The Cleveland Browns' began the regular season on a down note for the 11th consecutive season, as they not only lost to the New York Jets by a final score of 31-10, but lost their starting quarterback on the first offensive series of the year. Here is my film review of this week's game.
NFL Week 1 Film Review
|Cleveland Browns vs. New York Jets
- Goat of the Game: FS Tashaun Gipson - With QB Josh McCown exiting on the first series of the game and QB Johnny Manziel playing his first football in awhile, the defense needed to step up more than ever. The Browns had the momentum with a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, and Gipson came away with a great interception.
What wasn't so great is that he allowed Jets WR Brandon Marshall to strip him of the ball, giving the Jets the ball at the 9 yard line and an easy path to the end zone instead of the Browns possibly building a two-possession lead. At the end of the first half, Gipson also didn't provide the support he needed to, allowing QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to zip a touchdown to WR Eric Decker to give New York the lead.
- Awarding the Game Ball: WR Travis Benjamin - Some players go quiet after a stellar training camp, but Benjamin kept up the pace, using his speed to beat the Jets' cornerbacks. QB Brian Hoyer couldn't connect with Benjamin once on a deep ball all of last season, but the Browns got him right off the bat this week. Cleveland needs to start exploiting Benjamin's match-ups more, as he is the closest thing this team has to a No. 1 receiver right now because teams will either have to account for his speed deep or face the consequences.
- Not Getting to Fitzpatrick: Even though the Browns were good on third down offense (8-of-16 for 50%), their third down defense didn't get the job done (7-of-13 for 54%). The run defense for this team doesn't have to be "great," it just needs to be mediocre, and it was for about three quarters of play. The problem is that we expected a decent pass rush and very good coverage from our secondary to be consistent factors, and both of those elements failed to go hand-in-hand during the game.
On the Jets' first third down attempt of the game, they face a 3rd-and-3. OLB Paul Kruger is going to rush wide from the bottom of the screen with ILB Christian Kirksey shooting through the open gap. WR Eric Decker is the top receiver in the stack to the left.
Kirksey's rush gets picked up perfectly by the running back, so QB Ryan FItzpatrick has plenty of time to throw. Cleveland's coverage is good overall, but give credit where credit is due: Fitzpatrick was on top of his game for Week 1 on a lot of these throws and reads. OLB Barkevious Mingo shades toward the middle on his dropback...
...so Fitzpatrick fires it in to Decker on the dig route, with some help from a slip by CB K'Waun Williams. Another factor that might have hurt the secondary is that Williams, CB Joe Haden, and FS Tashaun Gipson pretty much missed the entire preseason so they could be 100% healthy for Week 1.
- Wish it Was Geno: How different would this game have been if QB Geno Smith was still the Jets' starting quarterback? I guess we have IK Enemkpali to partially blame for our Week 1 misfortunes.
Now facing a 3rd-and-5, the Browns are going to get penetration from the right side as DE Desmond Bryant will collapse the pocket into the face of Fitzpatrick.
Despite being under duress, Fitzpatrick is able to get off a throw down the left sideline.
The throw is perfect, right in the bucket of WR Brandon Marshall with CB K'Waun Williams draped all over him. It would have been a catch if it weren't for S Jordan Poyer coming off to surprise Marshall and jar the ball free.
- First Play of the Season: Cleveland wanted to be a little aggressive on their first offensive play of the season, despite being backed up in their own territory.
WR Travis Benjamin and WR Andrew Hawkins are wide to the right of QB Josh McCown. TE Gary Barnidge is split left, TE Jim Dray is lined up at tight end, and RB Duke Johnson is the back in motion.
The offensive line is giving McCown lots of protection and multiple defenders are shadowing all of the receivers except for S Calvin Pryor, who is one-on-one with Dray.
McCown delivers a great pass, but Dray isn't athletic enough to make the diving catch (and it wasn't a "finger-tip all out attempt," it just went through his arms). On a Sunday where tight ends around the NFL were key go-to targets for quarterbacks, it stood out right off the bat that the Browns decided not to address the tight end position after the departure of TE Jordan Cameron.
- Just Dump it to the RB: Although I appreciate the fact that QB Josh McCown is willing to put his body on the line for the sake of the offense, in hindsight, it might be better to settle for what is there so that he can live to lead us to even more drives.
