nine) and receiving yards (81). … Rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson made his regular-season NFL debut and played special teams after sitting out the first four games with a ribs/oblique injury. … Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, running back Brandon Jackson, safety Tashaun Gipson (knee), offensive tackle Ryan Miller and tight end Alex Smith (concussion) also were inactive. … Free safety Eric Hagg played after spending Weeks 3 and 4 on the inactive list.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. 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