It’s been a good week for us as a team. The Cleveland Browns game was a really big win for us — our first win on the road this year.
To win on the road in the NFL is challenging. On top of getting a victory on the road, we were playing against our old offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, a good coach who was very familiar with our personnel. So we knew it was going to be a tough win to get. He knows the plays that I prefer to run and other plays that I’m not in favor of. So the Browns were able to game plan to defend those plays. For me to have success in spite of that was important.
He also knew certain things that can be done against our defense and some of the tendencies of our defensive personnel. He had the chance over the last two years to get to know our defense, their strengths and weaknesses as a unit. I’m sure he knew how to create matchup problems. For everybody to step up and win in spite of all that was something to be proud of.
We have another tough challenge ahead of us this week. Seattle is a rivalry game. They’re our nemesis and they’re another team that knows us. They match up with us in all phases of the game and we’ve come up short for quite some time against this particular team. So I’m expecting a tough game that will come down to who plays four quarters of football to come out on top.
I’m looking forward to the challenge and I circle this game every year. They’re a team that I love to play, especially since they’re from the Pacific Northwest. During my college days, I used to watch a lot of Seattle when I was at Oregon State. Some of my early football roots are attached to that area. So any time I can compete against this particular team and get a win, it’s a special thing to me.
That said, we’re just going to go out on Sunday and continue to fight. We’ll treat it no differently than last week’s game or the one before that. We’re really focused in on Sunday for a battle against a team that plays us really well.
I like where we’re headed as an offense. Josh is getting more comfortable with the personnel, and we as players are getting comfortable with the system. We have not, since the first play of the season, been able to play all of our starters at once. We’re learning a new offense and it takes repetition to get used to it.
The playcalling these last few weeks has been along the lines of what we’ve wanted to do all season long. But earlier in the season we were finding ourselves down one or two possessions early, so we couldn’t have the balance on offense that we would like to. These last three weeks the games have been close enough that we can use a more balanced attack to keep the defense on their heels.
On first downs in particular, we’ve been able to get four yards or more, which makes things so much more favorable on second and third down. Once you get into long yardage third downs, that’s more in favor of the defense being able to pin their ears back and blitz the quarterback. Or they can do the opposite, rush three and drop eight, which makes it really hard to find windows in the passing game. They just play the sticks and it becomes a battle of field position. But as we get into the flow of the game, I think we’re going to be very explosive with the weapons we have and take away those opportunities for the defense.
I think our quarterback, Sam Bradford, is developing just fine. A lot of people like to compare from one year to the next, but it’s kind of hard in this instance because this is a special situation. We have a new offense, a new offensive coordinator and due to the lockout, there was very little time to work in it preseason. We’re pretty much learning the offense on the fly. And for him to handle the situation the way he has, to know the offense as well as he does, it’s pretty impressive.
I have no idea where he ranks statistically this year as compared to last. But I can tell you that as a leader and a signal caller he’s made great strides. He has a lot of responsibility in this offense, far more than he had last year as a rookie and he’s doing a good job of putting guys in position and giving them an opportunity to make plays. If there’s a bad run box, he checks us out of it and throws the ball down the field and vice versa if we have a good opportunity to run the ball, he checks into a run play. I think that’s why you’ve seen so many explosive plays, because Sam is putting us in that position.
Another guy who is helping Sam put us in those spots is Brandon Lloyd. Brandon has been great addition to our team. He’s an elite football player and a definite playmaker catching the ball. He’s made some spectacular catches for us already. His catches are pretty incredible, especially for a guy who’s not a big receiver. But he plays like he’s 6-4 or 6-5. I found out that he was a high jumper in high school and can jump 7-2, so that kind of explains his ability to bound and sky over guys with unbelievable height.
He’s got gifted hands and the hand-eye coordination to bring in some amazing catches along. He also possesses the body control and route running to be an elite receiver. With the football in his hands, he’s explosive enough to make yards after the catch. But one thing many people don’t know about Brandon is that he’s a great presence in the locker room. He has a certain edge to him and a desire to win. He has this switch, where his competitive spirit takes over, and that’s something I can relate to. You can see why our staff was really adamant about getting him here to add another weapon to our offense.
With Brandon as our lead receiver, the receiving unit is really starting to round into form. We had such a young core of guys coming in with some guys in their first year of pro football and we’ve been struggling with injuries to Danny Amendola, Greg Salas and Danario Alexander in that unit. It was certainly a rough patch. But we’ve come out of it. We have some young guys with some much needed game experience and then the veteran guys like Mark Clayton coming back in addition to Brandon’s arrival. It makes up a pretty solid unit that I believe will be effective from here on out.
INCENTIVE TO FINISH
I’m encouraged by the fact that we’ve been able to move the ball pretty much freely down the field as of late. Now we have to start capitalizing on our long drives and put touchdowns on the board instead of settling for three points or turning the ball over.
On paper, we’ve outgained some teams that have came out on top of us with wins. It makes you shake your head because you work so hard throughout the week and we’re not bearing the fruits of our labor. We’re all tired of coming up short and empty. So to try and eliminate some of those mistakes we make as an offense, we’ve instituted a player fine system. It’s basically a way to police ourselves, so to speak.
When guys have mental errors, we have to hold ourselves accountable at some point. We can’t continue to self inflict these wounds with penalties and turnovers because a lot of times, it’s nothing that our opponents are doing that’s stopping drives. It’s mental errors that our guys are making. I think policing ourselves in this way might just be that added push that can eliminate some of the stuff that goes on. It’s something that guys felt was needed, so we put it in. We can’t make excuses anymore. Everyone has to be accountable. We’re definitely leaning on some guys that have very little experience or were not here with us in camp, but that’s just the way it goes.
It’s just one of those years with the injury bug. We’ve had nine DB’s go down to injury. We’ve lost our two starting right tackles to injury. You just have to keep plugging away. It’s difficult and it’s hard. But when I addressed the team, I said point blank: We don’t look for excuses, we don’t use built in excuses and we don’t feel sorry for ourselves.
The guys have an opportunity to step up on Sunday and we trust that they will make the plays, so we’re going to lean on them as if they were the starters. We have to continue to grow as players. With that growth we’re going to become a very viable team, one to be reckoned with in the future.