The Cleveland Browns stayed somewhat competitive with the Cincinnati Bengals for a half in prime time this past Thursday, but the team's second half woes extended from the previous Sunday, as the 17-0 shutout in the final two periods led to a 31-10 defeat and the club dropping to 2-7 on the year. Here is my film review of this week's game.
NFL Week 9 Film Review
|Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals
- Goats of the Game: DL Randy Starks & WR Taylor Gabriel - In the first half, Starks had two penalties on the same drive -- one for taunting when he made a big hit on RB Giovani Bernard, and the other when he was offsides on 4th-and-2 near the goal line. Both penalties extended the drive and accounted for one of the Bengals' first-half touchdowns.
Gabriel had the worst game of his career with three or four dropped passed. It was his moment to shine as a starting receiver (due to injuries), and he didn't take advantage of it. One of Gabriel's contested drops could have been a touchdown in the first half, and the other ones could have been first downs in the second half; his drops instead forced the Browns to punt right away.
- Awarding the Game Ball: RB Isaiah Crowell - Although the coaching staff only gave him one carry in the second half, in the first half, Crowell ran with a purpose against the Bengals, staying more upright and showing flashes of his rookie season with his quick one-cut bursts.
- Manziel Does What He Can: Even though QB Johnny Manziel completed less than half of his passes and escapes from the pocket a little quicker than the coaching staff would desire, his offensive line and receivers didn't do him any favors against the Bengals.
On the Browns' first drive of the game, Cleveland faced a 3rd-and-13 from the 29 yard line (a false start by LT Joe Thomas set the team back). Benjamin is running what looks to be a go route on the far left -- the comeback portion of his route might have been due to Manziel rolling out as the play progressed. WR Marlon Moore lined up furthest right, running up the right sideline. WR Taylor Gabriel floated over the middle from behind his trips bunch and TE Gary Barnidge ran up the seam. RB Duke Johnson is going into the flat.
Those who have been reading my film reviews know that the Browns have had issues protecting against stunts, and that's how Cincinnati gets their pressure with a four-man rush here. LG Joel Bitonio engages the man in front of him but can't get to the edge rusher when he comes inside.
Manziel sees the free rusher coming up the middle and spins out to his left.
Manziel does a good job spotting Benjamin and makes a strong throw to him. The defender, CB Adam Jones, does a great job closing on the play to help knock the pass away and force a punt. As much as I've enjoyed Benjamin's progress as a receiver this year, this is where having small-bodied receivers can hurt when they are unable to shield off a defender.
- Jim O'Neil - Too Cute & Too Slow: On the Bengals' first drive of the game, one question Browns fans kept asking was, "why was OLB Armonty Bryant in coverage against a wide receiver?"
Facing a 3rd-and-11 from the 49 yard line, WR Marvin Jones lined up as the widest receiver to the right. Cleveland is going to try bringing all of their pressure from the left side of QB Andy Dalton with CB K'Waun Williams blitzing from the slot and SS Ibraheim Campbell blitzing from a little further out.
The illusion is that Cleveland will have no safety help in the middle. The Browns want to bait Dalton to throw in that direction, with CB Johnson Bademosi sprinting, at the snap, all the way from the line of scrimmage to center field position. To account for the short coverage area that Bademosi vacates, Bryant drops back from his three-point stance. Jones' route just cuts across the middle shallow as Bryant is dropping back and trying to figure out whether any receivers are around him. I'd never expect Bryant to stay with a receiver, so I blame him in no way, shape, or form for this play.
Here is the progression of the play, and one of the big problems is how long it takes for Campbell to get to the quarterback. Cleveland has not been timing their safety blitzes very well this year, which gives Dalton plenty of time to scan the middle as Jones springs free and Cleveland's secondary is backpedaling.
I also want to point out another aspect of this play, and it's related to how the Browns' offensive line struggles versus stunts, while the Browns' defense can't pull off a similar feat. OLB Paul Kruger is attacking the left guard at the snap, and ILB Christian Kirksey (No. 58) is going to race to the inside. Besides the left guard making the right switch, DL Armonty Bryant abandons occupying the center and goes after the right guard...
...which allows the center and left guard ample time to...
...double team and pancake Kirksey right to the ground. While this has transpired, the safety blitz (No. 30) is still no where near Dalton, who now sees Jones over the middle and hits him for a catch-and-run of 29 yards.
- Linebackers Not Attacking the Gaps: Remember this play, and then remember a play later on involving the Bengals' defense, and you'll see a difference in how confidently each teams' linebackers attack the gaps in run defense.
