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The Setup
"Road Trip" (Welcome to the Dawg Pound). The 2 & 5 Browns had been squashed by the Rams the previous week 24 - 6. The 5 & 2 Cards had just beaten the Ravens on Monday Night; looking good for three quarters and most of the fourth, but nearly blowing a game that should have been "in the bag." Cards were going into a Bye Week - much more enjoyable when coming off a win than having to suffer a loss. Cards had a one-day shortened workweek disadvantage. Hidden danger is that, mentally, the players might take a premature "vacation" and sleepwalk vs. the boys from Cleveland.

The Lede
Cards 2H Comeback Secures 34 - 20 Road Win

The Bottom Line:
Cards scored early, probably had things a bit too easy, turned the ball over more than a couple of times and fell behind 10 - 7 in the first quarter and 20 - 10 at halftime). They finally righted the ship in the second half and pulled ahead to win by a breeze 34 - 20. Naturally, you don't want to put yourself at risk that way, but at least the team proved it could be resiliant and had enough late-game juice to gather their wits and put the opposition away.

Game Recap

1st Quarter
  • Browns won toss and "deferred." Cards received. Johnson returned the KO to the card 18. A 38-yard chhunk completion to JJ Nelson set up an 11-yard Palmer to Niklas TD. connection. Drive took 11 plays ( & 7:01). Cards 7 - Browns 0.

    TB on the KO. Cards stopped the Brown drive at the Cleveland 31. Punt was fair caught by Peterson at the Cardinal 15. On the 5th play of the Card possession, C Johnson picked up 13-yards on a running play, but (in trying to gain additional YAC yardage), got hit and fumbled. Dansby recovered and returned it to the Cardinal 9. Three plays later, McCown hit Hartline for a TD.. Cards 7 - Browns 7.

    TB on the KO. Cards (looking somewhat stunned) went 3 & out. Punt was returned to the Cleve 34. A 52-yard completion from McCown to Duke Johnson put the ball at the Cardinal 6 as the quarter ended.

1st Quarter Score: Cards 7 - Browns 7.

2nd Quarter
  • On the second play of the quarter, McCown hit Barnidge for a 3 yard TD. (What the hell is going on here)!!*? Browns 14 - Cards 7.

    D Johnson returned the KO to the Cardinal 25. On the fourth play of the series, Fitz got behind his man deep but Palmer's throw was just one or two inches too long and rolled off the finger tips of the diving Fitzgerald. On the 6th play of the possession, Palmer got sacked by Bryant. Punt returned to the Cleveland 28. Cleveland then rattled off 14 plays (7:32) before McCown hit Hartline (again for a 2-yard TD completion (vs. Bucannon). Biggest gainers were a 16-yard completion to Duke Johnson and a 15-yard roughing call on Minter. XP attempt was wide-right. Browns 20 - Cards 7.

    4:56 till halftime. D Johnson reurned the KO to the Card 15. A 20-yard completion to JJ Nelson helped move the Cards to the Browns 23 in 9 plays, but one the 100th play, Fitz tried to turn a 15-yard reception into something longer and had the ball punched out. Fumble was recovered by Cleveland at their own 8 with 1:32 on the clock. Cards held them to 3 & out. Cards returned the punt to midfield. A pass deep-left to Floyd picked up 28-yard. They reached the Cleveland 19 with 0:07 on the clock. A 19-yard TD completion to Floyd was nullified by an illegal shift penalty on Jaron Brown. (another one of those delayed-calls that should have been made before the snap). Cards settled for a Catanzaro 37-yarder. Browns 20 - Cards 10

First Half Score: Browns 20 - Cards 10

3rd Quarter
  • (The beginning of the 2H often is a momentum-setter). Cleveland received and returned theKO to their own 26. Cards (aided by a delay of game call) held Cleveland to 3 & out. Punt was returned to the Card 29. On the 4th play of the series, Palmer hit Floyd who tiptoed down the right sideline for a 60-yard score. (It's a 3-point football game - we seized the opening momentum). .Browns 20 - Cards 17.

    TB on the KO. Rucker sacked McCown for minus-8 yards but the play was nullified by an illegal use of hands flag on the Badger. But the defense tightened up and Clevalnd punted from their own 30. Peterson returned the punt 38 yards to the Browns 48. A 39-yard completion to Jaron Brown put the ball on the Browns 9 and set the stage for a 1-yard TD pass to Niklas. (Cards finally regained the lead. Cards 24 - Browns 20.

    TB on the KO. A 14-yard completion to Hartline and a 1-yarder to Barnidge moved Cleveland out to their own 41, but an 11-yard sack by Freeney derailed the Cleveland drive. Punt was fair caught at the Cardinal 22. On the fourth play of the series, Palmer's pass for Fitz was (yikes!) picked off by Gipson and returned to the Cleve 34. Cardinal defense stiffened and held Cleve to 3 & out. Punt was returned to the Cardinal 9. Three plays later, C Johnson got stuffed on an inside run and his fumble was recovered by the Browns. Cleveland ball at the Cardinal 28. McCown scrambed 6 yards to end the quarter. .

