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The Cleveland Browns kicked off an important season in their ongoing process of building a playoff caliber team by entertaining Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon. A ferocious defensive effort from the visiting Eagles saw them pick up a hard fought 17-16 victory, which will be all the more heartbreaking for Cleveland fans considering how close they came to upsetting the odds and recording the win themselves.
The Browns got off to a good start in the match as Phil Dawson connected with a 43-yard field goal, before Craig Robertson picked off Vick in the Eagles next drive. Despite having taken the advantage early on in the game, neither Brandon Weeden nor Trent Richardson were able to make a significant impact in the first half. Weeden threw two interceptions in the second quarter, while Richardson was only able to put up 25 yards from 11 carries in the first half, mainly due to the uncompromising defense of DeMeco Ryans.
The Cleveland defense was keeping the Browns in the game during the first half, with Vick under constant pressure and unable to connect regularly with the likes of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. The Philadelphia offensive line did, however, manage to give their quarterback good protection late in the second quarter. Vick stayed in the pocket and found Maclin in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass which, along with an earlier field goal, gave the Eagles a 10-3 lead at the half.
Both quarterbacks struggled in the third quarter, with Vick throwing two further interceptions and Weeden adding another to his own tally. The Browns were able to add two further field goals in the late third and early fourth quarter, thanks to interceptions by the Cleveland secondary, narrowing the Philadelphia lead to just one point.
Things went from bad to worse for Vick then, however, as D’Qwell Jackson picked off his pass on the Eagles 27-yard line and returned it for a touchdown, giving the Browns a six point lead with just over 10 minutes left to play in the final quarter.
A long drive late in the quarter by the Eagles resulted in a first and goal on the three yard line at the two minute warning. After a run by Bryce Brown, which culminated in a one yard loss, Vick threw a touchdown pass to tight end Clay Harbor. The extra point was good and Philadelphia once more regained the lead, leaving Weeden a difficult task with just over a minute left to play.
Unfortunately for Weeden and the Browns, any attempt to rescue the game was cut short as the quarterback was intercepted by Kurt Coleman, and the Eagles were able to safely see out the game.
This will be a game for rookies Weeden (12/35, 118 yards, 0 TDs, 4 INT) and Richardson (19 carries, 39 yards) to forget, as their personal performances do not do justice to how close and competitive this game was. Although Richardson’s performance could be attributed to his recent lack of practice due to injury, all but the most optimistic of Cleveland fans will be casting wary glances in the direction of Weeden, the franchise’s 17th starting quarterback since 1999.
The Eagles weren’t without their own problems, specifically the pressure exerted on Vick by the opposing defense, and the offensive line will have to work hard to rectify this issue. Vick himself wasn’t terrible (29/56, 317 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INT) but the four interceptions he threw are a worry for Head Coach Andy Reid.
Both teams face challenging matches next week, with the Browns visiting divisional rivals the Cincinnati Bengals, while Philadelphia hosts the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns and Eagles will have to take much better care of the ball in those games if they are to stand any chance of beating two teams who both made it to the playoffs last season.
Image Courtesy of The Official Cleveland Browns