The Cleveland Browns finally snapped their seven-game losing streak with a 24-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Here is my film review of this week's game.
NFL Week 14 Film Review
|San Francisco 49ers vs. Cleveland Browns
- Awarding the Game Ball: LG Austin Pasztor & OLB Paul Kruger - These two players will be the focus of a lot of plays in my film review. Even though Pasztor wasn't dominant, for whatever reason, the Browns' offensive line appeared to be in sync for the first time all season. Kruger, despite not having a sack, made a big impact on the game.
- Goats of the Game: RB Glenn Winston - I guess we found out what "taking the chains off the beast" meant -- fumbling on your first NFL carry, and suffering a concussion that seems impossible to have suffered on that play. Fortunately, because the 49ers were so bad, it didn't cost them anything.
- Respecting the Deep Ball to Benjamin: The Browns had a lot of big run and pass plays during the game, and we'll try to cover as many of them as possible.
The Browns received the ball first and began their drive with some nice runs and passes to get near midfield. Facing a 1st-and-10, they run a playaction fake to RB Duke Johnson. WR Travis Benjamin runs a deep post route from the left, while WR Brian Hartline runs a deep in route underneath it from the right. TE Gary Barnidge fakes a route to the inside before cutting back to the outside.
The playaction went to the left side of the field, so when QB Johnny Manziel takes his first step toward the right, all of the linebackers overpursue that direction. The safety on Benjamin's side also shades his body as though a throw it going to the right, so he drops way back to double team Benjamin's long post route. That leaves Barnidge uncovered...
...for a gain of 23 yards and in to field goal range.
- Ball Placement: It's been a couple of weeks since I've been able to do a game review, so in case you forgot, I'm a big fan of good ball placement on short routes. It's a necessity in order for our quick receivers to get those yards after the catch.
Facing a 3rd-and-9, WR Marlon Moore is coming in motion at the bottom of the screen. He'll cross with WR Brian Hartline, but both players end up cutting toward the middle of the field. WR Travis Benjamin streaks deep on the other side of the field, with TE Gary Barnidge underneath him. RB Duke Johnson will hesitate before releasing to the left side of the field, where the linebacker circled in green has man coverage on him.
When Johnson cuts to the outside, he's gains the advantage. Manziel sees it, and a well-placed ball will allow Johnson to do some real damage here -- possible even score since all of the other defenders are headed toward the other side of the field.
Manziel doesn't set his feet as well as he should, though, and the throw is airmailed to Johnson for an incompletion.
- Blocked Field Goal Again: The Browns settled for a 42-yard field goal attempt, which the 49ers blocked. It's the third straight week that K Travis Coons has had a kick blocked, mostly stemming from the area of OL Cameron Erving and DL Danny Shelton.
The 49ers line up three players on Shelton and Erving, which isn't uncommon. Remember, defenders can't line up over the long snapper by rule, so that they are protected. In the photo above, the guy on the left goes at Shelton, and the guy on the right goes at Erving. The guy in the middle blocks the field goal.
Erving is blown up, and Shelton is driven back close to a yard. You can see how much further back he is than OG John Greco, who was to the right of our long snapper (albeit not facing as heavy of a rush).
When it comes to field goals, things are bang-bang. You're going to have a lot of instances where teams almost block field goals, but with enough practice, the timing should be down to where you get clean kicks off in time. I do think that Coons' kick here is a bit low, which allows the rusher to nearly palm it. However, if Erving and Shelton hold their ground for just one second, that would help create a wall.
The guy who blocked the kick, even if he's just one foot behind where he's at now, wouldn't be able to block the kick. This has happened too often now, so I expect Erving, Shelton, or both of them to be removed or shuffled on the field goal protection team.
- No Sacks for Kruger: The Browns had nine sacks on the day, which is absurd for many reasons. OLB Paul Kruger didn't log any sacks, but that doesn't mean he had a bad day.
This is a 3rd-and-11 play on the 49ers' first drive, after the blocked field goal. On the previous play, QB Blaine Gabbert bootlegged out to his right, but OLB Paul Kruger read it and forced Gabbert to run out of bounds (SS Donte Whitner was credited with a sack). On the next play, the Browns bring a three-man rush, and Kruger lines up wide. The amount of space allows him to rush all the way on the outside, or to try a spin move off this.
The right tackle just flat out misses a block on Kruger. Gabbert senses the pressure and delivers a high throw out of bounds, forcing a punt.
