The Cleveland Browns lost a heart-breaker to the Jacksonville Jaguars this past Sunday, 32-28. Despite a record-breaking day by WR Josh Gordon, the Browns' defense allowed a game-winning touchdown in the final minute of the game; holding Jacksonville to a field goal would have at least sent the game to overtime. Let's get to my complete game review to see all of the positives and negatives from the game.
WEEK 13 - JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
- Goats of the Game: C Alex Mack & CB Joe Haden - It was another disastrous end-to-the-first-half for the Browns, and Brandon Weeden was the catalyst behind that. With that said, he twice led the Browns back from a deficit in the second half, so I'm giving the goat out to two players for the first time in a long time: Mack and Haden. I will discuss the reasons why in the relevant bullet points below.
- Awarding the Game Ball: WR Josh Gordon - 10 catches, 261 yards, 2 touchdowns, and his name in the NFL history books at the age of 22. Heck, he's about to surpass Calvin Johnson as the league's leading receiver this year. We'll finally get to see Gordon against a top-tier cornerback this Sunday when he squares off against the Patriots' Aqib Talib.
- Starting Off With a Bang: After the Browns' defense forced a punt on the Jaguars' first possession, DB Jordan Poyer had a 38-yard punt return to set the offense up with great field position.
There is nothing too fancy about the routes here, but QB Brandon Weeden is going to take a shot deep for WR Josh Gordon, something that would happen for most of the afternoon. Not seen above is a deep safety in the middle of the field.
There is the coverage at the top of the screen, with the safety keeping an eye on TE Jordan Cameron over the middle. Gordon isn't particularly open, but he has the size advantage, and why not give him a chance at making a play? Weeden connects with him for 42 yards, down to the 5 yard line.
The protection wasn't great on this play. We knew heading into this game that the Jaguars often just bring four-man fronts, and that they were one of the lowest sack teams in the league. On this play, Shawn Lauvao gets beat by his man, but he rides him around Weeden just enough. Despite having TE Gary Barnidge as outside help, though, you can see RT Mitchell Schwartz losing the battle to his man with zero inside leverage.
The defender gets a good shot on Weeden. Based on all of the plays I re-watched, this very well may have been when Weeden suffered his concussion. He didn't take a huge hit, but his head did appear to slightly bounce off the ground as he was driven to the ground.
- Jaguars Respond With Henne's Signature Throw: It's a bit frustrating to think your team's defense can be the heart of the team, and yet after two of the team's offensive touchdowns, the defense allowed the Jaguars to march down the entire field to get those points right back. Against a respectable offense, I could live with that. Not the Jaguars.
I referred to this as "Chad Henne's signature throw" because his three best throws of the game involved 20-yard lofters to the left side of the field. With the Browns up 7-0, the Jaguars faced a 1st-and-10 from the 18 yard line. The target is the player to Henne's left, TE Clay Harbor. The defenders to pay attention to are the ones circled: OLB Barkevious Mingo and FS Tashaun Gipson.
Mingo bites for the playaction, and Gipson is playing center field, which means he's not going to have a good shot at defending a flag route from the slot receiver.
As soon as Mingo sees this isn't a run, he instantly turns his back and starts sprinting toward Harbor. That leads me to believe he was supposed to be defending him out in the flat; otherwise, I would've expected him to just drop over in zone coverage on the running back, or continue to rush the passer. Gipson can't get over to the corner in time, and Harbor gets in to tie the game.
- Hitting Gordon With Better Protection: Two offensive possessions later, we are in the second quarter. On the Browns' first big play to WR Josh Gordon, we saw the Jaguars get pressure on QB Brandon Weeden with just four players. This time, the protection is much better.
First, let's look at the play, which was run on a 3rd-and-5 situation. Gordon starts at the top of the screen and is running a dig route.
