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2013 NFL Grades, Week 3: Browns prove tanking talk laughable

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Brian Hoyer, the face of the non-tanking Browns.
Brian Hoyer, budding Browns superstar. (USATSI)

When the Browns traded Trent Richardson last week, the talk of "tanking" quickly heated up. (Not all of us believed it.) And when reports of dealing Josh Gordon and Greg Little emerged Sunday, that chatter only intensified. It all evaporated Sunday, though, when the Brian Hoyer-led squad went out and took care of business against the Vikings.

If you saw the Browns' win coming, you're (mostly) lying. We all picked the Vikings to win this game, though I'll humblebrag here and point out I called them a trap team for Survivor purposes. There's plenty to say about the Vikings being horrible, and they just might be. But the Browns deserve some credit here.

Hoyer was ... pretty good? He made some mistakes for sure, throwing a trio of picks and nearly giving the game away late. But he also made some big passes, notably to the uber-talented Gordon. Gordon finished with 10 catches for 146 yards.

Fun fact: Browns punter Spencer Lanning has as many passing touchdowns as Brandon Weeden.

Did the Browns miss Richardson? No, sir. Their running game stunk but it stunk before when T-Rich was there.

The defense bottled up Adrian Peterson, and while Cleveland gave up some yardage on the ground to Christian Ponder, they were largely impressive on the defensive side of the ball.

Most importantly they tried. And while no one gets an "A" for effort, when you win and shove the discussion of tanking in the face of everyone who questioned your personnel moves, well, it'll earn you a pretty good grade.