Still on the Bengals' first drive, they faced a 4th-and-1 from the 13 yard line and decided to go for it. The Bengals want to run it up the A-gap by the center and right guard sealing off the inside of DL Jamie Meder and NT Danny Shelton. Shelton will actually be hit by the center and left guard at the snap; when Shelton is sealed by the center, he then tries to go toward the left guard. The problem is that neither of the Browns' inside linebackers, Karlos Dansby (No. 56) or Craig Robertson (No. 53) attack the line of scrimmage quick enough. With a fullback shooting through the A-gap, Robertson has no shot at making a play at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Here are the linebackers waiting behind our defensive linemen instead of attacking the gaps. The fullback continues up the A-gap and flattens the flat-footed Robertson, as RB Jeremy Hill will gain four yards and a first down.
The green arrows point to all three of the Browns' inside linebackers on the play, all of whom are far behind the four yards that Hill picked up.
- A New Andy Dalton: In all of the year the Browns have faced QB Andy Dalton, I was most impressed with his effort on Thursday, in part because I loved the read-option type of plays that the team has given him.
Facing a 1st-and-goal from the 9 yard line, TE Tyler Eifert is lined up tight left with a wide receiver screen option on the left sideline. ILB Karlos Dansby is the linebacker over the middle and he's going to shift a few steps opposite Eifer when he sees Dalton reach for a possible hand off to the running back. OLB Nate Orchard does not try to jam Eifert off the line, and FS Tashaun Gipson is flat-footed at the goal line as he can't really anticipate where Eifert will go or if this is a running play.
Here is the fake to the back, with Dansby shifting over and creating a wide open lane for Dalton to pull the ball back and throw a touchdown to a wide open Eifert, giving the Bengals a 7-0 lead with 7:08 remaining in the first quarter.
- Crowell Getting Room to Work With: This is the case with almost any running back, but because of some nice blocking in the first half, RB Isaiah Crowell got into a rhythm with his one-cut attacking style that's been missing for awhile due to the constant penetration he usually faces in the backfield.
C Alex Mack is going to drive his man far to the left, and the defensive lineman plays his part in over-committing to the outside a bit. With RG John Greco getting to the second level quick enough, that allows Crowell...
...to see the opening, plant his foot in the ground, and cut upfield for a gain of 13 yards on 1st-and-10 on the Browns' ensuing possession.
- Play for Bibbs is Covered: Facing a 2nd-and-8 from the 34 yard line, the Browns looked to get TE E.J. Bibbs the football on one of his two snaps of the game.
First, the Browns line up with an unusual formation. The circle indicates the original position, and the color-coordinated "X" is where they are once QB Josh McCown calls for the shift to five wide. Originally, Bibbs (cyan) is in the backfield with TE Gary Barnidge (blue) in front of him and WR Travis Benjamin (green) next to him. RB Duke Johnson (purple) was tight left and TE Jim Dray was tight right.
When the Browns motion to five wide, Benjamin runs his route with the intention of blocking on a quick out route to Bibbs. Cleveland probably hopes the Bengals are in zone coverage, but unfortunately, right at the snap, the defender over Bibbs sprints up and is glued to him.
QB Johnny Manziel first looked left. As soon as he looks right, he senses pressure coming from that side and then scrambles to his left for a four-yard gain. Barnidge was the only receiver who might have been a tad open, but the linebacker was dropping back with him and it would've taken a high, leaping catch to convert.
- Attacking the Gaps, Bengals Style: Still on the same drive, the Browns faced a 1st-and-goal from the 4 yard line.
The Browns want to run up the A-Gap. The idea is to create the hole shown in purple, but a Bengals linebacker times the snap count perfectly and has a had of steam right at the snap. C Alex Mack is thus blown into the backfield and pretty much right in to FB Malcolm Johnson, creating a clog.
RB Duke Johnson has no where to go in the A-gap, so he tries to cut to the right. The Browns weren't blocking for that, though, and RG John Greco also doesn't hold his man for very long, so two defenders are able to drop Johnson for a loss of five yards.
- Gabriel's First Missed Opportunity: Facing a 2nd-and-goal from the 9 yard line, WR Taylor Gabriel missed his first big opportunity of the game.
Gabriel is lined up furthest to the left. He first motions to the left corner, but when he sees QB Johnny Manziel later rolling out to evade pressure, he tries to shake his defender with a fake to the inside before cutting back to the outside. RB Duke Johnson is in the flat underneath Gabriel. TE E.J. Bibbs and WR Travis Benjamin are mirroring the routes on the other side, with TE Gary Barnidge on a short route over the middle.
