The Browns defeated the Buccaneers by a final score of 22-17 this past Sunday. I tried reviewing this game as quickly as I could so that we could start jumping into our coverage for the Bengals game this Thursday, so let's get right to my complete game review.
WEEK 9 - TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS
(COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
- Awarding the Game Ball: RB Terrance West - Even though anybody would have been open on the touchdown reception he had, the highlight everyone was talking about after the game was the key block West had on the game-winning touchdown pass.
- Goat of the Game: C Nick McDonald - You'll see three examples in this game review of McDonald being abused by the Buccaneers' defensive line. Whatever progress that McDonald made last week vanished with his performance against the Buccaneers.
- Bucs Exploit the Size Difference: If there is one thing we should give the Buccaneers credit for, it's the fact that they exploited the matchup of 5-9 CB Buster Skrine going up against 6-4 WR Mike Evans. I couldn't believe this was the first 100+ yard performance of the season for Evans.
After picking up three first downs, the Buccaneers faced a 1st-and-10 from the 43 yard line. At the top of the screen, Evans is lined up one-on-one with Skrine. The Browns are going to bring a criss-cross blitz with their inside linebackers.
At first, the Browns have a guy coming free, but RB Bobby Rainey steps up to provide the chip as QB Mike Glennon stands tall in the pocket.
Evans is using his body to ensure he has a lot of space to the sideline.
Glennon has good ball placement, and he connects with Evans for 27 yards to move into field goal range.
- Haden Shields Vincent Jackson: On the very next play, QB Mike Glennon wanted to take another shot.
This time, the matchup at the top of the screen pits WR Vincent Jackson against CB Joe Haden. Jackson is lined up a little closer to the sideline than Evans was on the previous play.
Haden rides Jackson to the sideline so much that Jackson actually starts running out of bounds. Glennon hits Jackson in stride in the end zone, but he catches the ball with both feet out of bounds.
- Winn Leaps Over for Blocked FG: This is something you won't see very often, and it certainly adds up to be a difference maker by the end of the game.
DL Billy Winn lines up to the right of the long snapper.
At the snap, Winn puts each of his hands on the linemen in front of him and leapfrogs over them.
Winn blocks the field goal with his left arm.
Here is where CB Joe Haden makes a mental mistake given the same situation. Because the kick is blocked, the Browns are going to take over possession, no matter what. Therefore, you want to take the risk of a scoop and score -- instead, Haden dives to the ground to safely secure the ball, and is touched down. If he, or one of the other Browns, just picks it up, the field goal units for offense have no fast players, and it probably goes for a touchdown return. [Here is the video of Winn leaping for the block]
- McDonald Abused Early & Often: The Browns' first play was a 20-yard completion from QB Brian Hoyer to WR Andrew Hawkins.
After a run play for a loss of 1 yard, the Browns faced a 2nd-and-11 at close to midfield. DT Gerald McCoy is going go go right after C Nick McDonald, who seems to recognize right away that McCoy is his man -- he's not taken off guard by that.
McCoy drive McDonald back instantly...
...and sends him to the ground before plunging into Hoyer for a six-yard sack. [Here is the video of McDonald being abused]
- Tight Window to Benjamin: Things look dire on 3rd-and-17, but the Browns are actually going to convert to move the chains.
WR Travis Benjamin will be the targeted receiver from the slot, running a route down the middle of the field. There will be a spot in between the zone coverage, but QB Brian Hoyer will have to fit it into a tight window.
It's a great throw as Benjamin goes up to haul it in for 31 yards. Thankfully, the safety whiffs on his big hit, otherwise Benjamin would probably still have a helmet imprint in his back.
- McDonald Hurts the Run Game Too: Facing a 1st-and-10 on the next play, the problems at center didn't just result in negatives for the passing game.
QB Brian Hoyer is going to hand the ball off to RB Ben Tate. The defensive tackle is going to push C Nick McDonald several yards into the backfield.
Tate has just received the football here. If McDonald had gotten a good block, there's a nice hole forming between LT Joe Thomas and RG Joel Bitonio. Instead, McDonald is flattened...
...and the defensive tackle crushes Tate for a loss of 3 yards. The drive stalled from here, but this play helped set up the Browns' first score of the game, a 49-yard field goal by K Billy Cundiff to go up 3-0.
- Big Screen Pass to Rainey: On the Buccaneers' next drive, two straight incompletions set up a 3rd-and-10 situation. That's when the Buccaneers dialed up a screen pass for WR Bobby Rainey that went for big yardage.