The Jaguars are playing zone coverage, not double-teaming Gordon. The safety is responsible for him here, but you can see the big opening as Weeden delivers a nice, high strike for 21 yards and a first down.
The Jaguars showed a six-man front, but are only going to rush their four down linemen, as our scouting report indicated. I noticed that Jacksonville doesn't just like to rush people straight up, though; a lot of their defensive rushes varied. On this one, the outside players are going to cut in to try to sneak in between the guard and center, with the inside guys occupying the offensive tackles.
Here, we see RG Shawn Lauvao start off on the guy lined up over him, who is about to engage RT Mitchell Schwartz.
Schwartz waits and blocks the guy who comes at him, and Lauvao picks up the other guy. Weeden has a clean pocket to deliver a strike to Gordon on this play. Unfortunately, there were too many plays where this was not the case.
- Big Play to Cameron: It wasn't a big day statistically for TE Jordan Cameron, but this was one of his big plays.
Two plays after the previous play we showed with Gordon, the Browns faced a 1st-and-10 from the 49 yard line. Cameron is running the out-and-up, while WR Josh Gordon is running another dig route. The box is loaded with defenders, with only a single-high safety.
When Cameron starts doing his out route, he is wide open for a completion, but he continues with the "up" part of the route. The safety decides to pick Cameron late and heads toward his direction. Notice again how Gordon is wide open at the top of the screen too. This was a recurring theme all game long: the Jaguars did not make any extra effort to double team Gordon.
Weeden makes a good, almost back-shoulder throw to Cameron for a completion of 26 yards and another first down.
- Trying to Force One to Little: On the next play, a false start by TE Jordan Cameron made it 1st-and-15 from the 26 yard line. Usually, it would sound ridiculous for a quarterback to key in on one receiver every play like WR Josh Gordon; you want to spread the ball around.
When Weeden takes this snap, he tries to fit the ball in to WR Greg Little. A defender in zone coverage tries to undercut the pass and helps break it up, but it looked like a near-interception. Funny enough, there is Gordon at the top of the screen again, running a dig route and not being double teamed.
- A Little Touch for Six: A few plays later, the Browns faced a 3rd-and-10 from the 21 yard line.
The running back motions to the bottom of the screen, and WR Josh Gordon is in the slot to QB Brandon Weeden's right. The safey at the top of the screen is shading toward the trips formation on the other side of the field. Gordon is going to have a lot of room to work with for a fade to the corner of the end zone.
Gordon is going to win this battle more times than not. He secures the catch in the corner of the end zone, and for the second week in a row, Weeden actually put some touch on a pass like this. Maybe he has learned something during his time on the bench.
- First Strip-Sack Stalls Drive: After the Browns went up 14-7, the Browns actually did respond defensively: CB Joe Haden intercepted a deep pass down the left sideline, which gave Cleveland the ball near midfield.
Facing a 2nd-and-10 from the 47 yard line, QB Brandon Weeden is going to run a playaction fake. WR Josh Gordon is at the top of the screen, faking to the outside before going to the post. TE Jordan Cameron is doing a deep crossing route.
My guess is that Gordon is not the intended target on this play, since Cleveland did not run any receivers down the right side of the field to draw the extra safety over there. Cameron is starting to get open behind the zone here, although the cornerback at the sticks would be waiting for him if the throw leads him too much. Weeden gets stripped of the football, though, as you can see the defender on him.
Once again this is just a four-man rush by the Jaguars. RG Shawn Lauvao seems to have his man as Weeden is going back for the playaction. TE Gary Barnidge is there as an extra chipper, but he starts to drift out once he sees it's only a four-man rush.
The screenshot above happens just as Weeden reaches the end of his dropback on the playaction fake. Lauvao has lost his man badly and gets a free shot at the ball. The Browns don't lose this one, but it sets up a 3rd-and-18 that basically kills the drive.
- Interception Keeps Jaguars in the Game: Both teams traded a couple of possessions back-and-forth with no scoring. Eventually, the Browns began a drive at the 19 yard line, up 14-7, with 2:47 left in the second quarter.