Manziel senses pressure coming up the middle and rolls out to his left.
Gabriel does a good job getting open and Manziel delivers a pretty good pass to the outside. It could've been on Gabriel's other shoulder in an ideal world, but I'm sure Gabriel would tell you that he was supposed to catch this pass 9 times out of 10 (or more).
On third down, TE Gary Barnidge fakes to the outside and then went back over the middle. The defender gets enough depth on his zone coverage to force Manziel's throw to be sailed out of the back of the end zone. The Browns settled for a 27-yard field goal by K Travis Coons, making it a 7-3 game with 0:06 left in the first quarter.
- Avoiding the Pick: On the Bengals' next drive, they faced a 3rd-and-3 from the 22 yard line.
In the slot to the right, the receiver is running a crossing route with CB K'Waun Williams in coverage. Tight left, the tight end is trying to set a pick on Williams.
The tight end has a chance to level Williams, but decides to pull away at the last second to avoid the penalty, and Williams does a great job fighting underneath the pick. Meanwhile, DL Desmond Bryant beat the Bengals' left guard pretty quickly. The combination of both factors led to a sack and a Bengals three-and-out to begin the second quarter.
- Leon Hall With the Save: The Browns had good starting field position to begin their next drive, but weren't able to capitalize.
Facing a 3rd-and-6 from the 46 yard line, WR Taylor Gabriel is in the slot to the right with WR Marlon Moore wide and TE Gary Barnidge closest left to QB Johnny Manziel. Gabriel is running the in-and-out play to try to pick up the first down if he's able to shake his defender, CB Leon Hall.
Gabriel plants his foot, but Hall does a pretty good job anticipating it...
...and an even better job knocking the pass away with his out-stretched hand. If Hall would've missed this (or you could argue "if Manziel would've lofted it to the outside more), Gabriel would've had a lot of open field to work with. Instead, they had to punt.
- Campbell Shows Off His Tackling: Over the past two weeks, one defender who has stepped up with increased playing time is SS Ibraheim Campebell.
This is a 2nd-and-1 play from the 45 yard line on the drive where DL Randy Starks already had his taunting penalty. To start, Campbell isn't in the picture. RB Giovani Bernard gets the handoff and will have no where to go over the middle. However, Cleveland has no outside containment except for FS Tashaun Gipson (purple) when Bernard breaks to the outside.
Gipson tries to make a play in the gap, but DL John Hughes continues pushing toward the inside and Gipson gets caught up in the traffic.
Bernard could have a ton of room to run, but now you see Campbell entering the picture from the other side of the field. He comes with a full head of steam and minimizes the damage on this play as Bernard only springs for 10 yards.
- Confusion for Browns, Fortune for Bengals: After DL Randy Starks gifted the Bengals a first down by being offsides, Cincinnati faced 2nd-and-goal from the 2 yard line.
QB Andy Dalton is going to playaction fake and look for his fullback in the flat, which the Browns have covered. FS Tashaun Gipson originally motioned with the tight end circled in green, indicating man coverage on him. However, when the guy in green ends up being a blocker, Gipson drops back to the left corner of the end zone, where TE Tyler Eifert is headed. ILB Craig Robertson also says with Eifert and OL Jake Fisher (an eligible receiver) is running to the middle of the end zone on the other side.
There is Dalton looking for his fullback, but he's not open and now OLB Paul Kruger is getting pressure. Dalton rolls out in a panic, and here is the part I hate -- Robertson leaves Eifert to charge Dalton with a full head of steam.
Gipson was just dropping back and assumes Eifert is headed to the corner (so does Dalton). After the game, Dalton said he was trying to throw this to Fisher...
...but Eifert comes back to the ball and secures it for his second score of the game. If Robertson had stayed on his man in coverage, Dalton probably throws the ball away. The touchdown gave Cincinnati a 14-3 lead with 4:34 left in the second quarter.
- Not Hitting Him Early Enough: To close out the first half, QB Johnny Manziel found RB Duke Johnson on 2nd-and-10 from the 20 yard line for a gain of 26 yards, but it could've gone for more.
Johnson lines up as the middle receiver in the trips to the right. The Bengals are in zone coverage, but I'm not quite sure why they drop three defenders over to the same sideline and leave the middle wide open (perhaps a mix-up?).
