The Cleveland Browns gave fans a lot of optimism when they once held a 20-7 lead, but then the Arizona Cardinals got "pissed off" and went on a 27-0 run to close out the game, resulting in a 34-20 loss. Here is my film review of this week's game.
NFL Week 8 Film Review
|Arizona Cardinals vs. Cleveland Browns
- Goats of the Game: RB Robert Turbin & CB Joe Haden - There were a lot of players who could've earned the goat award in this game. I've made a habit of traditionally only giving out one game ball and one goat award, but I might have to start bending that tradition to account for multiple messes. First, let's talk about Turbin. None of the running backs had success on the ground, but Turbin dropped the ball on the exchange on two of his touches, one of which removed all doubt in the fourth quarter. Maybe it's those freaking massive muscles that he has:
Turbin also had one Wildcat run near the goal line. He gave a nice effort on the play, but several Cardinals players were signaling that they thought he fumbled. The officials made nothing of it, but it leads me to believe he almost put it on the ground there too. Also, the fact that RB Duke Johnson pretty much went unused the whole second half irked me big time, and Turbin gets some of that guilt-by-association.
As for Haden, per Pro Football Focus, he graded out at -2.9 and "allowed 5-of-5 completions for 123 yards and 2 TDs, a perfect passer rating when targeted." Haden has been beaten nearly every time he's been targeted this year, and it's one of those things where you just really don't know how to handle the situation, especially now that he's suffered another concussion.
- Awarding the Game Ball: CB K'Waun Williams & DL Armonty Bryant - Even though the defense was being gashed beyond belief in yardage, turnovers gave Cleveland the lead in the first half and then nearly let them pull off a comeback in the second half. Williams forced two fumbles and had one recovery, while Bryant forced a fumble and had a recovery. Williams' forced fumbles came as Arizona was about to score, while Bryant's plays set the offense up with great field position.
- Carson Palmer on Fire: Aside from one poor decision in the second half, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer was on fire. It felt like I was watching a bit of QB Kurt Warner when he was a very productive veteran in an Arizona uniform.
On the first drive of the game, Palmer faced a 3rd-and-10 from the 38 yard line. The Browns aren't going to generate a significant pass rush, but wide left, WR J.J. Nelson, a fifth-round pick, made the first catch of his career a pretty incredible one. CB Tramon Williams does the right thing by shielding him off to the outside up the sideline.
With no safety help, Palmer throws this pass a little bit toward the inside part of the field. Williams has lost a step on Nelson, but still has pretty good coverage on him.
Nelson reaches one arm out and is able to hang on as Williams is tackling him for a 38 yard gain. It was one of those days for Palmer where he gained more confidence to attack downfield with each successful attempt that he had. Also, I'm sure it helps knowing that even if a pass like this gets picked off, he trusts his defense to get him the ball right back.
- Stuck in Between: I'm not sure who is to blame for allowing the Cardinals' opening-drive touchdown, but it sounds like CB Joe Haden is taking the abuse for this one.
The Cardinals line up with two tight ends on the left, and Haden is in the green circle in the secondary over them. ILB Karlos Dansby is dropping back in zone coverage next to Haden. In the other green circle is FS Tashaun Gipson. Pre-snap, it looks like he might be responsible for the middle of the field, where one of the tight ends is running a post route.
The first read for QB Carson Palmer is to look to his right, and Gipson goes to jump the route of WR Larry Fitzgerald. On the other side, you can see that Haden has his hips turned to cover TE Jermaine Gresham over the middle. Dansby sits in front of the goal line in zone coverage, not pursuing either player in particular.
Here is the view from Palmer's perspective, where you can see the same things I talked about in the previous screenshot.
Palmer doesn't face any pressure, so he's able to scan the left side of the field now and finds TE Troy Niklas in the front left corner of the end zone (not pictured above). The 11-yard touchdown on 2nd-and-5 gives the Cardinals a 7-0 lead with 7:59 left in the first quarter.
