Week 14 Game Recap: Cleveland Browns 7, Pittsburgh Steelers 27
What you need to know
The game time temperature was 20 degrees with a wind chill of seven degrees. Likewise, the Cleveland running attack was also frozen stiff, totaling 18 yards on 11 carries. The lack of movement on the ground contributed to three five and out drives and was paramount as to why the Browns had the ball for just 21 minutes, 13 seconds of the game (7:27 in the second half).
Reuben Droughns has his worst game as a starter in his career (sans injury) with five carries and six yards. The remaining backfield members, RB Jason Wright, RB Lee Vickers and FB Terrelle Smith combined for nine yards on five carries. QB Derek Anderson had the best average on the team with one carry for four yards, but he also fumbled it away to the Steelers, one of two Browns’ turnovers.
It was Anderson, actually, who gave the Browns any kind of hope. The second year pro out of Oregon State came out poised in his first ever NFL start. He completed his first four passes and was seven of 11 through the first quarter. By halftime he was 14 for 24 with 147 yards. With no running game to speak of, he was forced to throw almost exclusively in the second half and finished 21-37 for 276 yards with a touchdown and one interception. He led the Browns into Pittsburgh territory six times in ten possessions, but failed to reach the red zone. He was also the victim of seven maddening dropped passes.
WR Joe Jurevicius was Anderson’s top target, catching seven balls for 111 yards. WR Braylon Edwards caught four passes for 86 yards and had the Browns only score, and Kellen Winslow added four receptions but they went for an insignificant 19 yards.
The Browns’ defense could not stop the run no matter who was in the backfield for Pittsburgh. But they allowed RB Willie Parker to do most of the damage to the tune of 223 yards rushing. Overall, they gave up 303 yards rushing (5.8 yards per carry) and were shredded for 528 total yards, including 10.7 yards per pass attempt (20.45 yards per completion). LB Andra Davis led Cleveland with six tackles (five solo) and a forced fumble.
In Week 10, RB Willie Parker was five yards shy of setting a team record for most rushing yards in a game when he raced for 213 yards against the Saints. Last night, Parker tied the record on the last play of the third quarter, and put his name in the books for good with three more carries in the fourth quarter. He finished with 223 yards rushing at 6.97 yards a carry and had 12 runs of six yards or more, including gains of 20, 26 and 39. He also scored his 13th touchdown of the season in the third quarter. Parker gave way to RB Najeh Davenport early in the fourth quarter where he gained most of his 62 yards.
Even with the running game at its highest level, QB Ben Roethlisberger was only able to complete seven of 17 first half passes. His seven completions, however, traveled 138 yards, led by a 49 yard touchdown pass to WR Nate Washington in the first quarter. Five of his other six first half completions went for at least 15 yards. Roethlisberger was a perfect four for four in the second half for an additional 87 yards. He also scored the Steelers’ second touchdown on a two yard bootleg in the third quarter.
Washington caught another pass in the first half, giving him 67 yards on the day, while rookie Santonio Holmes led Pittsburgh with four receptions and 81 yards. Five other players caught one pass.
The Steelers’ defense smothered the Browns’ running game, limiting Cleveland to 18 yards and 1.6 yards per carry. They forced six punts, a fumble, and interception and ducked a missed field goal through Cleveland’s first nine possessions before giving up a meaningless 45 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. That touchdown gave the Browns 276 yards passing on the night. S Tyrone Carter had seven tackles and DE Aaron Smith forced and recovered a fumble.
What you ought to know
|QB Derek Anderson, Pass: 21 - 37 - 276 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - 4 - 0|
Anderson filled in for injured QB Charlie Frye (wrist) and did so admirably. He was perfect on the Browns’ opening drive (4-4) including a 16 yard pass over the middle to WR Joe Jurevicius on the team’s first play from scrimmage. That start failed to open up any kind of running game, however, and Anderson was forced to carry the offense throughout the game. He opted mostly for check downs and screens, but did his best to complete middle range passes over the middle and out patterns along the sidelines – when his receivers weren’t dropping them, that is. Anderson was the victim of seven dropped passes. His only two errors was a late third quarter interception when he forced a pass deep to WR Braylon Edwards near the end zone, and a fumble early in the second quarter.