From a personnel standpoint, the Browns did something very unusual on this play: from my recollection, they inserted ILB Tank Carder and S Johnson Bademosi into the defense for the first time all season. They are positioned as the inside linebackers and are going to do a criss-cross blitz with the Browns in man coverage.
The illusion is given that Carder and Bademosi are both going to get to the quarterback free. With this being their first defensive snap of the season, what are the odds that they'll recognize a screen pass is coming? S Donte Whitner will follow the tight end in man coverage to the other side of the field.
At the right time, the three linemen who were in the middle before release into the flat.
Honestly, Rainey doesn't even need his linemen for this screen. The play goes for 34 yards and into Browns territory past the half-way point of the first quarter.
- Glennon Doesn't Make Gilbert Pay: Facing a 2nd-and-8 from the 37 yard line, the Buccaneers wanted to continue using WR Mike Evans' height.
This time, Evans is matched up with rookie CB Justin Gilbert at the bottom of the screen. Evans is going to fake an in route before taking off deep.
Glennon does a little shoulder fake as Evans cuts in, and that draws Gilbert up in coverage.
Evans has Gilbert beat down the sideline.
If the throw is up the field and toward the end zone, Evans probably has a touchdown here. Instead, the throw is toward the sideline, as you can see Evans trying to reposition his body.
Evans tries to make an acrobatic catch, but cannot. The Buccaneers don't convert on third down either, so they send out the field goal unit for a long distance attempt.
- Bucs Come Up Short from 55 Yards: With the Buccaneers' attempt being blocked earlier, that could always play into the psyche of a kicker -- maybe they'll want to kick it higher to avoid it from getting blocked, which could result in a lower kick.
The yellow arrow points to DL Billy Winn after the ball is snapped. This time, the offensive lineman makes the extra effort to bury his head into Winn. For a brief moment, the defender in green has a window in which he could shoot through.
The Buccaneers do a good job forming a wall with their arms, though, to contain the Browns' rush. Fortunately for Cleveland, the kick ends up falling just short from 55 yards out, preserving the Browns' 3-0 lead.
- Haden's Tip Drill Leads to INT: After the missed field goal, the Browns couldn't take advantage of good field position and punted, pinning the Buccaneers back at the 8 yard line.
After a pair of first downs, the Buccaneers faced a 1st-and-10 from the 31 yard line. CB Joe Haden is lined up on WR Vincent Jackson at the top of the screen, and he's going to end up not having safety help on a deep route.
Glennon is able to step up into the pocket, and when Jackson runs his post, he has a step on Haden to the inside as SS Donte Whitner trails while the ball is in the air.
Here is another angle to show that Jackson has the edge on Haden with a good throw. Keep in mind that the separation is not as bad as it seems, because Haden is running with better strides than Jackson.
The ball is underthrown and Haden makes an awesome play by jumping up to tip the ball, similar to what he did against WR Antonio Brown a few weeks ago. This time, a teammate is able to haul in the tip: SS Donte Whitner, who returns it 54 yards to set the Browns up at the 21 yard line. [Here is the video of the tip from Haden to Whitner]
- Misdirection Throw to Tate: On the first play after the interception, the Browns used one of their favorite and most effective plays this season: misdirection with a throw back to the other side of the field.
After QB Brian Hoyer fakes a run to RB Ben Tate to the right, Hoyer is going to roll out to his left where both of his receivers are running.
All of the action initially went toward Tate, but now look at everybody start chasing Hoyer.
Hoyer has some time, and he's trying to use his eyes to move one final person out of position: the safety in the middle of the field. Once he crosses the hashmarks, Hoyer is going to whip around and look for Tate, who also knows to take off at the same time.
There is Tate raising his arm that he is open. The Browns do seem to have an ineligible lineman down field, but maybe I don't know the full rules on that.
Hoyer gets drilled as he unleashes the throw to Tate.
An ideal throw would have safely led Tate into the end zone for a touchdown. Instead, the throw is right on the sideline. Tate does a good job securing the ball, but I'll tell you this: it would've been tough for a wide receiver to stay in bounds here too, knowing how close to the sideline he must be getting. The play goes for 16 yards and a first down to the 5 yard line.
A 4-yard run by Tate on the final play of the first quarter sets up 2nd-and-goal at the 1 yard line. Sadly, Cleveland couldn't punch it in and had to settle for a 29-yard field goal to go up 6-0 at the beginning of the second quarter.
- Whitner's Sack Negated: After picking up two first downs, the Buccaneers faced a 1st-and-10 from near midfield.
SS Donte Whitner is going to come on a safety blitz at the snap, and the fullback will try to block him.