- Running Game Ineptitude: The Browns' running game struggled from the get-go. Their first rush by RB Isaiah Crowell went for 1 yard, and then an illegal contact penalty on second down gave Cleveland a fresh set of downs.
The Browns ran the ball again on 1st-and-10, now from the 26 yard line. Cleveland has been sending wide receivers behind running plays for several weeks now, giving the impression that they could do an end-around. The idea is to pull a defender or two out of the way if the running back is able to get to the second or third level. The problem is that there is often one different player on any given play who misses a block. In this case, it's RT Mitchell Schwartz being beat by DE Frostee Rucker right away.
Rucker sheds Schwartz and hits Crowell in the backfield for a loss of 1 yard. This team faces too many 2nd-and-beyond-10 situations that really make it difficult to utilize the playbook John DeFilippo probably draws up for Sundays.
- Big Play Bailout: On the Cardinals' ensuing drive, facing a 2nd-and-6 from the 30 yard line, RB Chris Johnson is going to get the handoff.
The Cardinals do some criss-cross blocking on the left edge with their tight end and WR Larry Fitzgerald, and Cleveland is caught off guard by it. Johnson shoots over to the left and will find a pretty good hole.
To be fair to CB Tramon Williams and the Browns' secondary, overall, I thought they did a very good job with support against the run on Sunday. In this particular case, though, Williams is there to fill the hole, but he can't make the tackle.
This looks like it could be a big-time run if SS Donte Whitner whiffs on a tackle. Whitner does enough to go low on Johnson to make him stumble, which allows ILB Karlos Dansby to come from behind and strip the ball. DL Armonty Bryant follows the green trajectory and alertly picks up the loose ball and runs down the right sideline. He gets to the 9 yard line before being taken down.
- Nice Start for Hartline: If you would've heard that the Browns were 3-of-3 in the red zone in the first half alone on Sunday, you probably would've guessed Cleveland came out on top.
After the fumble recovery, the Browns went nowhere with their first two plays. Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the 10 yard line, the Browns lined up with WR Travis Benjamin wide left, running a shallow slant route. WR Taylor Gabriel is wide right, running the same route. WR Brian Hartline is in the slot to the right, running a skinny post over the middle. TE Gary Barnidge is running a post over the middle. The Cardinals bring both of their middle linebackers on the blitz, leaving all of the Browns' route runners with one-on-one coverage except for Barnidge.
At this freeze frame, the defensive back guarding Hartline is favoring his hips as if Hartline is going to cut to the outside. Instead, Hartline cuts inside and is just able to get enough separation in the back of the end zone.
I said earlier that the Cardinals were bringing both middle linebackers on the blitz. Here, you can see that RB Duke Johnson has to make a decision on picking up No. 51. No. 51 could go one of two ways -- where will he go?
The defender goes to his left, and Johnson does an excellent job picking up the blitz and giving QB Josh McCown a clear line of sight to find Hartline...
...for the game-tying touchdown. The game was all knotted up 7-7 with 2:41 to play in the first quarter.
- Third Down Stops: The Browns were pathetic on third down defensively, allowing the Cardinals to convert 13-of-16 attempts. I don't ever recall a conversion rate being that high.
There was a brief spurt in the game in which the defense did stop a couple of third downs on back-to-back series. The first instance came on a 3rd-and-10 from the 20 yard line after the Browns' first touchdown. Cleveland is going to show that they are potentially bringing seven players, but only three end up coming, two of which are from the edge. The right tackle (No. 70) is convinced that OLB Armonty Bryant, who is lined up over him, will be his responsibility. Bryant drops back into coverage, though, and OLB Barkevious Mingo gets a free rush from the edge.
QB Carson Palmer recognizes the free man right away. Rather than taking a shot, he just fires the ball as quick as he can to WR Larry Fitzgerald. Bryant was dropping right into this area, so he takes Fitzgerald down immediately for a short gain. If Bryant had more experience dropping back and reading quarterbacks, he might've had a chance at undercutting this for a pick.