This is where the ball needs to be delivered, as Cincinnati has lost Johnson in coverage. Manziel sees the defender behind him and (somewhat understandably) takes his eyes off the receivers so he can roll to his left and have more time to throw.
Manziel sees Johnson when he rolls out, but pulls it down and almost throwing it here.
Manziel ends up throwing it for the completion as he gets closer to the sideline, but instead of a catch-and-run, it's a diving catch.
- Browns' Lone Touchdown: On the Browns' lone touchdown of the game, ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi tweeted that QB Johnny Manziel missed an open TE Gary Barnidge on the play, which people gave Grossi some hell for. Let's see if he was right.
This is a 3rd-and-5 from the 12 yard line. WR Travis Benjamin is wide left with Barnidge next to him. RB Duke Johnson is in the backfield. WR Taylor Gabriel and WR Marlon Moore are to the right. The green defender initially sees Johnson going to the flat, so he comes up and abandons Barnidge. When Johnson cuts inside, the purple defender tries to take Johnson.
The result is Barnidge being left open. Again, though, Manziel's eyes are already off the receivers as he feels it coming from his right side. Manziel rolls out...
...and Johnson gets a ton of separation on the defender covering him as the duo connect for the score. That made it a 14-10 game with 0:19 left in the first half.
- Dalton Makes the Adjustment: The flexibility that QB Andy Dalton has in this offense is great for Cincinnati, but it also shows how Cleveland's defense must be pretty easy to read.
Facing a 1st-and-10 from the 30 yard line on their first drive of the second half, FS Tashaun Gipson is going to come on the blitz. Dalton calls something out pre-snap. Then, as soon as Gipson takes one step toward the quarterback, Dalton calls for the snap...
...and WR Marvin Jones knows the quick dumpoff to him is coming. The play goes for 19 yards.
- Kruger's Bullrush Pays Off: At last, OLB Paul Kruger got the payoff of his first full sack of the season.
Facing a 2nd-and-10 from the 49 yard line, QB Andy Dalton sees single coverage on the left with no safety help.
When Dalton takes the snap, he's looking left all the way, but CB Pierre Desir has shielded the receiver off to the sideline so Dalton does not pull the trigger.
When Dalton looks right to a potentially open receiver, he can't throw it because Kruger has bull-rushed by RT Eric Winston for the sack. The Bengals had to punt after not converting on third-and-long.
- Only 2nd Half Run: After a false start on their first offensive drive of the second half by C Alex Mack, Cleveland faced a 1st-and-15 from the 7 yard line.
The Browns opened with a handoff to RB Isaiah Crowell. It looked like the run was designed for the action to flow one direction and then for Crowell to make one cut to the open hole. However, the Browns don't do a good job of adjusting based on how the Bengals line up. Pre-snap, the defender with the cyan arrow was well inside to LT Joe Thomas, making it tough for Thomas to get over there in time. LG Joel Bitonio should chip the defender before moving on to the second-level linebacker, but he doesn't.
Therefore, No. 97 is right in Crowell's face as he gets the ball, so he can't cut upfield here. He has to go to the outside, where multiple Bengals are waiting and drop him for a loss of four yards.
- A Game of Inches: Facing a 3rd-and-12 from the 10 yard line, the Browns came oh-so-close to converting a first down.
RB Duke Johnson lined up in the backfield with QB Johnny Manziel as WR Travis Benjamin was streaking up the left sideline. The Bengals are in a form of Cover 2 on Johnson's side of the field.
Even though the cornerback is keeping an eye on Johnson and defenses close quickly, it would've been nice to see Johnson with an opportunity to make a play in the open field here.
Instead, Manziel sees the defenders dropping back beyond the first down. He sprints up the middle and dives for the first down. He is originally awarded a first down, but the Bengals challenge and replay showed that Manziel was a few inches shy of the first down. Cleveland had to punt.
- Orchard Guesses Right: After a dud of a punt by P Andy Dalton, it didn't take Cincinnati long to get into the red zone.
Facing a 3rd-and-2 from the 5 yard line, QB Andy Dalton made one of his few bad decisions of the game. Doing the read-option, he decides to keep the ball and try to run for it, but OLB Nate Orchard isn't fooled and takes Dalton down for a loss of five yards. The Bengals kicked a 28-yard field goal to take a 17-10 lead with 4:05 left in the third quarter.
- Missing Too Many Plays: The Browns have been "in" so many games, but more and more around the late part of the third quarter, it's coming down to which team makes plays and which team misses them. The Browns keep missing.