Whitner beats the blocker, and QB Mike Glennon never senses the danger coming.
Whitner makes a great, impact play by getting the sack, strip, and fumble recovery here. Unfortunately, and really unrelated to the play, DL Desmond Bryant puts his hands in the face of OT Oniel Cousins right in front of the official, so the flag negates the play.
- Bucs Get TD After Browns Bring the House: The penalty ended up being costly. Facing a 3rd-and-11, QB Mike Glennon made the Browns pay for bringing the house.
Well, at least the Browns showed like they were going to bring the house. There was no safety help on this play, though, and Glennon could see that from the get-go. Glennon likes the matchup down the seam with CB K'Waun Williams trying to cover WR Mike Evans.
It would've been nice if Cleveland had actually tried bringing the house, but instead of blitzing all 8 men, they only brought 6 and just hovered two of their linebackers around the line of scrimmage. Glennon is protected enough to get a throw off.
Given the situation, the coverage isn't bad by Williams. It's easier said than done to get your head around in these types of situations as a cornerback. Williams gets his hand wedged into Evans' chest as he makes the catch, but Evans holds on as Williams tries to trip the ball out all the way down to the ground. The touchdown fives the Buccaneers their first lead of the game at 7-6, mid-way through the second quarter.
- Hoyer Overthrows Hawkins for INT: We've seen some bad stretches of Browns football before, and this was one of them.
The Browns' first play after the Buccaneers took the lead saw QB Brian Hoyer throwing an interception to CB Johnthan Banks. Banks is covering WR Andrew Hawkins at the top of the screen.
Hoyer takes a quick drop back, pops up, and fires the slant to Hawkins. The play is there to be made.
However, it's overthrown and Banks makes the interception. Quarterbacks are allowed to have bad throws every now and then, just as long as they don't happen as frequently as they did against Oakland the week prior.
- Browns Blow Up the Run: Facing a 1st-and-goal at the 10 yard line, naturally, all I'm thinking about is whether the defense can minimize the damage and holds the Buccaneers to a field goal. They ended up doing better than that.
On the first play of the drive, DE Desmond Bryant is going to shoot through and get penetration deep into the backfield on this running play.
RB Bobby Rainey is forced to bounce to the outside.
When he does, ILB Karlos Dansby and OLB Jabaal Sheard have him cornered. Rainey takes a loss of 5 yards, making it a 2nd-and-15.
- Gipson's INT on Glennon Overthrow: QB Mike Glennon used the height of his receivers to his advantage a few times in this game, but he also made some ugly throws that were costly.
Glennon is going to try to hit WR Mike Evans over the middle; he is lined up as the slot receiver.
FS Tashaun Gipson follows the eyes of Glennon and goes toward the middle of the field. From this angle, I couldn't actually tell who Glennon was trying to throw the ball to because the pass was so ridiculously bad.
Looking at this angle, you can clearly tell that Evans was the intended receiver. Maybe Glennon thought Evans was going to run straight up the field instead of coming across.
Either way, the throw isn't even in the same zip code as Evans, so Gipson makes the interception.
After the game, Gipson said that he things he would've had a pick six had WR Vincent Jackson not barely tripped him up. He might have been right. If ILB Karlos Dansby gets a block on the running back, then Gipson would've only had Glennon to beat for the score.
- McDonald Pushed Back Again: After the interception, Cleveland took over at their own 8 yard line. The first play was a 6-yard run by RB Terrance West.
Facing a 2nd-and-4, the Browns want to continue trying to establish the run. They go for a pitch play to West.
C Nick McDonald is beat badly again. Before West even receives the pitch, you can see the defensive tackle already salivating at what's for lunch.
The Buccaneers hit West for a loss of four yards. Facing a 3rd-and-8, Cleveland has to punt. The Buccaneers eventually get into field goal range and kick a 40-yard field goal to take a 10-6 lead with 2:29 to play in the first half.
- The Decision to Play for the FG: One of the controversial decisions made by head coach Mike Pettine on Sunday came at the end of the first half. Instead of using a timeout to possibly keep the drive alive for a touchdown opportunity, he let the time go all the way down before taking a timeout. Cleveland eventually kicked a 43-yard field goal to be down 10-9 heading into the half.
I thought it was outstanding situational awareness by Pettine and his staff. The Browns were being aggressive at first. They had a 2nd-and-7 at the 34 yard line with 0:54 left. Then, QB Brian Hoyer was dumped for a loss of 7 yards, making it 3rd-and-14 at the 41 yard line with about 0:48 left. Cleveland let the clock run down to 0:15 before calling a timeout.