- Duke Explodes in First Half: As good as the Cardinals' defense is, RB Duke Johnson showed how one mismatch on the field can negate what the other 10 guys are doing.
Facing a 3rd-and-2 from the 42 yard line on their next offensive series, the Browns motion Johnson out to the slot right. He's being guarded by a linebacker and will run a simple slant route to the middle.
Johnson puts a move on the linebacker and gets a ton of separation to the inside. QB Josh McCown hits him right away.
The Cardinals only had one defender at the next level and Johnson makes him miss in the open field.
As Johnson gets further downfield, he makes another nice open field move to get all the way down to the 6 yard line. If the safety had made the original tackle, it would've been about a 10-15 yard gain. If this defensive back stopped Johnson, it's maybe a 35-yard gain. With both moves, it's a 52-yard gain...but let's not use him in the second half.
- Fade to Barnidge: Most NFL teams use the fade route as a staple play in the red zone, but Sunday was the first time I recall the Browns using it all year.
Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the 3 yard line at the start of the second quarter, TE Gary Barnidge had one-on-one coverage wide left. In the trips bunch to the right, WR Brian Hartline is the lead guy, running a pick of sorts to the front part of the end zone. WR Taylor Gabriel is behind him, running underneath Hartline's route. Lastly, WR Travis Benjamin is running a slant to the middle.
McCown doesn't think twice when he gets the ball -- he sees the single coverage on Barnidge and fires it out there. Barnidge got a nice pushoff when he engaged the defender at the line of scrimmage to gain separation.
The ball placement is high and to where only Barnidge can get it, and he continues to be the Browns' best receiver. The touchdown gives the Browns a 14-7 lead with 14:48 left in the second quarter.
- Living on the Edge: Even when the Browns were building their lead, the Cardinals were having some good opportunities on offense and were shooting themselves in the foot a bit.
Facing a 1st-and-10 from the 36 yard line, the Cardinals lined WR Larry Fitzgerald up wide right, and another receiver right next to him. I'm not quite sure how to describe the Browns' coverage on that side of the field, but the two defensive backs over them are SS Donte Whitner (closer to the line) and CB Tramon Williams (behind him). Why don't we just put CB Joe Haden over there instead of Whitner, and let Whitner take the tight end on the other side?
Because Williams is so far back, you can see the distance (green) between he and the receiver when the receiver goes to the other side of the field deep. FS Tashaun Gipson, who would probably normally help out Whitner, sees this and commits to the other receiver. That'll leave Whitner one-on-one with Fitzgerald, who goes deep.
Off of the playaction on this play, ILB Craig Robertson was coming with a blitz up the middle...
...but RB Chris Johnson picks him up nicely while OLB Paul Kruger and OLB Barkevious Mingo drop into short zone coverage. Ah, remember when those guys were supposed to be pass rushers?
Fitzgerald has Whitner beat, and understandably so. Palmer overthrows the diving veteran by about a foot, which is another break for Cleveland. After the play, Whitner is gesturing toward Gipson, as if to ask where his help was.
- The Payoff: For several weeks now, the Browns have been handing the ball off to the running back while a wide receiver came behind the quarterback for a potential end-around. Up until this point, no end-around has happened, and no double fake has happened where QB Josh McCown keeps the ball.
Facing a 1st-and-10 from the 46 yard line on their next drive, the Browns did let McCown keep the ball. He fakes the handoff to RB Duke Johnson, and then fakes a handoff to WR Taylor Gabriel. RG John Greco then releases into the open field and Johnson goes into the flat as a receiver, where McCown throws him the ball.
Don't be deceived by this screenshot, because it gives the illusion that Johnson should've cut inside. In reality, this is right after Johnson caught the pass while facing McCown, turned around, and already had a full stride going toward the right sideline. On top of that, the defender who Greco couldn't block is bearing down on Johnson quickly. Johnson makes a nice move to the outside, still, to turn this into a 16-yard gain. Should we give Johnson more targets in the second half? Wait, look at the rep count sheet -- it says we haven't had Turbin in the game enough!