He was sharp in a two minute drill, completing five of seven passes including a key 27 yard pass to Jurevicius where Anderson had to wait for Jurevicius to cross the field with the pocket closing rapidly around him. Three plays later, however, PK Phil Dawson’s field goal attempt sailed wide left just before halftime. Anderson later completed four of five passes on Cleveland’s only scoring drive, which was capped by a short pass to Braylon Edwards, who took it 45 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
On a night tailor made for compact running backs in cold weather, Droughns had his worst day as a starter (without injury), rushing five times for six yards. His long gain of five yards occurred on his first carry midway through the first quarter. He would end up with just three carries for five yards in the first half. His remaining carries gained minus three, three, zero and one yards. He picked up 23 receiving yards on two screen passes.
Smith gained one yard on third and three in the first quarter and gained three yards on first and ten in the third quarter. He also dropped a short dump off pass in the third quarter.
Wright has been a spark to the Browns’ offense of late, but was shut down for two yards on his only two carries.
Vickers gained two yards on Cleveland’s first possession and caught a four yard pass in the left flat late in the third quarter.
Jurevicius had his best game of the season and second quality game in a row with seven receptions and 111 yards. He became QB Derek Anderson’s most reliable target immediately by opening up the game with a sliding 16 yard catch over the middle. Three plays later he turned an out pattern up field for 18 yards. He wasn’t targeted again until late in the first half, but caught both passes to him, including a 27 yarder where he had to cross the field right-to-left to haul in a pass from heavily pressured Anderson. Jurevicius also caught two passes of 11 and 14 yards to help set up Cleveland’s only touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Edwards got off to a slow start, catching two passes for just ten yards, both on WR screens. He also dropped a pass after taking a heavy hit in the secondary and saw four targets in the first quarter. He wouldn’t see another pass until the very late third quarter, but took a short pass over the middle and turned it up field for a 31 yard gain. Edwards had deja vu in the fourth quarter when he ran a hook route, caught the short pass, turned a tight corner to avoid a tackle and found open daylight en route to a 45 yard touchdown. He was the target of QB Derek Anderson’s only deep pass attempt, but it was intercepted at the Steelers’ nine yard line.
Northcutt’s woes at Heinz Field date back to the 2002 Divisional Playoff game when he dropped a pivotal third down pass that would have iced the game. That trend continued when he dropped four passes, including two WR screen passes, one on an out pattern and one over the middle that slipped right through his hands. He managed to hang on to one pass for 12 yards late in the second quarter and had seven yards on two punt returns.
Despite the Steelers absence their two starting safeties, Winslow Jr. could not break loose down field, catching four passes, none longer than six yards. He also dropped a short pass over the middle upon heavy contact with the defender.
Heiden caught a bootleg pass for 13 yards and an eight yard pass at the end of the first and second quarter respectively.
Dawson shanked his only field goal attempts wide left from 40 yards. He converted an extra point in the fourth quarter.
Cleveland did not have an answer for RB Willie Parker, allowing him to 223 yards rushing and gave up 303 yards on the ground overall. They continuously got blown off the line of scrimmage and gave up 11 runs of ten yards or more. CB Leigh Bodden had the lone bright spot on defense, forcing a fumble which was recovered by DE Kamerion Wimbley.
While they weren’t tested often, the Browns’ secondary gave up huge chunks of yards at a time. Pittsburgh gained 225 yards through the air on just 11 receptions.
Roethlisberger got off to a shaky start, missing on three of his first four pass attempts, but heated up in the single digit wind chill temperatures on the Steelers next drive. He converted a third and four to WR Santonio Holmes for 16 yards and then heaved a bomb in the swirling winds to WR Nate Washington for a 49 yard touchdown pass. He was off the mark a bit in the first half, and watched second quarter drives stall due to a fumble and a blocked field goal, but made all of his completions count for big gains. He finished the first half 7-17 for 138 yards. In the third quarter Roethlisberger tip toed over a pass rusher’s extended arm and found TE Jerame Tuman for 15 yards which helped set up his own two yard bootleg touchdown run to extend the Steelers lead to 17-0. He completed just two more passes from that point, a 21 pass to RB Najeh Davenport, setting up a touchdown run by RB Willie Parker, and a 25 yard skinny post to Holmes to set up a Jeff Reed field goal in the fourth quarter.
