That was the best Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress could come up with? Seriously!
A pass by quarterback Brandon Weeden on third-and-1 at the New York Giants' 25-yard line in the second quarter might turn out to be the call that got Shurmur fired. Whether he called it or approved a call by Childress is immaterial. It was a game-changer that took what was a competitive game and turned it into a 41-27 rout for the Giants.
The Browns were leading 17-10 at the time and in easy range for a Phil Dawson field goal. The common-sense call would have been a run by Trent Richardson. If he was stopped short, three points and a 10-point lead were in the bank.
For some inexplicable reason Richardson, the third overall draft pick with a battering-ram style, was on the sideline. In for him was backup Chris Ogbonnaya, who was lined up slightly wide of the right tackle, which screams of pass to the defense.
So Shurmur has removed his best offensive weapon and put the lone back in a position to run a short pass route. You knew something bad was about to happen.
When Weeden's first option wasn't available, he scrambled to look for another choice. That turned out to be receiver Josh Gordon, who was breaking open underneath coverage. In his haste to get the ball out, Weeden overthrew Gordon. Giants safety Stevie Brown made the interception and returned it 46 yards to the Browns' 40. The interception led to a 4-yard touchdown run by Ahmad Bradshaw, who rushed for 200 yards, to tie the score.
While there was still more than a half of football to play, the game, for all intents and purposes, ended with Brown's interception.
The energy the Browns' offense created with two quick touchdowns and a 14-0 lead was gone. Not surprisingly, the short-handed defense collapsed under an onslaught of Eli Manning passes and Bradshaw runs.
It's not always easy to pinpoint the turning point of a football game. Routs take shape early and then play out an inevitable storyline.
Not this one. The outcome hinged on one bad play call that put Weeden in a position to make a play when none was immediately available. He can be criticized for the overthrow, but he never should have been put in a spot where failure was a possibility.
You could argue that the Browns would have lost to the superior Giants no matter what play had been called. With suspended cornerback Joe Haden out and cornerback Dimitri Patterson leaving with an ankle injury, there was no way that Buster Skrine and rookie Trevin Wade stood a chance against the Giants' potent passing attack.
Patterson was also overmatched. On one of Cruz's three touchdown receptions, Patterson, in slot man coverage with no safety help, inexplicably left Victor Cruz alone on a corner route. It was an easy throw for Manning.
But that was a technique breakdown against one of the NFL's elite receivers. There's not much Shurmur can do about that other than to tell Patterson to go get 'em the next time.
Shurmur had control of the second-quarter play call, and he blew it. There's no other way to put it.
Now he can only hope that new owner James Haslam III will stick to the plan and not make major moves when his ownership is officially approved Oct. 16. Unlike yesterday, that's a call he can't control.