Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden can be criticized for the three interceptions he threw Sunday afternoon.
He also could be knocked for flinging 24 incomplete passes and coughing up one fumble in Cleveland’s 23-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Weeden’s toughness, however, is beyond reproach after he withstood four full quarters of punishment at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“I don’t know how many times he got hit — way too much — but he stayed in the pocket and took hits without really flinching at all,” Browns tight end Jordan Cameron said. “He’s always been tough. It was the same way last year.
“But he was hurting out there today and kept battling, which is good to see from your quarterback.”
The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder absorbed a career-high six sacks and was hit 16 times by Miami’s physical front four, causing the redhead to move gingerly around the locker room following the game.
Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake was especially vicious, collecting 2½ sacks and six hits in adding to his reputation as one of the NFL’s difference-makers.
Ironically, Wake’s big game also caused Weeden’s rep to grow among his teammates.
“Weeden is a tough player, and that’s something you admire in a quarterback,” Cleveland safety T.J. Ward said. “It was a rough game for him, but I’m sure he’ll bounce back. He always does in practice.”
Weeden’s statistics were not pretty. He only completed 26 of 53 passes and had the three picks. He finished with 289 yards and a poor 48.4 passer rating, but did make a perfect throw on a 7-yard touchdown pass to Cameron in the second quarter.
The latter play meant little to him, though, after his record fell to 5-11 as the Browns’ starting quarterback.
“I’m extremely disappointed because we didn’t play well enough and missed too many opportunities today,” Weeden said. “This was not the way we drew it up.
“Obviously, there are a few throws that I’d like to have back, and we had some dropped balls, missed blocks and mental errors. But we’ll all learn from this — and nobody is pointing fingers.”
Weeden’s three interceptions were vastly different, but none of them were entirely his fault.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner opted to take a shot at the end zone in the opening quarter, but Weeden’s third-and-8 heave from the Dolphins 40 never made it to tiny wide receiver Travis Benjamin.
Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll, part of double coverage on Benjamin, grabbed the ball just in front of the goal line.
“You can never question Norv,” said Weeden, who misread the play, thinking Benjamin was only being covered by one defender. “He is, in my opinion, the best play-caller in the game.”
Wide receiver Greg Little flat-out dropped what turned into Weeden’s second pick later in the period, while tight end Jordan Cameron turned a bad throw into the Dolphins’ third interception midway through the second. Miami cornerback Dimitri Patterson eagerly snared both tipped balls.
“The one to Travis, we had a shot on, and the other one was a good throw that went off of Greg’s hands,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “The third was a little bit behind Jordan, but we’ll look at them all.
“I think Brandon was harassed quite a bit and a lot of throws were altered. We’ll look at how his reads were and those types of things, and make the corrections.”
The most important correction “Chud” needs to make is the right side of the offensive line, where tackle Mitchell Schwartz and converted guard Oniel Cousins were manhandled by Wake and Randy Starks.
Turner also didn’t help the cause with his oddly vanilla play-calling, especially on third down, where Cleveland converted just one of 14 opportunities.
A visibly battered and bruised Weeden, though, fell directly on his sword for the offense’s failings.
The 29-year-old Oklahoman might not be one of the NFL’s elite players, but he is one of the better leaders on the Browns.
And a darn tough one, at that.
“Things didn’t go great today, but I’m extremely excited moving forward,” he said. “We’ve got a good football team that is going to scratch, claw and fight its way in every game. We’re going to have success here.”
Sensing the pessimism of the assembled media, Weeden smiled and attempted to put a happy face on his long day on the lakefront.
“I heard that every team in our division lost,” he said. “And the last time I checked, we’re guaranteed 15 more games. This is a long season and we’ve got a lot of football left to play. We’ll be all right.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.