CLEVELAND — Unfortunately, for Brandon Weeden, this play will make all the blooper reels, over and over again, probably with banjos or Disney cartoon music playing in the background.
But let us remember what Weeden has been taught to remember through almost nonstop criticism as the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback. He takes too many sacks. He doesn’t always react to pressure in a timely manner, holds the ball too long, and turns into a rally killer.
So there he was Sunday, trying to pull his team from a 24-17 deficit to Detroit when he dropped back to pass from the Lions’ 44 yard line. He had been sacked twice already and penalized once for intentional grounding.
This time, said Weeden, it all happened so fast, which didn’t really seem the case at all. But there was indeed pressure, and eventually C.J. Mosley was flying around and got a grip on his left ankle.
Cue the music. Let Benny Hill pick the tune.
Weeden saw Chris Ogbonnaya drifting along the sideline and sent a backhanded, underhanded flip in his direction that wobbled like a helicopter in a hurricane.
Garo Yepremian never threw so ugly a duckling.
But before this one could whirl into a safe harbor, Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy crashed the party, and the Browns’ three-game winning streak was all but guaranteed not to reach four.
The Lions would turn Levy’s interception into another touchdown — three times Matthew Stafford threw to backup tight end Joseph Fauria and three times they produced scores — and Detroit ran off the last 24 straight points to win 31-17.
“I was trying to flip it over [Ogbonnaya’s] head,” Weeden said. “The guy had my left ankle, and I didn’t want to take a sack. I guess it would have been better to take the sack there. You don’t want to hurt your team with an 8, maybe 10-yard loss, but absolutely I should have just taken the sack.
“I couldn’t really turn to actually throw it; I was falling on my face. I should have just tucked it. It’s on me. It’s just a bone-headed play [while] trying to make a play.”
As Weeden picked himself off the grass and jogged to the sideline, the 71,513 in FirstEnergy Stadium reacted with a hush. Perhaps they were too stunned to boo.
Weeden has heard plenty of boos here over his short career. Fans were delighted that Brian Hoyer took his place earlier this season and delivered three straight wins as the starter, although Weeden played a big role in the last of those after Hoyer was lost to a season-ending injury.
What do the Browns do now? There is only one other quarterback on the active roster and although Jason Campbell was brought in to compete for the job coach Rob Chudzinski only grudgingly allows him to hold a clipboard.
Chud was asked if the whirlybird of an interception jaundiced his view of Weeden. I suspect the real answer is a resounding yes, but this is what he said:
“I don’t feel differently about anybody,” Chudzinski said. “What we need to do is learn and grow, and that’s what we’ve been able to do this season. It’s one game in a long season, and the idea is to improve and get better.”
The question everyone is asking is how much better, how improved can Brandon Weeden become?
Watching him dissect a defense and then watching Detroit’s flashy Stafford dissect a defense is not a fair fight. Of course, having both Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush on the field, as the Lions did yesterday, is not a fair fight for most defenses and the Browns normally stingy defense was no different.
Although Weeden occasionally seems to be in sync with receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron, both of whom have produced and show the potential to do far more, it’s not quite the same thing.
“Reggie Bush is a difference-maker,” Chudzinski said. “You try to focus on Calvin and Reggie and Fauria’s out there catching three touchdown passes. They’re tough to defend.
“I think our guys played hard. I think we competed. Obviously, we got off to a good start in the first half. We just need to finish it off.”
Instead, Weeden threw that doggone thing, and the Browns were just finished.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-5398.
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