Stillers 22, Browns 0 ��. Oct. 22, 2000 Game #7
Stillers-Browns Post Game Analysis & Grades:
It was sloppy and slovenly, but any win over the hated Cleveland Browns is indeed a pleasure. Facing a team decimated by injury at QB, WR, RB & OLB, the Stillers really should have manhandled the Brownosers far more than they did. There were some positives, yet continuing problems that have festered still remain. Of course, winning a 4th game in a row after the hideous 0-3 start is something in and of itself to build upon, as is the 2nd consecutive shutout.
1. Hank fumbles Clev's 1st punt, but fortunately Chad recovered at our own 29.
2. Hanging onto a thin 3-0 lead, Graham, from his own 9-yard line, throws a short out to Hawkins, which hit the DB right in the numbers. A sure Cleveland TD was negated as the easy INT fell onto the ground.
3. Hank atones for his bobble, with a spectacular 54-yard punt return jaunt to the Clev. 12, which set up the eventual lone TD�
4. Courtney Brown is called for a pathetically ticky-tack "leading with the helmet" personal foul, on an incomplete Stewart pass on 3rd and goal. Rather than booting a FG, the Stillers were able to continue the drive, which led to�.
5. Bus plows into the EZ on 4th and 1, giving the team a commanding 10-0 lead.
6. Chad snares a Pederson pass with a superb grab, setting up the Stillers 2nd FG en route to a 13-0 lead.
QB: Graham started and was fairly miserable, completing 3 of 12 for a mere 46 yards. To his credit, he hit Breuner right in the numbers on a perfectly thrown seam route, which would have been a 33-yard gain, but Breuner dropped the ball. Graham did connect with Shaw on a deep seam route on a clutch 3rd and 18 early in the 2nd quarter, which gained 36 yards. But the misery outweighed the good. Graham continually fought throwing the ball, throwing hideous, wounded-quail kind of passes that fluttered as though the skin of the ball had been peeled back with a knife to form flaps of protruding leather. The boneheaded near-INT on the short out to Hawkins could have dramatically swung the game to Cleveland's favor. The pass was thrown far too softly, plus there appeared to be a receiver wide open downfield on that side of the field. Graham also badly overthrew a wide open Edwards on an early deep bomb down the sideline. Graham, on an early 3rd and 5, also enraged me with yet another bootfooted attempt to scramble, rather than throwing the ball. Stewart relieved after the near-INT-for-a-TD series, although since it began at the Clev. 12, it was unknown whether this merely was the "goal line offense" with Stew at the helm, or if Graham was being benched. Stewart did nothing worthwhile on that short drive, but a poor penalty call on Courtney Brown allowed the Stillers to punch in a TD, and Kordell remained at QB the rest of the game. Stewart hit a couple good passes, including a key 3rd down completion to Shaw and one to Hawkins. On the other hand, a deep crosser to a wide open Burress was woefully short-armed, as was a deepish seam route to Burress 2 plays later. Stewart was also tentative, such as the 3rd and goal attempted fade pass, in which his arm was hit as he threw. Yes, the rusher got in rather quickly, but Stewart had no need to piddle around for the extra second of foolish indecision on that play. Graham, D+. Stewart, C+.
RB: Bettis again lumbered for over 100 yards, rushing 33 times for 105. Bettis did a good job at times of plowing for extra yardage. However, Bettis did a bit too much freelancing today. On a few plays, he flat out read the hole wrong and ran into defenders and away from open space. And on far too many plays, Bettis took inside running plays and bounced them wide, which causes his shoulders to be parallel to the LOS, rather than perpendicular, where he is far more effective. Bettis' softee pass blocking also enraged me. On the controversial goal line play in which Stew's arm was hit as he threw, it was Bettis who was standing around instead of busting the rusher with a hit into his chops. Later, Bettis allowed a DB to easily run right by him, while Bettis stood there flatfooted, and the DB put a good lick on Stew just after the pass was released. These are the kind of lazy, no-brained plays that can get a QB killed. Hunt played only sparingly, mostly in mop-up, or to receive worthless 3rd down passes well short of the sticks. B.