- What's This Again? I forgot what good-looking runs and competent run blocking looked like for a team that wears orange and brown, but we saw of it on Sunday.
Facing a 1st-and-10 after the punt, QB Johnny Manziel lines up in Shotgun and will hand off to RB Isaiah Crowell. Here is what I love, though -- for once, our offensive line is on the same page, and nobody is making a mistake. On Joe Thomas' side, Thomas takes the outside man, but TE Gary Barnidge helps him gain leverage with a chip on the defender before going out to block at the second level. Up the middle, we see the same thing -- LG Austin Pasztor takes on the man in front of him, but C Alex Mack begins with a double team. Once Pasztor has the advantage...
...Mack releases to No. 53 (the purple arrows also show how nobody is being blown up)...
...and Crowell shoots right through the opening. I've doubted Crowell's ability to make plays when he feels contact behind the line of scrimmage, but I've never doubted his ability to pick up yards in chunks once he gets a head of steam. After a missed tackle, Crowell picks up 50 yards, the team's longest run of the year.
- Right Back to the Run: On the next play, RB Duke Johnson was in the game, and the Browns used a concept that I love when it comes to run blocking, but Cleveland never seemed to do this year: the pulling guard.
QB Johnny Manziel lines up in the Shotgun again. He gives the ball to Johnson, and the action looks to be going to Johnson's right side at first. The linebackers commit that way, including following the pulling guard while LT Joe Thomas rides his man wide.
Johnson is going to plant his foot in the ground and quickly change directions...
...en route to a gain of 19 yards.
- Staying Patient & Surveying the Field: Two plays later, the Browns faced a 2nd-and-6 from the 11 yard line.
WR Terrelle Pryor lined up wide left, running a short button hook. Next to him, WR Brian Hartline runs a skinny post up the middle. Beside him, WR Travis Benjamin is coming shallow across the field. On the other side, RB Duke Johnson is wide with TE Gary Barnidge underneath him.
Manziel looks to his right, which draws the safety on that side to double-team Barnidge. The other defender in zone over the middle chases Benjamin. When Benjamin pulls the defender away, Manziel looks to the middle and doesn't hesitate.
He rips a pass to Hartline, who gets down to the one yard line. He fumbles the ball trying to go for the end zone, but fortunately is able to fall back on top of it at the two yard line.
- So Much Execution for the TD: I'm just baffled at how I've seen so many vulnerabilities on film this season in run blocking, and yet this week, everything just clicked. Sure, the 49ers' porous run defense played a factor, but the concepts the Browns were using and the ability to still execute was impressive. I hate to say it, but besides FB Malcolm Johnson being out, I think OG Joel Bitonio might have been a piece of the puzzle just not getting it as far as chemistry goes.
RB Isaiah Crowell lined up as the fullback on 2nd-and-goal from the 1, with RB Duke Johnson behind him. LT Joe Thomas and LG Austin Pasztor are going to do criss-cross blocks -- Thomas comes over Pasztor to take on No. 53, while Pasztor is set up for leverage on No. 92. Behind the right guard is TE Gary Barnidge -- he gives a chip to No. 64 (the guy initially lined up over Pasztor).
Manziel turns around and hands the ball off to Crowell with his left hand. Based on the previous description I gave, you can see how Thomas, Pasztor, and Barnidge all execute bang-bang-bang, allowing Crowell to run through the open space for a touchdown to give Cleveland a 7-0 lead with 5:38 left in the first quarter.
- Stopping the Run: Besides not letting QB Blaine Gabbert beat them, the Browns forced San Francisco to keep passing because they were not being gashed on the ground.
Facing a 1st-and-10 from the 37 yard line, Gabbert hands off to RB Shaun Draughn. The run is designed to go to the right. DL Randy Starks is going to drive No. 61 about 2-3 yards into the backfield, which stops Draughn's momentum.
When Draughn goes to cut back, OLB Armonty Bryant is there, doing a responsible job of containing the edge as this play only goes for a gain of one yard.
- Beating the Block: On the 49ers' next play, facing a 2nd-and-9 from the 38 yard line, they tried to catch the Browns over-pursuing against the run.
For much of the afternoon, the Browns didn't have to over-pursue, though. It was probably the most fundamental game I've seen them play all season. On this play, FB Bruce Miller is coming across the formation in the backfield to block any rusher off the edge (in this case, OLB Armonty Bryant). Only two players are running routes.