- Final Touchdown With Pressure: Capping off their best drive of the game (in terms of length), Cleveland faced a 3rd-and-goal from the 2 yard line.
WR Travis Benjamin lined up wide left, running a post. TE Jim Dray is in the slot next to him, running a short out route. The same thing is being mirrored on the other side of the field, except with TE Gary Barnidge slot right and WR Brian Hartline wide right. Hartline's defender is crossed up immediately upon Hartline's first step to the inside, while the defender over Barnidge holds him in the end zone.
The Cardinals are going to bring seven people on the blitz here. Somebody is going to be coming free, as RB Duke Johnson can only block one guy. The free defender is the one with the green arrow.
McCown backs up and lofts a pass off his back foot to a spot in the back of the end zone. This angle also shows you the flag that was thrown for the hold on Barnidge.
McCown did a great job anticipating with this throw, because it's right there for Hartline when he gets to the spot. The Browns' third touchdown in as many drives gave them a 20-7 lead with 4:56 left in the first half (K Travis Coons missed the extra point).
- Plays You Need to Beat a Better Team: Turnovers are killers, even for the best teams in the league. Even though Cleveland couldn't stop Arizona from moving the ball, because of the turnovers they were forcing, I actually believed the Browns could steal a win from QB Carson Palmer and company.
The Cardinals were trying to put a touchdown drive on the board to close out the first half. At the bottom of the screen, CB K'Waun Williams is matched up with WR Larry Fitzgerald in man coverage.
Williams is giving up the inside, but when Fitzgerald breaks inside, Williams stumbles to make this a really easy completion.
When Fitzgerald gets to the 8 yard line, he's starting to brace for a possible hit from SS Donte Whitner. Williams, trailing from behind, surprises Fitzgerald and strips him of the ball and gets the recovery in one motion, alas what WR Brandon Marshall of the Jets did to FS Tashaun Gipson back in Week 1. The Browns got the ball back with 1:32 left in the first half.
- Beating Haden With Ease: The Cardinals got the ball back with 0:24 left and no timeouts. I understood that they had a reasonable chance to get into field goal range with a completion over the middle and a spike, but don't let them catch it long and get out of bounds.
CB Joe Haden came up to press WR Michael Floyd at the line of scrimmage.
Right at the snap, Floyd beats Haden. Haden wasn't able to get his hands on Floyd, so the receiver gets a free release and Haden is at his mercy whether he cuts to the inside or outside.
QB Carson Palmer delivers a nice pass to Floyd, who catches the pass for 28 yards and gets out of bounds. To make matters worse, the Cardinals end up throwing a touchdown pass two plays later -- however, they were not completely set in time at the line of scrimmage (something I called as soon as the snap happened). The Cardinals still got off a 37-yard field goal to end the half, making it a 20-10 game.
- The Game-Changing Spot? The Browns got the ball to begin the second half. RB Duke Johnson ran the ball for 3 yard, and a third down, he was the blocking back when QB Josh McCown took a big hit to his ribs. Johnson did his best to pick up the rusher, but was overpowered...then Johnson disappeared the rest of the half.
Sometimes, there are little "what if?" calls that could actually be game-changing moments. Last week against the Rams, that came on LT Joe Thomas' holding penalty on the deep play to WR Travis Benjamin. This week, it came on the Cardinals' first possession. Facing a 3rd-and-1, Arizona handed the ball off to RB Chris Johnson. SS Donte Whitner knifed in for the spot, and as you see above, Johnson's elbow is clearly down with the ball short of the line to gain.
Johnson torques his body forward to stretch the ball further, as players often do. Now, the ball is beyond the line to gain...
