The Cleveland Browns suffered their worst loss of the season this past Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. Although the Browns somehow found themselves still within striking distance at the beginning of the fourth quarter, it truly was a game in which the offense couldn't do anything right (thanks, Brandon Weeden) and the defense failed to fluster Aaron Rodgers. Let's get to my complete game review to see some of the things that went wrong.
WEEK 7 - CLEVELAND BROWNS VS. GREEN BAY PACKERS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
- Goat of the Game: QB Brandon Weeden - It was awful.
- Awarding the Game Ball: TE Jordan Cameron - On a day in which a lot of players struggled, Cameron's 7-catch, 55-yard, 1-touchdown performance might not jump out at you on the stat sheet, but he made several tough catches near the sideline. Two of his catches earlier in the game went for first downs on catches right at the boundary, and he also held on to Weeden's fourth-down rocket for a score.
- Bad Start Sets the Tone: The Browns got off to a poor start to the game. First, we had to look at the Packers' hideous uniforms. Then, QB Brandon Weeden airmailed his first two passes despite having open receivers. If this were a home game, we might have heard the loudest boo birds all season. Mentally, I think Weeden was hearing those boo birds still, and that's not a good thing.
The Packers got great field position to start their first drive after a not-so-good punt, but we really needed the defense to step up early after struggling against the Lions the week before. Holding Green Bay to a field goal would have lessened the blow of the bad start.
Unfortunately, the Browns are going to look bad as they give up a touchdown. TE Jermichael Finley, who is lined up in the slot, is going to get a quick hitter. LB Craig Robertson and S Tashaun Gipson are circled as defenders who should be able to make a tackle.
QB Aaron Rodgers doesn't even hesitate: he goes for Finley, and I think that's a sign of seeing Robertson's issues in coverage last week. Robertson whiffs on the tackle here. Then, Gipson comes up but gets bowled over by Finley. CB Buster Skrine disengages his blocker and goes for a low tackle, but it doesn't work. Finley does a spin move and rumbles into the end zone. Three missed tackles on a tight end only amplified the dark day ahead for the Browns.
Others to Blame Too: Let me be clear on one thing: There are no excuses for QB Brandon Weeden this week. He was awful, except for a couple of throws. With that said, his teammates didn't help him, which is either a bad sign for whoever may quarterback next, or a sign that they just are mentally "not in it" because their lack of faith in Weeden has drained them.
Let's start with a 2nd-and-5 on the Browns' second offensive possession. WR Davone Bess is in the slot. The Packers are going to bring a corner blitz here.
To Weeden's credit, he sees the blitz and fires it to Bess in stride. The guy who was supposed to be "Mr. Reliable" drops another pass, which is then followed by a false start by LT Joe Thomas, and a timeout. Unacceptable.
Max Protection, Long Routes on Third Down: On the next offensive play, the Browns are facing a 3rd-and-10.
The Packers have six guys in the box, and they are all about to come on the blitz. Cleveland is prepared with seven blockers, which means they'll have three receivers going up against five defensive backs.
The safeties have double coverage on the outside receivers, and WR Davone Bess is running a very deep out route. For a guy who holds on to the ball too much, why are we having every route take forever to be run? There is no bailout plan.
Given the numbers game in protection, though, an accurate pass to WR Davone Bess might move the chains still. Here is FB Chris Ogbonnaya getting ready to block a blitzing A.J. Hawk.
Ugh. Ogbonnaya is useless here, as Hawk bulldozes him back two yards and gets right into Weeden as he attempts to find Bess, resulting in an underthrow and an incompletion.
Passing on 3rd-and-1: The Browns were bailed out on this drive above by the Packers committing a roughing the punter penalty. Cleveland got near field goal range, down 7-0, and faced a 3rd-and-1 after having just pulled off a 7-yard run by RB Fozzy Whittaker.
The Browns look to be in an obvious passing formation here.
Weeden has time to throw, but decides to make the quick decision to throw to RB Fozzy Whittaker in the flat. The pass is overthrown by about a foot and falls incomplete. I think Weeden throws the ball as if Whittaker is going to run perpendicular to the sideline. Instead, Whittaker drifts upfield by about a yard as he runs the out. Either way, you imagine that a quarterback with more touch could have led Whittaker here for a first down. Cameron was also open enough over the middle.
Passing on 4th-and-1: The Browns opted to go for it on 4th-and-1, which is fine because a field goal would be from long distance.