QB Blaine Gabbert wants to hit WR Anquan Boldin (No. 81) on a crossing route underneath the streaking WR Jerome Simpson (No. 14). Miller goes to block Bryant...
...but Bryant does a quick jump move to the inside and blows by Miller. Meanwhile, ILB Karlos Dansby has dropped back into zone coverage, right into the area where Boldin is running his route. Gabbert considers still throwing it, but can't as he's driven to the ground by Bryant for a loss of 10 yards.
- Adapting to Manziel's Scrambling: If the Browns' receivers can continue to improve in the scramble drill, the combination of that, plus QB Johnny Manziel just flat out getting better, then bright things could be in store for this offense next year.
On the first play of the Browns' next drive, they are facing a 1st-and-10 from the 33 yard line. All four receivers run shallow routes. Cleveland initially lined up in a split back formation, with RB Isaiah Crowell on the right and RB Duke Johnson on the left of Manziel. Johnson motioned to the right before the snap.
As you can see, nobody is open, but Manziel stays patient in the pocket until a rusher starts to penetrate the protection. Manziel then rolls out to his right, which I'm sure the coaching staff would agree that he spent enough time in the pocket. As Manziel rolls out, Barnidge spins and diagonals to the sideline.
Manziel points upfield as Barnidge is looking back at him, letting him know that he's going to lead him with a throw upfield rather than leading him to the sideline for a sideline catch.
The throw could be a tad higher to prevent the risk of the defender making a play on the ball, but he releases the ball quick enough for it to get to Barnidge for a 30 yard gain. When Manziel left the pocket on this play, Crowell was sitting over the middle, and a defender chucked him in the back. Crowell got up limping, forcing him to exit.
- Winston's Fumble: I mentioned the Crowell injury to set this up two plays later.
Facing a 2nd-and-6 from the 33 yard line, RB Glenn Winston was ready to receive the first carry of his career. LG Austin Pasztor was going to pull from his left guard position and be Winston's fullback between the right tackle and double tight end set.
There is a hole here, but Pasztor is a tad slow in filling it, which forces Winston to stay glued to his back. Winston probably is waiting for Pasztor to get a little further upfield (so he can block No. 53), and then he can decide whether to cut left or right. In the mean time, he doesn't feel No. 93 on the line coming over to grab hold of him.
The ball is stripped free, and somehow, Winston must have suffered a concussion on this play. It's a terrible way to start a career, and he might not get another chance with Cleveland after being stashed on the roster for nearly two full seasons.
- 49ers Fail on 4th Down: On their series after the fumble, to begin the fourth quarter, the 49ers faced a 4th-and-1 from the 30 yard line and opted to go for it.
The play is a half-hearted playfake to the running back. I say half-hearted because the running back doesn't really sell the fake because he is trying to get into his route in the flat. QB Blaine Gabbert will look their first. Meanwhile, on the other side, the tight end will hesitate and then fade to the open area. OLB Nate Orchard comes unblocked from that side of the field; the tight end would have been wise to chip him. On the other side, OLB Paul Kruger absorbs the block from the fullback and bounces off him to chip the running back.
Kruger is about to chip the running back, and you can see the tight end starting to come free. Here is what I don't get, though -- Gabbert is looking in the middle of the field for some reason. Is he trying to spot the safety before making the throw to the left? It's fourth down, just throw the damn ball to the left!
Gabbert's indecision is our gain. Orchard barrels down and logs the first sack of his career, giving the ball back to the Browns on downs.
- More Efficiency in Run Blocking: The Browns' next drive began with a 24-yard completion to WR Travis Benjamin. After that, they went back to work on the ground.
Facing a 1st-and-10 from the 40 yard line, TE Gary Barnidge holds his ground very well on the edge. This was a superb blocking day for Barnidge, and PFF gave him a run blocking grade of +2.0 (highest on the team). LT Joe Thomas helps LG Austin Pasztor before leaking to the second level and taking on the linebacker. On the other side, the 49ers time a run blitz up at the snap, but RG John Greco does a good job turning around and shoving the defender into the backfield but away from the play enough to spring Crowell free.
The play went for a gain of 8 yards.
Several plays later, the Browns got another positive play, this time using the pulling guard from RG John Greco and RB Duke Johnson in the backfield.