TE Jordan Cameron is in the slot, running a route straight up the seam. WR Josh Gordon is at the bottom of the screen, running a dig route for the millionth time in the game.
With an accurate pass and good timing, Weeden can squeeze this ball in to Cameron, but it's probably not worth it. Why? Both safeties are still playing deep in the middle of the field. Even if Cameron gets his hands on a ball, he's going to take a shot from one of them. At this precise moment, Cameron is looking back at Weeden, and Weeden is about to get ready to fire the ball to him.
Weeden is now throwing the pass, but Cameron takes his eyes off of Weeden to look upfield. I'm guessing he didn't anticipate the throw coming after it wasn't already there when he first looked. Cameron drifts a bit to the middle, and when he looks back again, I still don't think he sees the ball on its way, but now behind him and right at the safety.
I'm not blaming Cameron here, but rather pointing out that had he kept looking, he would have at the very least gotten his hands on the ball by not running toward the middle of the field as much. When head coach Rob Chudzinski was asked about this throw, he said, "It wasn’t late. It was just a tough throw to try and fit in there."
The better decision, given the depth of the safeties, would have been to Gordon, who is open yet again on the dig route.
- Jaguars Capitalize With a Trick Play: The Browns' defense has been terrible this year at stopping teams in the red zone after an offensive turnover -- holding the opposition to a field goal would be huge in limiting the damage.
After two run plays, the Jaguars faced a 3rd-and-1 from the 8 yard line. The Jaguars are going to run a pitch play out to RB Maurice Jones-Drew.
Based on the Browns' defensive set up, if CB Joe Haden doesn't come up, Jones-Drew is going to easily have a first down with the run, and possible a touchdown. He comes up to try to make the stop, and that's when Jones-Drew just flips the ball to TE Marcedes Lewis for the wide-open touchdown.
- Second INT Condemns Weeden: With the game now tied at 14-14, there was 1:20 to play in the half, and Cleveland had a long way to go. The mentality of head coach Rob Chudzinski has been to stay aggressive in these situations.
I drew WR Greg Little at the bottom of the screen doing a comeback route, but it's hard to tell if that's what he was supposed to do, or if he just has trouble gaining his footing. Little runs the route as a very poor looking comeback route, while QB Brandon Weeden throws it as a timing route to the outside.
As Weeden is about to deliver the ball, it doesn't look like this will be picked off if the throw goes to the outside and is reasonably accurate. Also, notice that WR Davone Bess is streaking open in the slot downfield. I don't fault Weeden for missing Bess, though -- you can't analuze every route on the field, and the safety was shading that way initially.
There is the interception. Regarding this play, Chudzinski said, "It was a timing route that he threw to a spot and, again, coverage was too tight." This time, the defense held the Jaguars to a field goal, but now trailed 17-14.
- Trying to Undo the Damage Leads to More: The Browns again tried to be aggressive. This time, they moved the ball a little bit to set up a 3rd-and-4 from the 45 yard line with 0:14 to play in the half.
The routes are mirroring each other on both sides of the field, with the idea of the receivers getting to the sideline. WR Josh Gordon lines up in the slot to QB Brandon Weeden's left.
Regarding this play, head coach Rob Chudzinski said, "The last play there (the sack-fumble) was a matter of protection. We actually had (WR) Josh Gordon open for about a 25-yard gain on the sideline that would have put us in field-goal range. The opportunity to get a field goal there would have been huge going into the half and then having the ball (to start) the next half."
In the screenshot above, you can see what Chudzinski meant by Gordon being open -- a catch-and-run here might set up a field goal for Billy Cundiff around the 47-yard range.