Batch cleaned up the remaining five plus minutes of the fourth quarter, handing the ball off or taking a knee on all eight plays.
It’s early, but Parker will likely take away AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors off the heels of his team record 223 yard performance. It was Parker’s second 200+ yard game this season, four weeks after he ran for 213 against the Saints in Week 10. Parker had 18 carries and 114 yards in the first half, thanks to two large gains of 20 and 26 yards. He was the beneficiary of huge holes all night long, many of them right up the middle. He busted loose for his long of 39 yards in the third quarter, and had 12 runs where he gained six yards or more (eight in double digits). Parker scored his 13th touchdown of the year late in the third quarter from three yards out, and had three carries in the fourth quarter to break the Steelers record of 218 yards held since 1970. Parker now averages 132 yards rushing at home, compared to 45.8 on the road.
Davenport fumbled his first carry, but was given the ball back two plays later and took a draw up the middle for 13 yards. He replaced RB Willie Parker in the fourth quarter and pushed forward for 62 yards on 14 carries. He also had a 21 yard catch and run reception to help set up Parker’s touchdown.
The undrafted rookie free agent got his first NFL carry and gained 16 yards late in the fourth quarter.
Kreider caught a first quarter six yard pass in the flat that eventually led to Pittsburgh’s first touchdown.
With injuries to WR Hines Ward and WR Cedrick Wilson, the opportunity for Holmes finally arrived and he passed the test. Amid the inclement weather, Holmes led the Steelers with four receptions and 82 yards. He caught QB Ben Roethlisberger’s first pass for 17 yards, followed by a 15 yard out one play prior to WR Nate Washington’s touchdown catch. He later caught a short pass over the middle and ran for 23 yards into Cleveland territory, which led to Roethlisberger’s touchdown run. And he caught an 18 yard skinny post into the red zone to help set up a fourth quarter Jeff Reed field goal. He did drop one pass, but he was falling backwards while trying to adjust his route in order to make the catch. He was also the target of a deep ball in single coverage, but he misjudged the ball in flight and was unable to catch up to it. Holmes had 31 punt return yards and had an additional 18 yard returned called back due to holding.
Washington got his second consecutive start in place of WR Hines Ward. His big play ability came through when he caught a 49 yard bomb from QB Ben Roethlisberger to open up the scoring in the first quarter. Washington’s double move on CB Leigh Bodden enabled him to coast down the sideline with a two step advantage all the way to the end zone. He later caught an 18 yard pass in between two defenders en route to a Jeff Reed field goal.
Special teamer/WR Morey caught his second pass of the season and third career reception since entering the league in 1999. He would have had his fourth career reception but was flagged for interference.
Young was signed last week to fill WR Hines Ward’s spot on the roster. He caught his first career pass for 17 yards on third and nine, to help set up a Jeff Reed field goal.
Tuman caught an improvised 15 yard pass from his scrambling QB Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers scored their second touchdown three plays later.
Miller nearly caught a pass thrown behind him, but the ball deflected off his hands as he dove backwards to attempt the catch.
Reed kicked field goals of 23 and 28 yards. He also had one blocked from 35 yards when his low kick hit the arm of DE Alvin McKinley. He made all three of his extra point attempts.
The Steelers did not allow the Browns to get their running game going; holding them to 18 yards rushing on 11 carries (1.6 ypc). Reuben Droughns gained five yards on his first carry and finished with six yards. DE Aaron Smith forced a fumble and recovered it in the second quarter.
Forcing the Browns into throwing on just about every down, the Steelers allowed them to nickel and dime their way in between the 20 yard lines for 276 yards passing, but never once surrendered the red zone. They gave up a late 45 yard touchdown in garbage time. Rookie S Anthony Smith got his first career interception.