Once again, the Browns are in a formation that shows no real threat to run the ball. Compared to the previous play, the big difference here is that WR Davone Bess is now in the game.
There are multiple things wrong with the execution here. First off, I think the Browns were trying to do a rub play of sorts with TE Jordan Cameron to get WR Davone Bess free. It doesn't work, so Bess runs further down the field to try to get past his defender and then to the sideline (boy, it'd be nice if Bess could have seen all the open field over the middle and made an adjustment). Another issue is that Weeden needs to see that the play didn't work. He has a good enough pocket -- he needs to step up into it and scan the other side of the field. If he steps up, I bet WR Josh Gordon rolls to the right sideline and we can get a completion to him.
Instead, Weeden throws for Bess, who doesn't have his man beat (and is right on top of Cameron, which further proves my hunch that this route was botched). CB Davon House makes the interception. It's also worth noting that OG John Greco allowed his man to dive at the feed of QB Brandon Weeden. Had Weeden moved in the pocket, he would've avoided this.
Third Down Defensive Woes Continue: The Packers converted 7-of-13 (53%) of their third downs, including 6-of-8 (75%) in the first half. Whatever Ray Horton tried to change this week, it still didn't work.
Here is an example of one of the Packers' 3rd-down conversions. Facing a 3rd-and-5 in the first quarter, the Packers are going to give the ball to RB Eddie Lacy. The Packers block it perfectly: they know OLB Barkevious Mingo is going to try to rush the passer off the edge, so they let him blow by. The center runs up and gets in LB D'Qwell Jackson's way. The left guard just shields off DE Desmond Bryant after he sees him make an inside move.
There's the hole -- Lacy takes this for 13 yards, helping to set up a touchdown a few plays later to go up 14-0. Again, 10-0 would've been a whole lot different than 14-0, even just mentally. The defense faltered again.
Gordon Slips, and Traction in General: What in the world was wrong with the Browns' traction all game long? Yes, I understand that it was raining, but the Packers weren't slipping at all, and yet we saw offensive and defensive players on Cleveland slipping left and right.
Here's a play at the end of the first quarter with Cleveland facing a 3rd-and-5.
Right at the snap, you can see QB Brandon Weeden wanting to go to WR Josh Gordon at the top of the screen, I assume for a quick slant. Gordon slips down to the ground right away.
Weeden then looks to his left and fires immediately to TE Jordan Cameron, but only for four yards to set up a 4th-and-1.
Fortunate on the Fake Punt: On the next play, the Browns pull off another fake punt.
You can see the unbalanced line here. P Spencer Lanning is on the far right, and LS Christian Yount is next to him on the left. The snapper is C Alex Mack. The Browns have the numbers game here: five blockers on the left, and only four defenders. Keep an eye on the player directly in front of Mack.
The Browns only need a yard here, and I'm dumbfounded as to what happened with the blocking assignments. Mack just completely ignores the guy in front of him, and he gets a free release at Ogbonnaya. I give a lot of credit to Ogbonnaya for shedding the tackle for what could have been a big loss of yardage. I still think Ogbonnaya came up a half yard short of a first down, but the officials gave Cleveland a generous spot and didn't have enough evidence on replay to overturn the call.
Not Reading the Safety: Would the Browns capitalize on their stroke of good fortune? Nope.
Facing a 2nd-and-10 after the fake punt, here are the routes the Browns will run.
QB Brandon Weeden has enough time to throw, and more than enough time to read the safety. There is no way this ball should be going to WR Greg Little at the top of the screen, but it does. The pass gets knocked away amidst the double team collision. A much better decision would've been to find TE Jordan Cameron deep over the middle in single coverage, probably against a linebacker.
Unnecessarily Quick Checkdown: Would things get better in the second quarter for the offense? Not really.
This play is an example that QB Brandon Weeden is just lost in my book. It's not like he's QB Colt McCoy and just exclusively checks it down every play. He'll hold on to the ball when he shouldn't, but yet in a play like this, he'll get rid of the ball immediately for no good reason.
After a playaction, look at the pocket that QB Brandon Weeden has. He immediately dumps the ball off to RB Fozzy Whittaker, who only gains three yards before being tackled. Why not step up and see if someone breaks open, or fire a comeback route to WR Travis Benjamin at the top of the screen?