Instead, facing just a four-man rush again, RT Mitchell Schwartz allows his man to strip Weeden of the ball. Thankfully, LG John Greco just barely tripped up the Jaguar defender whose lap the ball fell right in to, otherwise it would've been a walk-in touchdown to close out the half. The field goal made it a 20-14 game, but it should have been 14-7 in Cleveland's favor.
- Threading the Needle to Re-Take the Lead: To the credit of QB Brandon Weeden, he bounced back to begin the third quarter. Several run plays by RB Willis McGahee and a couple of pass plays to WR Josh Gordon (one of which was flagged for unnecessary roughness), set the Browns up with a 2nd-and-goal from the 4 yard line.
Since Gordon wasn't available here, WR Josh Cooper took his spot. Cooper is at the bottom of the screen running a fade. The intended target is WR Greg Little, who is wide right. He is going a fake out and then a slant to the back of the end zone.
Weeden fakes the ball to the running back and then threads the needle to Little. You can see the safety coming fast at Little from the middle of the field.
The throw is actually a tad behind Little, but he does a good job hauling in the pass -- if the ball was out in front, he might have been drilled for a big hit here. Instead, the Jaguar defenders collide with each other, and Cleveland is back on top at 21-20.
- Run Game Heats Up: After a three-and-out, the Browns were back on offense, and for the first time this season, we saw a drive moving the chains via the running game.
Here is the first of those run plays, as RB Willis McGahee takes this for 7 yards. It's the type of production I'd expect from McGahee on this run, but it's painful at the same time: if we had a quicker running back, look how well we have this blocked up. All it would take is one move by the running back, and this play could go for a very sizable gain, maybe even a touchdown.
- Sack Stalls Drive, Missed FG: The Browns had picked up three first downs via the run on the drive, and I was starting to feel confident.
The Browns faced a 3rd-and-6 from the 27 yard line. Formation-wise, this is similar to what the Browns ran near this area when WR Josh Gordon caught the 21-yard touchdown pass earlier in the game. Without Gordon available, though, I believe it is WR Josh Cooper running the deep route at the top of the screen.
The Jaguars finally brought a blitz here after plenty of four-man rushes. LB Paul Posluszny, the extra guy, will end up coming free.
There is Posluszny, and Weeden gets sacked right away for a loss of eight yards. At the bottom of the screen, WR Greg Little was running an out route and was wide open; I think Weeden might have gone to him if the pressure hadn't gotten to him so quickly. Cundiff then missed the 53-yard field goal attempt just a tad wide right.
- Mack's Errant Snap Leads to Safety: The Browns had the ball for about four minutes at the start of the fourth quarter, and the Jaguars had it for the next four minutes. Jacksonville got to midfield before having to punt, so Cleveland took over at the 14 yard line with half of the fourth quarter remaining and a 1-point lead. Great, right? "Our running game has been working, maybe we can run out the clock," I began thinking.
I actually had my head turned to the box score on my computer. The game had just returned from commercial break, and I heard the announcers' voices getting high-pitched as if something was happening. I turned my head to the television to see QB Brandon Weeden kicking the ball out of the end zone for a safety. Of course.
There's always something new in Cleveland, and this time, it involved C Alex Mack having probably the only bad shotgun snap of his career. That snap cost Cleveland the lead, and on top of that, they had to give Jacksonville a possession with good field position. They capitalized with a field goal, taking a four-point lead at 25-21.
- Gordon Makes History, Restores Faith: With 4:09 to play, the Browns got the ball back and what seemed like something magical happened: a 95-yard touchdown to WR Josh Gordon, breaking an NFL record for back-to-back 200+ yard games.
Gordon runs a very deep comeback route at the bottom of the screen. The cornerback drops off toward the outside, letting the safety take anything behind him.
The safety tried to jump the route, but Gordon showed great concentration by hanging on to the pass, and then showed excellent speed as he out-raced defenders who had a head start of momentum for the long, go-ahead touchdown.