After the opening incompletion and then a run play that only went for a yard, the Browns faced a 3rd-and-9 from their own 10 yard line. WR Travis Benjamin is going to streak up the right sideline with RB Isaiah Crowell heading over to the flat. In the trips bunch to the McCown's right, WR Brian Hartline is lined up wide left, WR Andrew Hawkins is in the middle, and TE Gary Barnidge is closest to McCown.
McCown doesn't see anybody open, so he starts rolling to his right. He gestures to Crowell to block the linebacker so he can run for the first down. While it's not an insane idea, the safer bet for the longevity of McCown is to flip the ball to Crowell in stride here.
Unless the throw was terribly inaccurate, you can see that Crowell would have had more than enough room to get the first down and possibly more. Instead, McCown got the first down himself, but took a shot from CB Darrelle Revis on his third play of the season.
- Third Down Efficiency: The Browns got off to a great start on their first drive, converting 4-of-4 third downs. This is the second of those four conversions.
WR Taylor Gabriel is wide right in the trips bunch with TE Gary Barnidge in the middle and WR Brian Hartline next to him running out to the flat. TE Rob Housler is at the bottom of the screen. The Browns are running a pick play with Barnidge to spring Housler open, but QB Josh McCown is going to spot Gabriel getting the advantage on CB Darrelle Revis to the sideline.
If McCown goes to Housler, I think the officials would've through a flag for offensive pass interference. Instead, Gabriel does a little stutter step and cuts to the outside with Revis spun around. The 3rd-and-1 play goes for 11 yards and a first down.
- Mixing in the Run Game: I forget exactly when I said it, but I predicted at some point that the Browns were going to be more of a passing team than people think. In turn, that should open up some more opportunities to run the ball, even though on the first drive non-quarterbacks had 7 carries for just 18 yards.
8 of those 18 yards came on this 2nd-and-9 play from the 40 yard line. The entire offensive line is going to crash to the left with TE Gary Barnidge coming across the formation.
Everyone hits their blocks and RB Isaiah Crowell has his biggest run of the day. The Browns tried this same play near the start of the second half and it worked out the same except for one of the Jets' defenders stayed home in the gap to stop the play for no gain.
- Extending the Play: We saw QB Josh McCown extend plays in the preseason and he found a way to do so on the team's fourth third down conversion of the drive.
Facing a 3rd-and-2, TE Gary Barnidge is running in the flat to McCown's right. WR Brian Hartline is at the top of the play trying to rub Barnidge's defender. WR Travis Benjamin (wide) and WR Andrew Hawkins (slot) are on McCown's right.
As soon as McCown takes the snap, he wants to throw the quick hitter to Barnidge. However, it seems like he thinks that the cornerback covering Hartline is going to switch off on Barnidge. If he does that, it could be six going the other way.
McCown starts to roll out to his right. Barnidge runs downfield a bit and turns around as the two connect for 22 yards and a first down. McCown can't look at the entire field, especially when he starts rolling to his right, but it's worth noting that as soon as he rolled a little to his right, Benjamin (at the bottom) decided to break off his route and take off. The cornerback was too busy watching McCown, so if McCown had decided to look left, this could've been a touchdown.
- Right vs. Left: The Browns were moving the ball so well and had 1st-and-goal from the 9 yard line. A false start by RG John Greco pushed them back to 1st-and-goal from the 14 yard line.
WR Taylor Gabriel is on the left running to the left corner of the end zone with single coverage. WR Andrew Hawkins is in motion on the slot to the right, running to the flat. WR Brian Hartline is running across the field from wide right, and TE Rob Housler is in the tight end spot to McCown's right. It looks like McCown wanted to try exploiting a one-on-one tight end matchup against S Calvin Pryor again.
It's not a bad read, and at first, I thought Housler stumbled through his route the whole way. After watching the replay a couple more times, though, I gave Housler the benefit of the doubt and said that the throw by McCown was off target. If McCown had decided to look left for this play, though, Gabriel beat his man with pretty significant separation for this area of the field. A lofter to the left corner probably would've netted a touchdown.
- Not Getting Any Closer: Now facing a 2nd-and-goal from the 14, the Browns need to cut the distance in half for a viable third down look in the end zone.