Barnidge again holds his own, and Greco stones his man while the rest of the offensive line combined to form a nice little wall. Johnson could cut left, but he trusts the downhill crease he sees and goes for 7 yards.
- Nothing Open: To close out the drive, the Browns faced a 3rd-and-goal from the 8 yard line.
When QB Johnny Manziel drops back to throw, the Browns' receivers are covered. The best option here looks to be TE Gary Barnidge, who is at the letter "N" in "BROWNS" in the end zone.
However, even the coverage on Barnidge is very tight. In fact, if Manziel has tried to zip this into Barnidge's gut, the defender might have had a chance to pick it off. The throw ends up well in front of Barnidge and in the dirt, so I'll chalk this one up to a throwaway. The Browns kicked a 26-yard field goal to take a 10-0 lead with 9:04 to play in the first half.
- More Work from Kruger: On the next drive, the 49ers faced a 3rd-and-3 from the 34 yard line.
QB Blaine Gabbert looked to throw, but the Browns had good coverage. ILB Christian Kirksey was right on the wheel route of RB Shaun Draughn. On the crosser route, CB Charles Gaines (not seen) had to trail big time in coverage to avoid traffic. However, because S Jordan Poyer maintained his short zone over the middle, Gabbert doesn't even consider the crossing route.
Here, you can see Poyer (No. 33) and Gaines trying to catch up to No. 11. As Gabbert is processing this, OLB Paul Kruger beats the right tackle. The right guard comes over to help, but it's too late -- the right tackle holds Kruger and the officials throw the flag. Even with that, Gabbert, a mobile quarterback, rolls to his right. Poyer does a great job pursuing him all the way to the sideline and gets credited for a sack as Gabbert runs out of bounds for no gain.
- 49ers Finally Sack Manziel: On the Browns' next drive, mid-way through the second quarter, the 49ers brought pressure for the first time all game.
The pressure is going to come from the left, as two players (not pictured) come on a blitz. The defender lined up over LT Joe Thomas will come at LG Austin Pasztor.
The Browns do a good job in communication again, as the right linemen pick up the right players. On this particular play, though, Pasztor makes the mistake of backpedaling at the wrong time. With one of his feet in the air, the defensive lineman pushes him back, and Pasztor is now on a ride back into his quarterback.
Had Pasztor been able to hold his ground a little better, Manziel probably would've dumped this ball off to RB Duke Johnson, releasing late out of the backfield, and might have picked up a first down. Instead, Manziel takes the sack and the Browns punt.
- Missed Opportunity Part 1: The drive to close out the first half will be one that QB Johnny Manziel would like to have back.
After the 49ers went three-and-out, the Browns' next drive began with a false start. Facing a 1st-and-15 from the 15 yard line, Manziel is in Shotgun. WR Travis Benjamin is wide left, running a quick slant. RB Duke Johnson is running the out-and-up.
Manziel's first read is to look left, but with this still being early in the play, there is still traffic on that side of the field. Also, logic tells you that the opposing team will at least keep one defender in coverage on both receivers over there. The 49ers end up having a breakdown, though -- they expect to switch, but both defenders follow Benjamin. To make matters worse for San Francisco, the safety also comes up on Benjamin's short route for a triple team.
While the triple team is happening, though, remember that Manziel looked to his right, where everybody is covered. The 49ers only brought a three-man rush, but when he starts to look left again, one of the rushers starts to break free.
C Alex Mack is going to chip the rusher behind the play, so Manziel would normally be able to step up and roll left. Then, he would've certainly found Johnson for a touchdown. The issue is that LG Austin Pasztor ends up a bit lost on the play, like a chicken with its head cut off.
As Manziel tries to do his thing, Pasztor collides with him. Manziel loses his balance and stumbles backward, all the way to the four yard line, where the defender back there takes him down for the sack. Fortunately, a facemask penalty in the end zone nullifies the safety.
- Missed Opportunity Part 2: Facing a 2nd-and-6 from the 44 yard line with 1:25 left in the first half, QB Johnny Manziel not only missed an opportunity, but ended the drive with a careless interception.
The 49ers are going to have a breakdown in coverage again. WR Marlon Moore runs a short out route, while TE Gary Barnidge streaks upfield. For some reason, the safety ignores Barnidge and goes to double team Moore -- maybe he wanted to take a chance on a pick six?