FB: So much for the nonsensical doom & gloom of the Pittsburgh media, which spent the entire last 6 days sulking and moping over the "devastation of losing FB Jon Witman for the season". Crimany, I saw less weeping and wailing when Pope John Paul-I passed away. Fu more than adequately filled the small shoes of Witman, throwing several bone-jarring blocks in front of Bettis. The only negative, was that Fu was whistled for one holding penalty. On the bright side, Fu, lined up as the lone back on a 2nd down draw play late in the 3rd qtr., rumbled up RT for a nice 20-yard gainer, in which he appeared to hurt his ankle. Kreider relieved Fu and played FB the rest of the game. A-
WR: After last week's spotty performance, the WR corps bounced back with a pretty strong day. Shaw led the way with 3 grabs for 60 yards, including 2 clutch 3rd down receptions and a long 36-yard gainer that he almost busted for a TD. Plex and Troy each had 2 grabs. Little Runt Courtney even got into the act, snaring a short slant and gaining 16. Ward blocked well, including some nice crack-back blocks, but on the game's first series, he was out-wrestled and out-muscled for the ball, resulting in an INT that was nullified over what was a real iffy PI flag on Cleveland. A-.
TE: "Mark Breuner is regarded as among the top blocking TE's in the game," we hear every week. Yeah, and he's also regarded as among the most concrete-fingered pass catchers in the game, too. Graham hit Breuner with a perfect pass that hit the stone-handed Breuner right between the numbers, but the oafish clod dropped what would have been a 33-yard gain and a 1st & goal around the Brown 5-yard line. None of Breuner's blocking was good enough to over-ride this deplorable gaffe. C.
OL: The line played decently today�..by no means great, but they were adequate. For the most part, they gave the QBs time to throw, though Cleve's aggressive blitzes really hindered several pass plays. The run blocking was ok, though on too many plays, the push was feeble or a lone man was able to penetrate and disrupt the play. Wayne Candy was flagged for 2 penalties -- one a false start, and the other a hold. B-.
DL: The D-line turned in another solid effort, helping to seal off any running room for RB T. Prentice, who'd been having some solid games in recent weeks. Henry sniffed a reverse and stuffed it for a 3-yard loss, and Kimo and Sullie held their own against the run. B+.
LB: The LB crew had a strong game today. Holmes was a manster --- half man, half monster --- continually laying hits on Cleve. RBs and knifing into the backfield to jam up plays. Earl led the team with 6 solos. Kirk chipped in strongly with 5 solos, plus a good diving INT. Porter was somewhat quiet, though, on one play where he was lined up at LOLB, he created the pressure that flushed Peterson out of the pocket for the Gildon stop of a 1-yard run. Gildon had a so-so effort. Practically by accident, Gildon threw up a hand and got a bit of a Pederson pass, which was INT'd by Kirk. He also got a sack, which will be reviewed by the committee, but surely appeared to be a slop sack. Prentice was assigned to solo block Gildon, but the RB never got over in time, and Gildon easily came in untouched for the sack. It was far from a gemlike day for Gildon, though. He got manhandled on a 9-yard Prentice run up RT. On a 1st down play at 5:20 of the 1st, he was solo blocked by a RB --- not double teamed as the Pittsburgh media likes to claim --- and the RB easily manhandled him to the inside, allowing Pederson to scramble around his right end and complete a 10-yarder to Northcutt. Gildon also missed a sack of Pederson in the 3rd qtr. In all, the LB corps, despite some slop, did a good job of shutting down the Browns. A.
DB: Both Alex and Chad had INTs; Chad's was a real beauty. The run support and pass coverage were very solid. Lee dropped one INT and allowed Shea to have the 21-yard gainer. DeShea chipped in well as a nickel back and is really coming along fine in that role. A-.
Spec Teams: Kris shined by booting 5 FGs, but his KOs were mostly shallow. The KO coverage was ok at times, and at other times soft and spotty. Ward had a couple good hits in coverage, but he allowed White on the one long run-back to run right thru his tackle, and he also got a personal foul flag. Hank bobbled his 1st punt, but then responded with a sterling 54-yarder, as well as a later return in which he gained only about 7, but did so by breaking or eluding the tackles of 6 Cleveland defenders. B.