WR Travis Benjamin is the widest receiver to the right of QB Josh McCown. He will be running a crossing route to the right. TE Jim Dray is next to him running up the field. RB Shaun Draughn is in the backfield running out to the flat. WR Brian Hartline is the lone receiver to McCown's left, also running a crossing route. TE Gary Barnidge is lined up at fullback.
At the snap, McCown is immediately looking to his right and sees a free rusher coming off the edge. That leads him to believe that Draughn won't have anybody covering him, so he quickly fires off a pass to him. Meanwhile, Benjamin is drawing the attention of two defenders...
...and you can see that nobody was paying attention to Hartline. If McCown had done a little shoulder fake to the flat and then looked up the middle (where he knew there'd be two crossing routes), he might have spotted Hartline for a walk-in touchdown.
- McCown Turns Into a Helicopter: Now facing a 3rd-and-14, the Browns find themselves in a hole. I think the thought of putting together a 10:00 drive and only coming away with 3 points pained QB Josh McCown so much that he said, "screw it, I'm getting in."
WR Travis Benjamin is lined up wide left. In the trips bunch to McCown's right, WR Brian Hartline is on the far right with TE Gary Barnidge in the middle and WR Andrew Hawkins closest to McCown. Cleveland tries to do a lot of crossing type of routes, but the Jets have everyone in coverage.
Right at this still shot, Benjamin is crossing right and taking a defender with him. Barnidge is crossing left and taking two defenders with him. It's at that moment that McCown must see the lane developing in green, and he takes off. The problem is that he is 22 yards away from the end zone at this point. It definitely was open in the sense that he made it 20 yards before having to go into helicopter mode, but such a long distance allows the defense to catch up and unfortunately make a play that changed the complexion of the game.
- Armonty Forced Into Action: With OLB Scott Solomon leaving the game early to an ankle injury, OLB Barkevious Mingo just coming back off of knee surgery, and OLB Nate Orchard inactive, DL Armonty Bryant was forced into starter duty. He had a good stretch of plays to disrupt the Jets' running game in their second drive of the game.
On this 2nd-and-8 play, Bryant dives to cut down pulling LG James Carpenter. He does enough damage to make the pile up get in the way of RB Chris Ivory, forcing him to change direction and run to his left. Bryant gets up and pursues enough to still make the tackle for a gain of one yard.
After a neutral zone infraction penalty, the 3rd-and-7 becomes a 3rd-and-2. This time, Bryant takes out RG Willie Colon in the same manner, which disrupts the backfield and allows other Browns to make the tackle after a gain of a yard.
Now facing a 4th-and-1, Bryant lines up on the edge against LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
Bryant throws Ferguson to the side and then grabs the fullback (No. 40), who is the ballcarrier, and wrestles him to the ground for no gain. Side note: right before the snap, Ferguson clearly flinches, which should have been a false start and would've made the Jets punt instead. It ended up working out for Cleveland, but there were definitely some officiating calls in this game that were favoring the Jets.
- Johnny in the Saddle: QB Johnny Manziel was faster than I remember him looking last year, both in eluding defenders to the sideline and taking off up the middle. More times than not, when he took off, it seemed like a good decision to take off.
Facing a 3rd-and-4, Manziel gets the snap and the Jets are only bringing five rushers. In the screenshot above, you can see that C Alex Mack is in between two rushers, so it should be up to RB Isaiah Crowell to pick up the other rusher. If you were Crowell and had to react now, who would you go after? I'd think No. 52, since it seems like Mack is leaning toward No. 56.
As Crowell already starts going into his cut block, though, Mack decides to engage No. 52 up high, which creates the chop block...
...and gives No. 56 a free rush as Manziel completes his dropback. Manziel finds a way to maneuver around and run for 22 yards up the middle. It doesn't count because of the chop block, but Manziel's legs can help move the chains when nothing is there.
- High Point of the Game: The high point of the game came on the next play -- the team's only touchdown drive of the game.
Facing a 3rd-and-19, WR Travis Benjamin is lined up on CB Antonio Cromartie at the top of the screen. WR Brian Hartline is wide right with WR Andrew Hawkins in the slot and TE Gary Barnidge closest to QB Josh McCown. Everyone is streaking up the field except for Barnidge, who sticks it shy of a first down.