Right at the snap, Manziel briefly looked right, but then looked to the middle. Pre-snap, I think his mind was set on dumping the ball off to RB Duke Johnson for a safe play to keep gaining yards in the two-minute drill. He's waiting for Johnson to clear, but then feels pressure coming from the right side and bails. I think this is the screenshot Manziel saw when he banged his head against the tablet.
If Manziel was originally hoping to make a "safe" play with a dumpoff to Johnson, then he shouldn't have abandon that mentality when he rolled to the sideline and decided to throw back to the middle of the field. With that said, as long as this stuff doesn't happen every drive of every game, I don't mind plays like this every now and then, because I think Manziel needs to be able to play free in the heat of the moment. The Browns entered the half up 10-3.
- Finding Hartline Wide Open: Fastforward toward the end of the third quarter.
Facing a 1st-and-10 from the 22 yard line, QB Johnny Manziel will fake to RB Isaiah Crowell. WR Marlon Moore is coming in motion for a possible end-around. The linebackers and one of the safeties are drawn up by this, which allows WR Brian Hartline to run uncovered across the field. The other safety helps on a deep route by WR Travis Benjamin.
Hartline will cut underneath Benjamin's route for a gain of 34 yards.
- Improvising and the Extra Element: Later in the drive, the Browns faced a 2nd-and-7 from the 28 yard line.
TE Gary Barnidge was coming on a crossing route, but the linebacker on him will see QB Johnny Manziel step up in the pocket. The linebacker cuts in front of Barnidge, but continues running toward the right sideline to stay under Barnidge's route while also spying Manziel. Barnidge does a good job of adjusting his route by simply planting his foot in the ground, turning around, and making himself visible to Manziel.
This play goes for a gain of 21 yard, and is another taste of what Manziel brings to the offense that opposing teams can't gameplan for.
- Tight Window Touchdown: Despite the Browns' domination of the 49ers, up until this point, they still only held a one-touchdown lead. In order for the team to really feel good about their effort, they needed points to show for it.
Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the 2 yard line, WR Travis Benjamin is going to run up with TE Gary Barnidge cutting underneath him right at the goal line. The 49ers have man coverage on both defenders and are going to bring two extra players on a blitz.
The communication is solid again. RB Duke Johnson picks up the rusher over the middle. LT Joe Thomas again helps LG Austin Pasztor before releasing to the outside rusher.
Everything is perfect about this play -- the protection, the timing of the legal pick, the catch, and of course the throw. The 2-yard strike puts the Browns up 17-3 with 0:14 left in the third quarter.
Crowell Breaks Free Again: The 49ers went three-and-out to start the fourth quarter, giving the ball right back to Cleveland.
For once, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was able to stick to a balance between the pass and the run. Facing a 1st-and-10 from the 41 yard line, there are several pieces that make this 54-yard run work. First, C Alex Mack will take on No. 63 one-on-one (yellow). Second, LG Austin Pasztor and LT Joe Thomas will combine (blue) to not only block, but drive their man to the other hash marks. Third, RG John Greco pulls into the spot vacated by Pasztor and Thomas to take on No. 51 (magenta). Fourth, TE Jim Dray gets a nice block on No. 55 (cyan).
The arrows are color-coded with the previous descriptions. A few plays alter, Crowell punched it in to give the Browns a 24-3 lead with 8:48 to play. The 49ers added a late touchdown to WR Jerome Simpson with CB Johnson Bademosi in coverage to finish the game at 24-10.
- Special Teams Notes: The Browns had 3 special teams tackles with 1 each from ILB Tank Carder, LS Charley Hughlett, and DB Don Jones. P Andy Lee averaged 39.7 yards per attempt on 3 punts, with a net average of 27.7 yards, as two of them were inside the 20. His net average was hurt by a 36-yard punt return. K Travis Coons was 1-of-2 on field goals, connecting from 26 yards out, but having his 42-yard attempt blocked.
- 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 6-of-12 (50%) 3rd down attempts, while the 49ers converted 2-of-13 (15%) 3rd down attempts. ... Cleveland out-gained San Francisco in yardage 481 to 221. ... Cleveland had 8 penalties for 71 yards, while San Francisco had 5 penalties for 40 yards. ... The Browns had the ball for 37:39 compared to the 49ers having it for 22:21.
Up next, the Browns play the Seattle Seahawks on the road. Keep it tuned to Dawgs By Nature for our coverage leading up to the game!