CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Browns defeated the Oakland Raiders by the score of 23–13 in week eight. The Browns pulled away late in the contest as a result of a couple of turnovers by the Raiders. Had it not been for the Raiders’ negligent ball handling, the game could’ve had a completely different outcome, as it was much closer than the final score suggests.
The Browns might have narrowly avoided being defeated by a winless team in consecutive weeks, but Browns’ head coach Mike Pettine knew coming away with a victory this week would be no easy task. “We knew during the week that this was not going to be an easy game,” Pettine said. “Knowing Tony [Sparano] and how he would have his guys prepared.
“That’s a prideful competitive group.”
Wins in the NFL are tough to come by. Irrespective of the perceived quality of the opponent, the Browns executed, and made plays down the stretch (particularly on the defensive side of the ball), which enabled them to come away with the victory.
Brian Hoyer finished the game with a very efficient 275 yards and one touchdown through the air. However, the Browns continued to finish drives with field goals as opposed to touchdowns. Newly inserted center Nick McDonald had a difficult time getting movement up front and the running game suffered as a whole.
Offensive continuity became even more difficult to achieve when Jordan Cameron left the game in the second quarter with an apparent head injury. “… To lose him [Jordan Cameron] for the game, it hurts,” Hoyer said. “It’s something we’ve dealt with all year long; next man up.”
The Browns would go seven quarters without an offensive touchdown before Hoyer connected with Andrew Hawkins on a four-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Andrew Hawkins elaborated on how he felt to score his first touchdown as a member of the Cleveland Browns. “I felt that God has blessed me so much,” Hawkins said. To be able to score touchdowns that I never thought would be possible. It’s a blessing every time.”
Hawkins finished the game as the teams leading receiver with seven receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown. Taylor Gabriel was just behind him with 60 yards on just two receptions.
The Browns’ scored 17 points off of turnovers against the Raiders, and the forced turnovers were the difference in the game. The Raiders’ first turnover of the game was the result of a fake field goal attempt gone horribly wrong.
With Matt Schaub in as the holder, Sebastian Janikowski suddenly motioned out of the backfield and lined up as an eligible wide receiver. Schaub positioned himself in the shotgun but bobbled the snap. Schaub recovered the ball and subsequently attempted a late/ill-advised throw across the middle to Mychal Rivera. The pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Tashaun Gipson who is cementing his status as one of the best safeties in the NFL. “I knew something tricky was going to happen,” Gipson said. “I lined up deep in the post and I was ready to read him.
“Anytime you have a holder that can throw the ball, you just have to be aware. Fortunately for us, I was able to come down with the interception.”
Additionally, the Browns’ run fits were much improved from last week’s game as they held the Raiders’ rushing attack to just 71 yards. The Browns’ defense was particularly impressive spilling runs to the outside and not allowing the speedy Darren McFadden to get out on the perimeter.
The Browns were leading 9-6 with 35 seconds left in the third quarter when McFadden finally broke loose for a 15-yard gain. At the end of the run, McFadden was hit at the Browns’ 20-yard line by Donte Whitner who caused McFadden to fumble the ball. The ball landed in Joe Haden’s hands, and Haden returned the ball to the Browns’ 49-yard line, which set up Hoyer’s touchdown pass to Hawkins. Whitner modestly identified his hit as the turning point of the game.
“It was big because they were starting to put a drive together. The score was 9-6 at the time and the least they could do was kick a field goal and tie the game. … I think that was a big play in the game, but there were a lot of big plays in the game. … We understand that if the secondary plays well, we’re going to win football games. …”
While the Browns gave up 328 yards through the air to Derek Carr, his stellar numbers were not indicative of the Browns’ performance in the secondary. Joe Haden, Buster Skrine, and Justin Gilbert did an outstanding job locating the football in the air and eliminating explosive plays. Christian Kirksey was exceptional in coverage as he covered running backs stride-for-stride out of the backfield, and was able to flow sideline-to-sideline to make plays on the ball carrier.
Linebacker Paul Kruger registered a career-high three sacks in a single game. His final sack of the game resulted in a Derek Carr fumble, which set up Ben Tate’s 5-yard touchdown run with 2:32 left in the fourth quarter. Tate’s 5-yard score clenched the game for the now 4-3 Cleveland Browns.
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