Off Coord: Once again, this gameplan smelled of the rancid odor emanating from Kevin Gaypride. Facing a soft defensive team that was missing starting OLB Abdullah, and then quickly lost Abdullah's replacement, Lenoy Jones, Gaypride nevertheless proceeded to turn this game into an absurd dickdance full of grab-bag slop more befitting a gradeschool playground than an NFL team. The offense was continually presented with GOLDEN field position, with starting points like the Clev. 36; Clev. 12; own 41; and Clev. 33, and all they were able to muster was 5 FGs and a long TD march of 12 yards that was significantly aided by a ticky-tack flag on Courtney Brown. The new plays involving Stewart in the goal-line offense --- some rollout and some movement -- were stiff and poorly rehearsed. So was the reverse to Troy, which appeared to have been drawn up on the back of a popcorn container just before that series began. We should have expected the worst, when, on the game's 1st drive, Gaypride ordered a 4-yard out to Huntley on 3rd and 10. The Gay Play o' the Day was easy as pie to choose today. At 12:43 of the 4th quarter, with the Stillers holding a commanding 16-0 lead, Stewart called a TO on 3rd down and 6 at the Brown 6-1/2 yard line. With a commanding lead, and with nothing to lose if a pass to the EZ was incomplete, and a timeout to mull it over, this situation SCREAMED for Stewart to attempt a pass to the EZ. After all, what better way for Stew to progress, and to win confidence of the fans and teammates, and to give HIMSELF confidence, than to throw a TD?? So, what does that asshumper Kevin Gaypride call ?? He calls a Lollipop Screen Pass to Huntley, which was EASILY engulfed by a host of Browns, losing 1 yard. If this wasn't the most gay-loving, dildo-inhaling, no-balls play call I have ever seen, then I don't know what was. D.
Def Coord: Lewis had the luxury of facing a ravaged Cleve. lineup, with no Couch, Lewis, Dawson, or Patten. The defense did play with good aggressiveness, and allowed only one decent gainer, a 21-yarder to TE Shea as Flowers was clumsily slipping. I liked the fact that Lewis finally had enough ingenuity to move Porter around, so that he can rush from different spots and against different blockers. This grade would be higher, if the offense of the Browns wasn't so weak and pitiful. B.
Head Coach: This was yet another game in which Cowhead's stamp was all over the gameplan and in-game decision making. Facing a weak team that was ripe to be blown out, Cowher nonetheless kept the game as close as he could, with an offense that continually played turtle anytime it got near the red zone. With the 5 FGs that Kris booted, Cowher was so ecstatic that he threw away his jug-sized container of Viagra as he jogged into the locker room. And the man responsible for inexplicably inserting Hawkins to field the 3rd Cleveland punt -- after Hank had cleanly caught the 2nd one -- has to be Billy Cowhead, who simply cannot stand seeing a rookie do well, nor stand seeing a rookie make big plays. Cowher's entire mantra is built upon the asinine insistence to treat big offensive/spec team plays with derisive disdain. The win was nice, but the slop and gutless style of play was not. C.
It does feel good to whip-ass on Cleveland and break the embarrassing 2-game losing streak vs. Clev. At the same time, given the fortuitous ref calls the Stillers benefited from (the PI flag on the early INT by Graham; and the 2 "leading with the helmet" flags that ruin how the game of football is supposed to be played), as well as the drop of the easy INT that surely would have been returned the 15 yards for a Clev. TD, this game was a bit closer than it should have been. Stewart has already been named the starter for next week's game in Baltimore, which is acceptable, given the woes of Graham. However, if Stewart keeps short-arming, or avoiding, throwing the ball downfield, this game will be another in which Balt's defense totally dominates our offense. Kevin Gaypride has 6 days to prepare for what he MUST KNOW is coming --- lots of 8-man fronts, lots of run-blitzing, and lots of pressure on the QB on 3rd down passing plays. Our defense is more than man enough to smother the weak Raven offense, but our offense remains the massive question mark that must be addressed this week. Moving to 4-3 today is good -- beating Baltimore and climbing into the thick of the division race with a 5-3 record would be even better.
The Still Mill