TeamGradeAnalysis
Dolphins 27, Falcons 23
B-Tough loss considering the Falcons had this game in hand, especially with all the injuries they had. Matt Ryan's been pretty spectacular this year and once again carried his team. Atlanta's defense couldn't keep the Dolphins down at the end of either half and the offense missed several big chances.
B+Two touchdowns (and one pick) for Ryan Tannehill in an efficient effort. He really looks like he belongs with the rest of the sophomores. The running game could be a little better and the defense wasn't perfect but the Fins are 3-0 now and that's really all that matters. Definite playoff contender.
Bears 40, Steelers 23
B+Jay Cutler continues to look really good in Marc Trestman's offense and Matt Forte continues to be a dynamic weapon. Surprise, surprise: the Bears keep generating turnovers and turning them into touchdowns.
D-What is happening with this team? Ben Roethlisberger looked lost for most of the night and only got hot for the middle stretch of this game. The biggest concern is the defense, which still doesn't have a turnover this year. Might be a lost season.
Jets 27, Bills 20
CEJ Manuel was well under a 50 percent completion rate this week. C.J. Spiller really struggled and eventually suffered an injury. That secondary needs Stephon Gilmore back in the worst way. Justin Rogers was routinely torched Sunday.
BDoes 2-1 mean Rex Ryan is going to start getting his swagger back? I hope so. They were penalty-heavy on Sunday but the Jets defense is for real, especially up front. Don't rush back, Mark Sanchez. Geno Smith's got this. Getting Santonio Holmes back helps.
Seahawks 45, Jaguars 17
D-The Jaguars scored more than one touchdown this week! But they didn't cover and they were manhandled all around in this full-service beatdown.
A-The Seahawks probably deserve an "A" based on the score and their production but I'm grading on an opponent scale here. I guess they weren't perfect or something.
Colts 27, 49ers 7
AFew teams roll into Candlestick Park and hammer the 49ers, and no one does it after a loss. But Andrew Luck -- Jim Harbaugh's old protege -- and the Colts did just that. Indy's defense smothered Colin Kaepernick all day long and limited the 49ers on offense. Luck was efficient and both Ahmad Bradshaw/Trent Richardson scored touchdowns.
FHorrible bounceback game for the 49ers. Colin Kaepernick struggled but to be fair he was missing Vernon Davis on Sunday. The bigger red flag is the 49ers defense, which has now given up more than 20 points in all three games.
Ravens 30, Texans 9
D-A real stinker of a game for Houston in just about every respect. The Texans couldn't get going on offense, they coughed up 31 points, they gave up a kickoff return for a TD, Matt Schaub threw a pick six and Houston generally looked awful all day long.
A-Not a world-beating effort from their offense but kind of nice to see -- on a day where Ray Lewis was honored at halftime -- how good this 2013 Ravens defense can be. They completely snuffed out the Texans to the tune of just three Randy Bullock field goals. Arian Foster and Matt Schaub were non-factors Sunday.
Lions 27, Redskins 20
B+For the first time in the history of the Lions franchise they won in Washington. (D.C. really hates Detroit, apparently.) Not a masterful game for Detroit's offense but Joique Bell was good in relief of Reggie Bush, Matthew Stafford was strong down the stretch and Calvin Johnson was Calvin Johnson.
CSome nice things to take from this Redskins game, including improvements from Robert Griffin III and Washington actually being, you know, competitive. Alfred Morris ran the ball fairly well. Once again it was Washington having no semblance of a defense that really hurt them, even if DeAngelo Hall had another defensive TD.
Titans 20, Chargers 17
B-Tough road loss for the Bolts after holding a 17-10 fourth-quarter lead. You can't let Jake Locker march down the field on you for a game-winning drive. Locker actually carved up the secondary, and that's never a good sign. The offense, at least, was impressive for the third straight game. Philip Rivers appears to be in a full-blown bounceback season.
BThree quarters of struggles were erased by a huge final stretch in which the Titans scored 10 points and secured the win. Jake Locker storming down the field on a game-winning drive was stunning. The defense didn't give up a ton of yardage but they didn't get a lot of pressure on Rivers, either.
Saints 31, Cardinals 7
C-Tough spot for the Cardinals: playing in New Orleans is never easy. Really weak passing production out of Carson Palmer/Larry Fitzgerald/Michael Floyd on Sunday, though. The defense got shredded but did a good job pressuring the Saints at least.
B+Jimmy Graham continues to be a complete difference-maker at tight end. Drew Brees is dominant as usual but more efficient in 2013 with Sean Payton back. It's great to see Rob Ryan getting actual defensive production (four more sacks, two interceptions Sunday) out of that unit. The running game is still a concern.
Patriots 23, Buccaneers 3
DWoof. Rumors were Mike Glennon was warming up on the sideline and with Josh Freeman going 19-for-41 I'm surprised he didn't hit the field. Doug Martin went over 100 yards total. The defense got some pressure (three sacks) and one pick (Mark Barron, in the end zone) but this game won't do much to quell the drama in Tampa Bay. Have fun this week, Greg Schiano.
B+It hasn't been particularly pretty for the Patriots thus far in 2013 but after finally landing an easy win they're 3-0 and remain in pole position in the AFC East. Most importantly they've done it without Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen and Danny Amendola. Impressive to see Kenbrell Thompkins step up in a big way Sunday.
Browns 31, Vikings 27
A-This wasn't an "A" because, well, it wasn't a dominant performance. But kudos to the Browns for sticking it in anyone's face that said they were tanking. Brian Hoyer threw for 302 yards (!) and three touchdowns (though he threw three picks as well) and Josh Gordon cranked up his trade value big time with a huge game. The defense stepped up when needed and sacked Ponder five times.
FEven though Minnesota had a chance to win, you can't give a team anything other than an "F" when they lose to Cleveland's backups at home. Adrian Peterson isn't running for a ton of yardage. Christian Ponder had two rushing touchdowns but also a pick and a lost fumble.
Panthers 38, Giants 0
FPeople are calling for Tom Coughlin's seat to heat up after this debacle got New York to 0-3. Eli Manning turned the ball over (again), David Wilson didn't run well (again) and the defense was a sieve (again). Newspaper-watching should be fun on Monday morning.
A+Where did that come from? The Panthers put an unlikely whooping on Dave Gettleman's old team as his group of "hog mollies" lobbed up a seven-sack game. Cam Newton finally broke out, tying a career high with four touchdowns. Greg Hardy might be back on track for 50 sacks after his explosion Sunday.
Bengals 34, Packers 30
C+Brutal loss in a wild and wacky game. Johnathan Franklin looked the latest great Packers running back until he fumbled ... and the Bengals took it to the house for the win. Aaron Rodgers was far from great in this game and the defense couldn't take advantage of Cincy's mistakes. Good job limiting A.J. Green.
B-Not sure the Bengals deserved a win but they'll take it. After a great start they gave up 30 unanswered points but rallied to win anyway. Andy Dalton was pretty efficient in this game and though the running game didn't get going, Giovani Bernard had a nice all-around effort. Any time you can keep Aaron Rodgers from blowing up, it's a very good thing.
Cowboys 31, Rams 7
F"F" is also for "fraud," which is what the Rams look like right now. Sam Bradford's only putting up numbers in garbage time, their running game is non-existent and a theoretically tough defense did no damage against the Cowboys on Sunday. A second straight hammering of St. Louis by a superior NFC opponent.
AAbsolute beatdown for the NFC East's first non-division win. Tony Romo lit up a Rams secondary that's been embarrassed the last couple of weeks, while DeMarco Murray ran for 175 yards. Decent day. Six sacks for Monte Kiffin's defense as well.

THURSDAY

TeamGradeAnalysis
Chiefs 26, Eagles 16
C+The offense has major question marks. Alex Smith is a game manager and everyone's proud of that, but let's not get too excited. This was a defensive effort that carried things for the Chiefs and Justin Houston deserves an A+ for his performance. Smith was much better in the second half but a strong effort from this offense would've buried the Eagles early.
DAll-around poor performance for the Eagles. LeSean McCoy, who ran for 158 yards and a long touchdown that briefly brought the game back within reach, was the lone bright spot for this team. Michael Vick looked like he regressed, the defense can't tackle (and gave up 141 receiving yards to Donnie Avery!). Sixteen points at home on primetime is a major concern for an team based on offense.
 
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