The Jets only have a single safety in the middle of the field, meaning Benjamin has one-on-one coverage. Manziel decides to let it ride before Benjamin is passed Cromartie.
The throw isn't perfect, but it's good enough and probably better than any deep ball thrown by QB Brian Hoyer last year. Benjamin's catch-and-run goes for 52 yards and the score to give the Browns a 7-0 lead. The 48-yard extra point was a bit embarrassing, but thankfully K Travis Coons looks like the "early real deal" but drilling all three attempts.
- Haden's Day of Misery: This was an awful day for CB Joe Haden. He didn't seem like his normal inspired self and was graded by PFF as the team's worst player in pass coverage for Week 1. He allowed six of seven targets his way to be completed, and several of them were first downs. Better put: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick went after Haden and succeeded pretty much every time.
Facing a 3rd-and-10 on the drive after taking the first lead of the game, Haden is lined up against WR Chris Owusu at the top of the screen. Owusu is going to diagonal a little before streaking straight up the field.
Owusu gets a step on Haden, and you can watch a clip of the play here. As Dustin Fox points out, "Technique was an issue for Haden. Little things -- wrong hand jam at the snap, beat off the line, and then looking back at QB in man coverage."
Fitzpatrick's good day continues too as he hits Owusu in stride like clockwork. The catch-and-run ends up going for 43 yards.
- Gipson's Grave Mistake: On the very next play, the Jets tried to hit another big play with a playaction fake and then only sending two receivers out on routes.
CB Tramon Williams is lined up on WR Brandon Marshall wide left. WR Eric Decker is in the slot with FS Tashaun Gipson the closest player to him. Gipson initially gravitates toward Decker, but after seeing the playfake and Decker going to the other side of the field, he releases Decker and starts dropping back to the other side of the field.
Marshall gets open on Williams and when Fitzpatrick is releasing the ball here, you wouldn't think that Gipson (cyan circle) would have a shot at making the interception since his back is still turned. He snaps his head around in time and is able to undercut the throw.
After making the interception, if he continued to use his momentum to head toward the Jets' end zone before coming to a full stop, he probably could've gotten a blocker on Marshall and then been off for the races. Instead, he tried to make the interception and then stop his momentum immediately, which allowed Marshall to better track him down and get the strip+recovery.
- Jets Take Advantage: The running theme of the day was that whenever the Browns turned the ball over, the Jets capitalized on the scoreboard.
Facing a 1st-and-goal from the 10 yard line, the Jets are going to run it right up the gut with RB Chris Ivory.
C Nick Mangold does a great job clearing out the middle to open up a big hole for Ivory. SS Donte Whitner misses a tackle at the four yard line, but it's tough to stop a big back like Ivory with that much of a head of stam. Mangold did a good job neutralizing NT Danny Shelton in his rookie debut. He'll have his time to shine more over the next couple of weeks.
- Pass Protection Solid Overall: There were too many penalties for the Browns' offensive line, but in terms of pass protection, Cleveland's line came as advertised. According to PFF, the offensive line "allowed just 5 QB pressures for a 91.1 pass blocking efficiency, which was the 4th best rating in the NFL for Week 1."
This was one of the few plays where pass protection was an issue, resulting in a penalty. The Jets are bringing six rushers, but Cleveland has six blockers to account for them. The rush by No. 78 causes the issue.
No. 78 is going to come free so LG Joel Bitonio, who is already engaged with a player, reaches his arm out to hold the player from having a free shot at QB Johnny Manziel on 3rd-and-6. Despite the pressure and the fact that it didn't count, Manziel makes a great throw to WR Taylor Gabriel coming across the field on CB Darrelle Revis. The first down is negated and Cleveland has to punt with the game still tied 7-7.
- Close, But No Cigar: Close doesn't cut it and the Browns' defense knows that more than ever after some missed opportunities in the first half.
On the first play of the Jets' next drive, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick tries to throw a short pass to backup TE Kellen Davis. ILB Craig Robertson sees it coming and jumps the route. Robertson just barely misses getting a pick six as Fitzpatrick did manage to keep his pass toward the outside.