Let's go back: if the Browns call a timeout with 0:48 left, what are the odds a team converts a 3rd-and-14? Not very good. Let's say we ran a quick play for five yards. Facing a 4th-and-11 at the 36 yard line, the Buccaneers could call a timeout with about 0:40 left. Let's say we send K Billy Cundiff out for what would be a 53 yard field goal, a range he's historically terrible at. If he misses, the Buccaneers take over at the 43 yard line. All they'd need is one sideline play to Evans again, and they'd be kicking a field goal to go up 13-6 heading into the half.
By taking the clock down, Pettine played it so that with 0:15 left, if Cundiff missed a field goal, you leave very little, if any, time for Tampa Bay to get a play off, let alone two plays (one being the field goal).
I understand why the move was harassed by fans, but it was the right one.
- Back Door Pass to Dray: The Browns got the ball first to start the second half, and a couple of big plays set them up with a 3rd-and-1 at the 39 yard line.
At first, when QB Brian Hoyer went back across the field again on this play, I thought he had improvised something. Surely, you don't run that on a 3rd-and-1, right? Wrong. This is how it looks to have been scripted. TE Jim Dray is going to fake coming across, only to go back to the complete opposite side of the field from Hoyer.
Based on where Hoyer is rolling, the green area is where a defense would normally expect Dray to run toward. Instead, Dray is cutting right here, before Hoyer even complete his rollout.
The coverage on Dray isn't bad, but the tight end does have a step on his defender.
Hoyer drops this one in perfectly to Dray, who also deserves credit for a great catch. He's been one heck of a free agent pickup for Cleveland. The 26 yard gain helps set up the Browns' first touchdown of the game.
- T. West Finds Paydirt: Actually, first I should note that the Browns were stopped at first and were all set to kick a field goal to take a 12-10 lead. On the kick, DT Gerald McCoy jumped into the neutral zone, and the officials immediately proclaimed "first down, Cleveland." As soon as they said that, I pointed out to a relative, "whoa, that's supposed to be half the distance to the goal -- if they get this right, we'll be a half yard short."
The officials did get it right, but not before Mike Pettine had sent the offense onto the field already. This is where I think emotions got involved. If the officials had initially declared, "still fourth down," I think we leave the field goal unit out there. In this situation, Pettine was in a pickle. I would've kicked a field goal to take the lead. We went for it, and RB Terrance West got two yards for the first down.
Facing a 2nd-and-goal from the 2 yard line, QB Brian Hoyer ran a playaction fake. The linebackers on the edge crash in for the run, leaving West wide open in the flat.
There is the progression of the play.
Touchdown. The Browns opted to kick the extra point only, giving them a 16-10 lead.
- Trying to Hit Hawkins Deep: The Buccaneers got into Browns territory on their first drive of the second half and faced a 3rd-and-1 from the 40 yard line. For the second week in a row, SS Donte Whitner knifed in to stop a run, hitting RB Mike James for a loss of 2 yard and forcing the Buccaneers to punt. [See the video of Whitner knifing in here]
Backed up in their own territory, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan wanted to hit the home run ball. WR Andrew Hawkins is going to be the only receiver in this route.
QB Brian Hoyer runs the playaction fake and even the deep safety bites. Hawkins has one-on-one coverage, but he also has so much open field! He takes the yellow path all the way, but if he improvised and went toward the green area in time for Hoyer to see him, this could have been a huge play.
Instead, Hawkins tries to win a footrace. Hoyer has released the ball here, but the cornerback is step-for-step with Hawkins down the middle.
The pass is on line, but overthrown by five yards. Cleveland later has to punt, and since they were backed up, Tampa Bay gets good starting field position.
- Evans Gets the Better of Skrine Again: I don't know if CB Buster Skrine got to win any of his battles on Sunday, unfortunately.
With 2:56 to play in the third quarter, WR Mike Evans is going to streak down the sideline against Skrine, much like he did in the first quarter.
Evans is maintaining that distance between himself and the sideline again.
Evans uses his body to shield Skrine, and the ball is dropped right in the bucket for the touchdown to give the Buccaneers a 17-16 lead.
- Back-to-Back Rollouts: Both teams had three-and-outs, and the Browns then started their next offensive possession backed up in their own territory again. Facing a 3rd-and-16 at their own 3 yard line, things weren't looking good. That's why the Browns started heating up...or so it seemed.
25 yards to WR Miles Austin. 21 yards to WR Travis Benjamin. Then, as seen above, QB Brian Hoyer finds WR Taylor Gabriel for 18 yards on a bootleg rollout. The completion puts Cleveland in field goal range. What would happen next?