Third Quarter Score: Cards 24 - Browns 20.

4th Quarter
  • Two plays into the quarter, McCown's pass to Gabriel in the left end zone was picked off by "Nine Finger" Johnson. Cards then chewed up 5:20 worth of clock time on a 12 play TD drive capped by a 6-yard completion to Fitz at the right edge of the end zone. (Fitz rolled up an ankle on the play, but returned to action later in the quarter). Key plays: Palmer-to-D Johnson for +34. A scramble for an apparent TD by Palmer that was reversed and then followed up with a motion penalty on Massie. Cards 31 - Browns 20.

    Gilbert returned the KO to the Brown 17. After a couple of 17-yard completions (that brought the ball out to the Cardinal 38) McCown aborted the snap/ball was recoveed by Redding at the Cardinal 40. 7:33 left to play/Cards up by 11. A defensive holding flag nullfied a 7-yard sack of Palmer. An apparent Cleve recovery of a fumble by David Johnson was ruled "having rolled out of bounds." Palmer chewed up 5:17 worth of clock on a 12-play drive that finally peterd out at the Brown 17. Catanzaro's 35-yard FG was "good." Cards 34 - Browns 20.

    2:16 left. TB on the KO. Manziel in. He managed to reach the Cleve33 in 7 plays but turned over the ball on downs. Two knees. Game over.

Final Score: Cards 34 - Ravens 20.

Game Stats.

  • Passing: Palmer was 23 for 38 (374 yards, 4 TD's and 1 pick). Cards held MCown to 18 of 34 (211 yards, 3 TD's and 1 pick.

    Takeaways: Cards minus-2. Palmer was picked off once. McCown threw one pick. Cards surrendered 3 fumbles. Cleveland lost a fumble.

  • Rushing: Cards gained 119 net yards (3.1 ypc). Cleve runners were held to just 39 (2.0 ypc). C Johnson racked up 109 yards.
  • Receiving: Fitz caught 9 for 84-yards and a TD. Floyd picked up 106 yards and a TD on 4 catches. JJ Nelson picked up 70 yards on 3 catches.

  • Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: . (Runs: 38/Pass: 38). Browns Run/Pass Ratio: 20/40).

  • Minter led the Cards with 7 tackles. Jefferson was next with 6.

  • Sacks - Cards had one (Freeney) (but at least one sack was nullified by a penalty, one snap was aborted and I seem to recall Manziel getting caught from behind on a scramble). Browns sacked Palmer once.

    Situational Efficiency: Cards converted 13 of 16 third downs (81%). (The fact that there were 16 third downs for the Cards to convert is pretty impressive). Browns were 9 of 16 (56%). Cards were 3 of 5 in the Red Zone (60%). Browns were 3 of 3 for 100% - our safeties had a hard time covering Hartline and Barnidge.

    Penalties: Cards were penalized 5 times for 25 yards (Browns were penalized 7 times for 35 yds). However, there did seem to be more than the usual number of "invisible" calls that worked against us early in the game - i.e. nullifying a sack or costing us a TD (just a perception).

    Time of Possession: Cards 34:23- Lions 25:37

Bright Spots

  • No major injurIes we know of (though Fitz's ankle was scary).

    We earned a"W' going into Bye Week.

    Cards "owned" the fourth quarter, 10: 36 to 4:24

    We avoided any "just before halftime" letdowns and seized the early-2H momentum in spite of Cleveland's receiving the KO.

    Number of successful chunk plays (i.e. a half-dozen or so deep-balls that resulted in completions of 25+ yards).

    The emergence of Floyd and "welcome back JJ."

    Congrats to CJ2K and the OL (Cards and Johnson gained over 100 yards yet again).

    Freeney (2nd sack of his short season) is becoming a factor.

    Resiliancy of a team which fell behind 20 - 7 in the first quarter, but came back to win by 14 going away.

    Outside of his obligatory one or two strange throwing decisions, Palmer was close to perfect.

    The emergence of Niklas to pair with Gresham at TE

    6 & 2, Baby!

The Dark Side

  • Turning over the ball and falling behind early is "playing with fire."
  • It seemed to me that a few of our playmakers were actually "trying too hard" - in trying to pick up the extra 2 or 3 yards, they'd leave themselves open to having the ball punched out. In trying to make the big open-field hit, they'd whiff on the tackle or overrun the play. While you don't want to rob your players of their spirit and spontaniety, you do want them to "play smart" and make the odds work for them.

    Minor nitpick - the only time I saw hands up on the pass rush all day turned that one play into R Johnson's pick in the end zone. .

    Our safeties gave up 3 TD's on passes into the end zone.

Last Word:
We won on the road and the team can enjoy their Bye Week savoring the "W" and 6 & 2 record. A word of caution -The Rams (having had their Bye week) are 4 & 3 & only one game behind us in the loss column - having already beaten us once (in our house). All of which means that every one of our remaining 10 games counts. And then there are the ("win by razor-thin margins") Seattle Seahawks. (Put that in your corn cob pipe and smoke it during your Bye week, Mr. Smarty Pants")! Other than that, enjoy a well-deserved week-off, guys,

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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 11/26/2012