INDIANAPOLIS — The extra point has become such a formality in the NFL, Patriots coach Bill Belichick suggested doing away with it.
The point was anything but automatic for the Browns on Sunday in a 17-13 loss to the Colts.
Holder Reggie Hodges fumbled a perfect snap after Cleveland’s touchdown in the second quarter, depriving the Browns of a tie at 7. The Browns never caught the Colts, the forfeited point loomed large for the rest of the game and the gaffe symbolized a disastrous day for the special teams.
“It was just one of those days where I felt like things just weren’t going our way on teams,” Ray “Bubba” Ventrone said. “We just couldn’t catch a break.”
The Browns answered Indianapolis’ opening touchdown drive when receiver Greg Little made a juggling 14-yard catch in the back of the end zone. The celebration was interrupted by Hodges’ muff.
He caught the snap from Christian Young cleanly, then dropped it as he went to place it, giving kicker Phil Dawson no chance. Hodges was swarmed by Colts. The point would’ve been useful late, because then a field goal could’ve tied the game.
“The snap was great. It just slipped out of my hands,” he said. “I do that thousands of times. I just dropped it. I don’t know why.”
That was the second of many special teams mistakes.
Ventrone was penalized for holding on Joshua Cribbs’ first kickoff return, putting the Browns at the 10-yard line. Ventrone, who plays almost exclusively on special teams and is one of the best in the league, was whistled again on the next kickoff return, forcing the Browns to start at the 14.
“I’ll have to look at the film. I legitimately thought I made legal, clean blocks,” said Ventrone, who turned 30 Sunday. “I’ve been in the league for seven years now and have never had a holding call in my career on special teams.”
Ventrone and special teams coordinator Chris Tabor argued with the officials, noting Ventrone was in front of the Colts player. Ventrone has a cast on his hand after surgery to repair a broken thumb and can’t grab.
“They said that I threw the guy to the ground on both of ‘em,” Ventrone said. “I thought that I was good, especially on the second one. I knocked the guy down and then I didn’t even touch him. For me to hold somebody, I’m playing with one hand. I felt bad that I let the team down on those two plays.”
Tank Carder, who only plays on special teams, was called for an illegal block in the back in the fourth quarter, nullifying a 17-yard Cribbs punt return. The Browns rely on Cribbs’ returns to spark the offense, but the penalties eliminated that possibility.
Until Sheldon Brown’s strip-sack and fumble recovery with 7:25 left in the fourth quarter, the Browns’ best field position was their 20-yard line.
“You’re fighting for ground in the return game,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “That’s the first offensive play of the series. That’s not acceptable.”
“It didn’t get to us in an emotional way,” left tackle Joe Thomas said. “Obviously, when you’re getting backed up and you’re getting the ball inside your own 20 on a consistent basis, it makes it more difficult.”
Hodges’ main duty is punting but he continued an up-and-down season. He averaged 41.4 yards on five kicks, but his last one fell well short of expectations.
Facing fourth-and-1 from the Colts’ 41-yard line with 6:38 left, coach Pat Shurmur chose to punt. He wanted to pin the Colts deep, get a defensive stop and give the offense another chance. The plan immediately went awry.
Hodges’ angled kick flew into the stands and was placed at the 20-yard line.
“We need to get a better punt there,” Shurmur said.
Hodges said he was told to kick it out of bounds.
“We needed the ball out of bounds,” he said. “That was the most important thing. We didn’t want any chance at a return.”
Obviously, the coaches wanted it out of bounds inside the 10. He could’ve kicked it out of the end zone to place it at the 20.
“I did what I was told,” said Hodges, who missed 2011 with a torn Achilles tendon. “I had to put the ball out of bounds in the 20, which is where they got it.”