On the very next play, it looked like offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan dialed up the same play. This time, the Buccaneers' defense was prepared. Two defenders are right in Hoyer's face as he turns around. TE Gary Barnidge releases one of those defenders to Hoyer so he can pop out into his route. Barnidge is going to think he's open, when in reality, a defender is waiting for him.
Hoyer dumps the ball to Barnidge in lieu of taking a sack.
With the way Barnidge is going after this ball, he looks too comfortable to know a defender is on him. He takes a pop from the defender and the ball bounces up into the air, all the way toward the lucky defensive lineman pointed out by the cyan arrow. Opportunity wasted.
- Kruger Gets Sack Off of Cousins: The defense was ready to pick up the offense.
Facing a 3rd-and-11 with 10:48 to play in the game, it's almost as if the Browns said, "okay, we've been saving the OLB Paul Kruger vs. LT Oniel Cousins mismatch all day for the right time, so it's now or never."
Kruger rushes Cousins back, and then when QB Mike Glennon steps up a tad, he'll swim inside to take Glennon down.
There you go. Thanks for the old memories, Cousins!
- Browns Deflect & Recover Punt: Now facing a fourth down, the Browns made another big play on special teams.
ILB Tank Carder is going to rush in toward RB Mike James, the upback. ILB Craig Robertson is going to swing around and come right up the middle.
Here comes Robertson.
James was flagged on holding, and here's why. This might have been why Robertson was only able to deflect the punt versus having a full-fledged block.
One important distinction that I made note of right away is that this punt was deflected, not blocked. Because the punt traveled one yard beyond the line of scrimmage, we should be thankful that CB K'Waun Williams didn't muff the catch here. If he muffed it and the Buccaneers recovered the ball, it would've been a fresh set of downs for them (but, it actually wouldn't have been -- the penalty on James would've forced us to tell Tampa Bay to re-kick). [Here is a video of the deflected punt]
- One Hell of a Block: Here is the play that made RB Terrance West a hero.
The receiver to pay attention to is WR Taylor Gabriel, who at first runs a short, simple route.
QB Brian Hoyer takes a quick dropback and wants to go to Gabriel. The linebacker is running into that area underneath, so Hoyer holds on to the ball. Meanwhile, Hoyer is about to take a nasty blindsack hit...
...until West makes a great block to "save Hoyer's life."
West's collision also causes LT Joe Thomas and the player he was engaged with to fall, which buys Hoyer even more time. Some players like TE Jim Dray just sat there for an eternity.
Gabriel decided to take off, and that's what Hoyer was waiting for. He launched a pass downfield and hit Gabriel *in stride* for a 34-yard touchdown. It proved to be the game-winner, and gave Cleveland a 22-17 lead with 9:35 to go. [Here is a video of West's block] [Here is the video of the pass to Gabriel]
- Failed Two-Point Conversion: Cleveland needed to go for two points to try to extend their lead to seven points. It failed.
One problem here is that we had not been able to run the ball all game, yet we show a power run formation. This screams playaction pass. We'll send FB Kiero Small into the flat, TE Gary Barnidge over the middle, and OL Paul McQuistan over the middle too as an eligible receiver.
Small is really the only option for QB Brian Hoyer to go to. The defender makes an excellent read and a clean open field tackle to shut the play down.
- Closing Out the Game: The Browns played good defense and drained enough clock on offense the rest of the way to close out the game. One play I liked in particular was a QB sneak that the Browns ran to move the chains. We had our tight end take a step back, but rather than sending him in motion, we quick snapped the ball. It was a good way to throw off your tendencies as an offense to make the snap less predictable to the defense.
- Special Teams Tackles: There were no special teams tackles. There were two assists, with one each from S Johnson Bademosi and S Jim Leonhard.
- 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, there were no snaps for RB Isaiah Crowell. On defense, DE Billy Winn is still being worked in slowly.
- Brownies: The Browns were 5-of-14 (36%) on 3rd down. ... The Buccaneers were 4-of-12 (33%) on 3rd down. ... The time of possession battle was almost even, with the Bucs having the slight edge. ... I thought the Browns should have challenged the interception that CB Joe Haden thought he had in the first half. ... WR Taylor Gabriel was in on a kick return in the second half, which was a surprise. ... Gabriel's return went for 30 yards. ... For the most part, the Browns seemed to escape injury free, a good sign for Thursday night's game.
Up next, the Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals for Thursday Night Football. Keep it tuned to Dawgs By Nature for our coverage leading up to the game!