...and the officials end up marking the ball where Johnson last left the ball. The two yellow lines above are the before-and-after spots of the ball, with the blue line being the first down line. I was begging for Mike Pettine to challenge this play, but he didn't and nobody apparently asked him to. Guess what happened on the next play? (See below)
- Haden Beat & Concussed Again: I don't know what happened to CB Joe Haden, because the guy who has been out there this season is not Joe Haden. It has to be an imposter or something. Didn't Haden's brother get a tryout one year at camp? Is it possible they swapped spots and we just haven't gotten a close enough look at him yet?
On the next play after the non-challenge, WR Michael Floyd is one-on-one with Haden on the right sideline. SS Donte Whitner is playing up with FS Tashaun Gipson shading on the other side of the field, so Haden is on an island. That's fine for Haden, but not imposter-Haden.
Haden is with Floyd initially, but when he looks back for the ball, his body starts to fade toward the middle to the field. Then, he has to recover back to the outside when he realizes that Palmer has perfectly placed this pass out in front on the boundary.
Haden can't recover in time. When he goes for the shoestring tackle, his head bounces off of Floyd's back foot, resulting in another concussion. Talk about adding insult to injury. Or would it be adding injury to insult? Honestly, I think I'm starting to lose it with these game reviews. The 60-yard touchdown closes the Browns' lead to 20-17 with 11:46 left in the third quarter.
- Hartline Becomes a Goat: If I had room for another goat, it definitely would've gone to WR Brian Hartline. Despite having two first-half touchdowns, he dropped three or four passes, including several in the second half which were absolute killers.
Facing a 3rd-and-5 from the 30 yard line on the Browns' next drive, QB Josh McCown felt the pressure over the middle and stepped up and to his left. You can see Hartline rolling to the sideline.
Here is McCown making the throw on the run.
Sure, the throw is toward the ground, but it's at about hip level, and asking a receiver to go for a ball like this is no problem (trust me, I could catch this in my sleep, as I'm sure many of you who have played football know you could too). Hartline drops the pass, though, and Cleveland has to punt...and CB Patrick Peterson returns the punt 38 yards to give Arizona great starting field position.
- Negativity Snowballs: When it rains, it pours.
On the Cardinals' first offensive play after their 60-yard touchdown, QB Carson Palmer wanted to go deep again. WR Jaron Brown is wide left, running a deep route to the middle of the field. CB Tramon Williams appears to be in zone coverage toward the outside, so when Brown goes deep to the middle, he has the advantage on Williams.
I don't get it -- all year, we played with a single-high safety. Finally, we play a team that loves going deep, and we abort the single-high safety? This completion went for 39 yards, and SS Donte Whitner, who came over late to try to deliver a jarring hit, earned a concussion instead. That's two straight plays that the Browns lost a starter due to a concussion in the secondary.
- Re-Taking the Lead: The Cardinals then faced a 3rd-and-goal from the 1 yard line. It seems so long since Cleveland has had a goal line stop -- did anybody really have faith that the Browns would get a stop here?
The Cardinals run a playfake to the left and then roll QB Carson Palmer out to the right. TE Troy Niklas is going to go unguarded into the end zone on the right. My guess is that OLB Barkevious Mingo, circled in cyan, was responsible for him. Instead, Mingo attacks the Cardinals' pulling guard -- I'm half-tempted to wonder if Mingo thought the pulling guard was a tight end in the heat of the moment?
There is Mingo engaging the pulling guard while Niklas is wide open. The 1-yard touchdown allows Arizona to re-take the lead at 24-20 with 7:35 left in the third quarter. What happened to all of those good feelings from the first half?
- Fastfoward Button: For time constraints (Thursday game this week), I cut out the rest of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter. To recap: on Cleveland's next offensive drive, WR Brian Hartline dropped a second-down pass that would've moved the chains, and QB Josh McCown took another big hit on third down. FS Tashaun Gipson then picked off QB Carson Palmer on Arizona's next series -- a poor decision by Palmer, who was not under duress. Cleveland went three-and-out before the end of the third quarter.