McGahee Releases Too Late: The Browns do end up getting a first down on the drive mentioned above, and now face a 2nd-and-8.
The Browns are going to have max protection here with only three receivers going out again.
Here is the problem I have on this play: six defenders drop back in coverage against three receivers. I don't blame Weeden for not making a quick decision here. He actually does the right thing and quickly turns his head toward RB Willis McGahee (circled above). McGahee doesn't recognize the situation quick enough: there is no one for him to block, but he never leaks out of the backfield. As he finally starts to leak out, the guy OG Shawn Lauvao was blocking beats him and sacks Weeden for a loss of 10 yards.
Not Taking a Risk, Secures a Field Goal: Facing a 3rd-and-18, QB Brandon Weeden escaped the pocket.
The first red line is the line of scrimmage, and the second red line is the first down marker. Weeden would have a lot of time to sit here and see if someone breaks open; there isn't a defender within 15-20 yards of him. He could fire a pass in to WR Greg Little at the bottom of the screen. If he has the patience and aggressiveness, he could've actually looked to the other side of the field and seen his running back wide open for a possible touchdown.
Instead, he runs for a gain of 11 yards to set up a field goal. It's not a horrible decision because it did get us into field goal range, but Weeden seems to have zero aggressiveness these days in taking shots. Stop worrying about getting intercepted and let it rip.
Corner Blitz Works Again: Down 17-3 heading into the second half, the defense came alive a little bit in the third quarter.
Facing a 3rd-and-10, the Browns decided to bust out their weekly corner blitz, and it worked again. I think that is a 100% success rate on corner blitzes this season. CB Chris Owens comes from the top of the screen, and S T.J. Ward picks up the receiver.
OLB Paul Kruger and Owens combine for the sack. It actually has another benefit: it makes the field goal try for K Mason Crosby longer (52 yards), and he misses it a few yards short.
Not Taking a Shot, Third Quarter: Facing a 2nd-and-5 on their first series in the third quarter, can the offense build on the momentum of the defense?
Here are the routes being run; mirror images on both sides of the field.
There are a few things I don't like here. First, the short receivers just stand there, making no effort to roll to the sideline to perhaps get away from their defender. Weeden is not going to throw into that tight coverage. Second, Weeden has a shot at a receiver deep, with protection. He doesn't want to take the shot, though, and opts to tuck it and run. If he was mobile, maybe that's a fine decision. He is not, and gets hit for a loss of two yards. That gets followed by a false start by RT Mitchell Schwartz.
Too Zoned in on Gray, Misses Gordon: Maybe I have a hunch on the element of predictability at times with our offense, but I called this play right away.
The big thing I noticed pre-snap was TE MarQueis Gray at the bottom of the screen. He doesn't play much, and if he does, it's at the quarterback position, or in a goal line run formation. When I saw this, I thought we were going to take a shot deep at him on 1st-and-10 (this is now in the fourth quarter, with the score 17-6 Packers).
Gray has single coverage on the outside, so it's not a terrible decision to take a shot deep with him here. The problem is that the play is inaccruate again and goes out of bounds, so Gray never has a chance to make a play on the ball. Here is the bigger problem, though: Weeden is so zoned in on Gray that he doesn't see WR Josh Gordon running across the field right in front of him wide open. If Weeden hits Gordon, based on where the defenders are, this could be a big play. If the Browns score a touchdown to make it 17-13, this is a whole new ball game, even despite how awful we'd been up to this point.
The 4th-and-15 Drop & Passing on a FG: A few plays later, the Browns faced a 4th-and-15. At first, I was befuddled as to why head coach Rob Chudzinski passed on a 48-yard field goal attempt (which would have made it an 8-point game) in favor of the low success rate of a 4th-and-15 play. In the post-game, Chudzinski said that the wind would have made it a tough kick. I will give Chudzinski the benefit of the doubt. If Cundiff was coming up short on his practice kicks from this side of the field, then he may have felt there was no chance of him connecting. Remember that his two previous field goals in the game came from the other direction.
Now then, let's get to the play the Browns did end up running. The formation is shown above.
Despite the Packers only bringing a four-man front, OG John Greco loses his man right away (circled), and a defender is coming in on Weeden. The Packers' secondary does a poor job defending WR Josh Gordon, as you can see him breaking free behind the defense.
Weeden lobs the ball up, but the cornerback has a chance to catch up with Gordon now, who is trying to stop and come back to the ball.