Facing a 1st-and-10 from the 20 yard line, QB Johnny Manziel is going to play fake to RB Isaiah Crowell. With the Bengals in zone coverage, WR Taylor Gabriel is going to find the opening around the green area.
Manziel sees it and unleashes the pass.
This isn't the best throw, as Gabriel has to stop his momentum and the pass is a bit low. Still, even if you have to pull a Marvin Harrison (catch and fall), you do it. Instead, the pass bounces off Gabriel's knees instead of going for a minimum of a 17 yard gain, but it could've been more like a 25-yard gain. The Browns couldn't do anything else with the drive and had to punt.
- Miscommunication Seals It: At the start of the fourth quarter, still up 17-10, the Bengals faced a 3rd-and-2 from the 50 yard line.
In the cyan circle, WR Marvin Jones is going to trip and fall at the snap. CB K'Waun Williams, in the green circle closest to the line of scrimmage, originally moves in motion with Jones. At the snap, though, Williams jams and then takes the receiver in front of him, but so does CB Justin Gilbert. The linebacker in purple is taking the tight end over the middle.
There is the trip, but with the double team on the outside, when Jones gets up, he's wide open and QB Andy Dalton sees him. The catch-and-run goes for 25 yards and puts the Bengals in field goal range.
- A Convoy of Blockers: On the very next play, the Bengals pretty much embarrassed the Browns' defense as they ran a convoy of blockers and WR Mohamed Sanu 25 yards for a touchdown.
The original give was to the running back, who will then hand off to the wide receiver. Both of the defenders in cyan, despite not being close to the running back, completely sell out to help on the backside where they really wouldn't be able to make a play anyway.
There is the convoy. The touchdown put the Bengals up 24-10 with 13:26 left in the fourth quarter. After another three-and-out by the Browns, Cincinnati attacked CB Tramon Williams with TE Tyler Eifert and added another touchdown to go up 31-10 with 7:43 left in the game.
- Sad Flashbacks: When WR Marlon Moore blocked the punt...
...my first thought was, "NO, DON'T FALL ON IT!" On a blocked punt, the other team really has no chance of getting a punt off still, so even if they recover, it's going to be your ball right there anyway. Moore should have gone for the scoop-and-score, but he didn't.
I cringed a bit when the cameras then flashed to special teams coordinator Chris Tabor celebrating like we'd just won at the final gun. It brought back flashbacks of WR Andre King many, many years ago blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown late in the game. He celebrated like he'd just won the game, but it was the Browns' only score in something like a 42-7 blowout.
- What Was That? If you stuck with the Browns until the final possession, you probably recall seeing QB Johnny Manziel make a weird throw across the field to WR Travis Benjamin.
It was fourth down and at the bottom of the screen, WR Travis Benjamin basically collided with his defender, who then fell down. Benjamin, upon the contact, flailed his arms in the air as if to ask the officials for a flag. Manziel began stepping up...
...and saw Benjamin flailing his arms as he peaked over to the right side of the field. Since it was the final down, he chucked it across the field...
...and the Bengals nearly had themselves a pick six, but the pass was dropped by the cornerback. I'm sure the coaching staff will tell Manziel to never try something like this...but when it's do-or-die fourth down at the end of a game, throwing it up in the end zone is really the only play you can make without tapping out.
- Special Teams Notes: The Browns had 4 special teams tackles, with 1 each from WR Marlon Moore, RB Duke Johnson, LS Charley Hughlett, and ILB Tank Carder. P Andy Lee averaged 45.7 yards per attempt on 6 punts, with a net average of 40.8 yards, which seems high given the fact that he had a couple of untimely duds. K was 1-of-1 on field goals, connecting from 27 yards out.
- Snap Counts on Offense & Defense: If you missed them, here are the links to our snap count trackers for offense (link) and defense (link).
- Brownies: The Browns converted 4-of-13 (31%) 3rd down attempts, while the Bengals converted 8-of-14 (57%) 3rd down attempts. ... Cincinnati out-gained the Browns in yardage 371 to 215. ... Cleveland had 4 penalties for 28 yards, while Cincinnati had 2 penalties for 20 yards. ... The Browns had the ball for 23:57 compared to the Bengals having it for 36:03. ... CB Justin Gilbert saw some meaningful snaps and had some near miscues, but both plays actually worked in his favor. ... WR Dwayne Bowe caught some passes and, although he looks lethargic, showed how he can be an asset in short yardadge slant passes where he uses his body.
Up next, the Browns take on theon the road this Sunday Keep it tuned to Dawgs By Nature for our coverage leading up to the game!