- Jaguars' Game-Winning Drive, Part 1: With under four minutes to play, the Browns had a three-point lead. Browns fans had to feel pretty confident about our chances of winning. Jacksonville's offense is supposed to be among the worst in the league, and Ray Horton said our defense would "click" by Thanksgiving. In a worst-case scenario, I thought we would give up a field goal and then have to face overtime.
There were two big passing plays on the drive for Chad Henne. Remember the "signature pass" I referred to earlier? Here is one of them. WR Ace Sanders is in the slot to the bottom of the screen. He runs a short route at S Tahshaun Gipson, and then goes out for a wheel route.
Gipson is flat-footed and too busy staring at the quarterback. When Sanders makes his move, he has a full step or two on Gipson, who is late to react.
Henne makes a good throw to the outside, complete for 25 yards and a first down at midfield.
- Jaguars' Game-Winning Drive, Part 2: This was the final dagger.
The Jaguars faced a 3rd-and-9 from the 20 yard line with 0:45 left in the game. A field goal from this range is within range for K Josh Scobee (37 yards), so the Browns' defense has to make sure nobody gets behind them. At the bottom of the screen, WR Cecil Shorts III fakes one step in, and then fades to the corner.
There's the fake, and CB Joe Haden bites for it. My only guess is that Haden wanted a chance to intercept a pass and prevent even an overtime from taking place.
Instead, Henne does one more "signature throw," and he connects with Shorts for the go-ahead, 20-yard touchdown.
- Nearly Another Blunder by Jaguars' Defense: With the Jaguars now leading 32-28, the Browns needed a miracle: a touchdown with 0:40 to go. On a 2nd-and-10 play, they almost got it, though.
WR Josh Gordon lined up as the first stacked receiver at the top of the screen. He is running an out-and-up, while WR Greg Little is behind him just running straight up the seam. The safety at the top will eventually have a predicament regarding who to choose.
The cornerback initially on Gordon stays short, but the safety still hasn't made a decision regarding who to help with. When Gordon does the "up" part of his route...
...he's got separation.
Here is another angle. QB Brandon Weeden's pass goes out of bounds, but if the ball was accurate or even to the inside part of the field a little more, Gordon could have run under it and would've beaten the safety for a touchdown and a 300+ yard receiving day.
- Final Assessments: It's painful to see yet another mid-season collapse by the Browns, especially with a team that we thought had so much promise defensively. Instead, we're not getting the big plays defensively, the mistakes on offense cost us points every time, and now we're looking at possibly our fourth quarterback of the season next Sunday.
- Special Teams Tackles: There were two special teams tackles by the Browns with one each for each by LB Brandon Magee and P Spencer Lanning. There were two assists, with one each by each by Magee and LB Eric Martin.
- Snap Counts on Offense & Defense: If you missed them, here are the links to our snap count trackers for offense (link) and defense (link). On offense, TE Andre Smith saw a couple of snaps, and WR Josh Cooper played while WR Josh Gordon was getting checked out for a concussion. On defense, CB Leon McFadden saw his most action of the season.
- Brownies: The Jaguars converted 7-of-16 (44%) third downs, while the Browns converted 6-of-13 (46%) third downs. ... Early in the game, it seemed like ILB Darius Eubanks was responsible for some of Jacksonville's longer run plays. ... P Spencer Lanning had a horrible day; he had several opportunities to pin the Jaguars back inside the 10 yard line, but either had a touchback or a very short punt. ... The Browns had a punt protection penalty when they lined up in an illegal formation (the right tackle was off the line). ... DB Jordan Poyer did a pretty good job on punt returns. ... At the end of the game, I think RB Fozzy Whittaker should have attempted to return the kickoff, rather than settling for a touchback.
Up next, the Browns take on the Patriots. We can't rule out the Browns looking competitive (the Texans did it last week against New England), but the odds certainly aren't stacked in Cleveland's favor, being on the road, against a quick passing offense, and with a new quarterback possibly under center.