With 0:24 left in the third quarter, the Cardinals faced a 1st-and-10 from the 25 yard line. The handoff went to RB Chris Johnson, and OLB Armonty Bryant is going to beat the Cardinals' tight end (No. 87) right away with an inside move.
Bryant strips Johnson, and the loose ball lands around the green "X" I drew. CB Johnson Bademosi, in cyan, runs over and falls on top of it. The Browns got the ball at the 28 yard line. They were in scoring range, only down 24-20. This is still a ballgame, but Cleveland doesn't have what it takes to finish against good teams.
- Wheel Route to Gabriel: The Browns began the fourth quarter with a 2nd-and-4, but a false start by LT Joe Thomas pushed it back to 2nd-and-9. Upon seeing that false start, GM Ray Farmer snapped and said, "that's the final straw -- I've got to get rid of this guy!"
On 2nd-and-9, WR Travis Benjamin lined up wide left, running a post to the middle of the field. WR Taylor Gabriel was in the slot to the left of QB Josh McCown, running a wheel route up the left sideline. TE Gary Barnidge was running a shallow crossing route to the left. Pre-snap, I think McCown sees the single high safety and is convinced that he will stay deep in the middle for the threat of Benjamin.
McCown steps back, is not pressured, and floats a pass down the sideline to Gabriel. The safety read McCown's eyes right away and started sprinting to the sideline...
...and gets there in time for the interception. This had little chance of succeeding even if the safety had not come over. I think this was a play call that John DeFilippo thought could be a money play, and McCown rolled with it without trying to read the coverage mid-play.
- Removing All Doubt: The play that removed all doubt came with 12:55 left in the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals faced a 3rd-and-10 and the Browns' defender was pumping up the crowd. Down 24-20, if they got a stop and the offense could string together one more drive, then maybe, just maybe, they could still pull off a victory. Instead, Arizona catches the Browns off guard with a lot of misdirection. First, QB Carson Palmer fakes the handoff to RB David Johnson...
...then he fakes a screen pass to his right, which the Browns bite for, before flipping around and tossing the real screen pass over to Johnson. Arizona has blockers out in front, allowing Johnson to sprint down the sideline for a 34 yard gain.
There is the space that Johnson had. Arizona finished off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to WR Larry Fitzgerald with 9:32 to play. Down 31-20, QB Josh McCown had the Browns moving in the hurry-up offense with several pass plays, including back-to-back 17-yard completions to get to the 38 yard line. Then, McCown handed the ball off to RB Robert Turbin, and we all know what he did. As a slap in the face to McCown, the NFL Gamebook credits both of Turbin's fumbles to McCown. Cleveland lost 34-20 after Arizona tacked on one more field goal, and QB Johnny Manziel finished the game for the second straight week.
- Special Teams Notes: The Browns had 5 special teams tackles, with 2 by CB Justin Gilbert and 1 each by CB Johnson Bademosi, ILB Christian Kirksey, and RB Isaiah Crowell.. There were 4 assists, with 2 by OLB Barkevious Mingo and 1 each from ILB Craig Robertson and CB Johnson Bademosi. P Andy Lee averaged 49.8 yards per attempt on 6 punts, with a net average of 41.5 yards. K didn't attempt a field goal, but he did miss an extra point, his first miss of any kind this year.
- 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 9-of-16 (56%) 3rd down attempts, while the Cardinals converted 13-of-16 (81%) 3rd down attempts. ... Arizona out-gained the Browns in yardage 491 to 254. ... Cleveland had 7 penalties for 35 yards, while Arizona had 5 penalties for 25 yards. ... The Browns had the ball for 25:37 compared to the Cardinals having it for 34:23. ... WR Dwayne Bowe was targeted once late on a pass by QB Johnny Manziel, but it wasn't close to him. ... WR Marlon Moore saw reps before Bowe.
Up next, the Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals on the road this Thursday Keep it tuned to Dawgs By Nature for our coverage leading up to the game!