Gordon jumps perhaps a hair too early, and the cornerback sticks his arm in between Gordon's hands to knock the ball away. Here is what I think about this play: I wish Gordon would have been able to outmuscle the defender and make a better play on this ball, but I think it's overblown that he was giving effort or was the reason this play failed.
Slipping Defenders in 4th Quarter: After that 4th-and-15 incompletion, the Packers scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Why couldn't the defense get a stop after their success in the third quarter? Because of a combination of no pressure, and more slipping.
The Packers are only sending two receivers out on this play, so they have eight guys protecting Aaron Rodgers.
After a playaction, you can see the protection that Rodgers has. At the top of the screen, CB Buster Skrine is starting to slip as he turns to cover WR Brandon Boykin's out route.
There is more evidence of the slipping as Rodgers has the ball in mid-flight now.
Skrine tries to re-gather himself but overruns Boykin. S Tashaun Gipson tries to come over to help, but has slipped on his ass as well. Boykin gets down to the 1 yard line, and the Packers punch it in one play later.
The screenshot above shows the final touchdown of the game by the Packers. The ball is on the way to Boykin again, and Skrine has again completely slipped in the end zone.
I'll Never Do That Again: After the flip pass interception against the Lions, offensive coordinator Norv Turner said, "It’s not excusable for anyone and it doesn’t make it right that someone else has done it. But we’re gonna eliminate it."
"Eliminate this!" Weeden exclaims, as he tries to impress Turner by showing he can unsuccessfully underhand flip a pass toward RB Chris Ogbonnaya for the second week in a row. I don't think Browns fans were even made when they saw this play; at least for me, I just couldn't help but laugh.
- Final Assessments: I said this earlier in the week, but I will repeat it here:
There are times when a quarterback stirs up excitement, and you buy in to the hope that he can deliver a good outing more times than not. In Cleveland, that hope seems to quickly phase out -- we've seen it with Kelly Holcomb before, and most recently with Derek Anderson. They get to a point where you are just "done" with them at quarterback. After weeks of giving him chances, that's where I'm at with Brandon Weeden.
The offensive line is back, and the receivers are all here. There are no more excuses. Weeden is not going to magically become a better decision-maker, and he misses too many throws. Most importantly, he cannot put together a complete game.
Prior to the season, I felt that the only way we should bench Weeden is if he was the sole reason our offense was looking pitiful for a string of several games. That's where we're at right now. I didn't think we'd get to this point, but a change to Jason Campbell is necessary; not because I think he'll light the world on fire, but because you have to see if somebody else can stablize things enough to keep you competitive in games.
The defense has to improve too. The most points the Chiefs have given up in a game this year is 17 points, and they are generating difference-maker turnovers. The Browns are giving up too many scores, and the turnovers (and sacks recently) are down.
- Special Teams Tackles: There were three special teams tackles by the Browns with one tackle each from LB Quentin Groves, LB Tank Carder, and CB Chris Owens. There were two assists, with one each from RB Chris Ogbonnaya and LB Paul Hazel.
- 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, RB Fozzy Whittaker saw his first action of the season and even played more reps than FB Chris Ogbonnaya. On defense, OLB Jabaal Sheard returned, but didn't have a significant impact on the outcome of the game.
- Brownies: RB Fozzy Whittaker showed a good burst on kickoffs, averaging 34.3 yards per return. ... WR Travis Benjamin also had a kick return (his first of the year) and took it 86 yards to help set up Cleveland's only touchdown of the game. ... CB Joe Haden did a respectable job defending WR Jordy Nelson on the day. ... LB Tank Carder was offsides on Cleveland's successful onside kick attempt. ... LB Eric Martin was flagged 15 yards for a late hit on a punt return.
After averaging 5.1 yards per carry heading into the game, the Browns held the Packers to just 3.6 yards per carry. ... OLB Jabaal Sheard returned to action but was relatively quiet. ... TE MarQueis Gray ran the read-option twice, but it didn't work either time. ... TE Gary Barnidge needs to start being used on routes down the field, because otherwise it's just too predcitable what he's doing (blocking, or a covered flat route). ... The officials seemed to botch several calls during the game, which hurt the Packers in the first half and hurt the Browns in the second half.
Up next, the Browns take on the Kansas City Chiefs. With the Chiefs perfect on the season, can Cleveland change their formula at quarterback to pull off a redemption win after two straight losses?