Brian Hoyer Shines on Game-Winning Drive Set Up by Brian Hoyer’s Two Previous (seemingly) Game-Losing Drives

Also set up by Mike Smith’s inability to manage the clock.

And pretty terrible play-calling by the Browns.

But mostly by two ghastly mistakes by the Browns’ quarterback.

I’ll try to keep my complaining to a minimum. Cleveland is, after all, 7-4 and in the thick of the playoff race with December in sight. They’re a game away from clinching a .500 record (!!!) and have already assured themselves of a single-digit loss season for the first time since 2007. Also, on more than one occasion when the same old new Browns had threatened to make an appearance, the new new Browns played like a real professional football team and chased them away. The season has been superb and should only be characterized as a success by fans no matter what happens in the last five games.

But back to Hoyer’s no good very bad day.

The reason he is the starting quarterback for the Browns this season is because of his ability to avoid mental mistakes. Physical / mechanical mistakes are going to happen to the best professional athletes of any sport. The first interception thrown by Hoyer yesterday wasn’t a bad decision; it was just a bad throw. It happens. The last two, however, were inexcusable.

(Hindsight is 20/20 so had the play calls worked out towards the end of the game for Cleveland, we’d be praising the coaching staff for mixing it up. First and goal play action? You fooled Atlanta and scored a game-clinching touchdown. Genius. Second / third and seven with just over two minutes to play and you throw. Caught ‘em off guard. They didn’t work out. They did the opposite of work out. Crowell was averaging over seven yards per carry against a horrid defense. But the staff showed faith in Hoyer because of his mental sharpness up to this point in the season.)

First and goal with a chance to make it a two-possession game with four minutes left. With a play action being well-covered by Atlanta, there was nowhere to go with the pass.  Throw the ball away. Look for another receiver. Live to get two or three more cracks at the end zone. The WORST possible scenario would be an intercept-well, there it is. The man who has his job because he doesn’t make mistakes like that made a mistake like that. I know Josh Gordon is otherworldly on the football field, but even he had a less than a zero percent chance of catching that ball.

Luckily, the defense bailed Hoyer out and gave him a chance for redemption. After an eight yard gain on first down by Crowell (five of which were given back by a false start), Hoyer missed high and narrowly avoided a pick before once again forcing a ball to Josh Gordon and getting picked…again.

However, Mike Smith must have picked Brian Hoyer’s name in the NFL Secret Santa this year because he gave him not one, but TWO early Christmas presents. For some unbeknownst reason while already in field goal range (albeit a LONG field goal), Atlanta called a time out with close to a minute left on the clock. Then, instead of trying to run for the first down or going short over the middle to make the field goal attempt less than 53 yards or a myriad of other possibilities that would be smarter than throwing deep to Devin Hester, Atlanta threw deep to Devin Hester. Justin Gilbert accidentally broke the play up and forced the 53 yard field goal attempt which was good because of course.

(Side note here: Pettine made a TON of questionable clock decisions of his own yesterday including a few WTF moments at the end of the first half. The commentators were blasting him again for not burning time outs on Atlanta’s final drive. I actually agree with how he played this series though. Cleveland had the lead and Atlanta was on the very edge of field goal range with time running out. Had they been in chip-shot range, sure, burn the time outs. But you can’t operate under the assumption that close-to-53-year-old Matt Bryant is going to nail a 53-yarder.)

Brian Hoyer got the ball back with 44 seconds and three time outs. Never a doubt. He connected on four of six attempts (one incompletion being a spike) and got the Browns into field goal range and the rest is history. He kept the Johnny Football show at bay…barely. As poorly as he played, he notched the stat that matters most – a win (I feel like I should be shouting that sitting alongside of drunk Ditka right now). He earned the chance to show the world how he bounces back from a God-awful performance. My advice to him: pretend every drive is the last drive of the game.