Two plays later on 3rd-and-7, the snap sails past QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. ILB Karlos Dansby does the right thing and tackles Fitzpatrick to prevent him from getting the ball. Somehow, despite four Browns approaching, the balls ends up in Fitzpatrick's arms again. 90% of the time, this would be either a Browns recovery at the 4 yard line, a touchdown, or a safety. Ugh.
- Misdirection With Benjamin: Despite the Browns' misfortunes on the bad snap, they still have great field position on their next offensive drive. Things get better with a creative use of WR Travis Benjamin's speed.
Benjamin comes in motion from left to right and looks like he's going to be a possible end around option. The Jets' corners shift responsibility, but after the playaction fake, QB Johnny Manziel throws to Benjamin going back the way he came from.
Benjamin's man is in the cyan circle, so this play works to perfection as the catch-and-run goes for 15 yards down to the 9 yard line.
- Missed TD to Hawkins: If FS Tashaun Gipson's interception-turned-fumble was one turning point in the game, this was another that went against the Browns.
WR Travis Benjamin is lined up on the left with WR Andrew Hawkins next to him. Benjamin clears out the left side of the field by running a crossing route.
This was a playaction fake and Hawkins sells like he's a blocker for as long as he can. At the right moment, he is going to pop out to the back left corner of the end zone.
Manziel has to do a spin move to get away from a defender, but he has Hawkins wide open. He elevates the throw a bit high and it takes Hawkins' feet out of bounds on the catch. A delay of game pushes Cleveland back and then the Browns have to settle for a field goal to take a 10-7 lead.
- Two-Minute Woes: For the second time in the quarter, after the Browns' offense put points on the board, the Browns' defense gave it right back.
The Jets operated with four receivers for much of the two-minute drill to close out the half and Cleveland had no answer. This was the final play of the drive -- WR Eric Decker is the second receiver to the left of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. He is lined up with CB K'Waun Williams.
FS Tashaun Gipson should have the inside part of this route covered in the end zone, but instead he takes a chance on something and cheats up. Right as he does, Fitzpatrick fires it in to Decker for the easy touchdown, giving the Jets a 14-10 lead heading into halftime.
- Too Much to Overcome: The saddest part about Week 1 was that, even if we do click as a good team, our offense is not built to overcome a multi-possession lead in the second half of a game.
After getting the ball to start the second half, the Browns faced a 3rd-and-7 from their own 37 yard line. The Browns send out three receivers in what is drawn up as not their most creative play of the day.
Manziel is well-protected and goes for the one-on-one matchup to his left.
This should probably be illegal contact, but the officials let it go.
The throw needs to be to the outside and right at the pylon. Instead, it's toward the inside, and after the interception return, the Jets are just 28 yards away from the end zone.
- More Uninspired Play from Haden: Earlier, I mentioned that Cleveland couldn't overcome a multiple-possession lead. After the interception, it was still 14-10. If the defense held the Jets to a field goal, they'd still be right in it.
Facing a 3rd-and-2 from the 20 yard line, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick faces some pressure but again delivers a nice pass to WR Brandon Marshall under duress. CB Joe Haden is too lackluster here as the ball is headed toward Marshall.
Did Haden think that he suddenly became an official or something? He's staring to see if the catch will count rather than attacking Marshall. Even if Haden can't get there in time to force Marshall out of bounds, maybe he can deliver a jarring enough of a hit that knocks the ball loose when Marshall hits the ground. A couple of plays later, again on third down, Haden loses the fade battle with Marshall for the touchdown. Up 21-10, it was over.
- A Little Bit Behind: On the Browns' next offensive series, their margin was thinner and they couldn't convert.
Facing a 3rd-and-3, WR Travis Benjamin is at the bottom of the screen streaking down the sideline. WR Andrew Hawkins is in the middle running a crossing route. WR Brian Hartline is running toward the outside and then coming back inside. At the top of the screen, TE Gary Barnidge is running the dig.
Barnidge is going to be open, but it's not the easiest throw with an underneath defender trailing. Hartline would have been an easier completion for a first down and room to run.
The throw is behind Barnidge to the point that he's jumping to twirl his body around. I asked PFF about this and they said that they are not crediting Barnidge with a drop on this play, so his streak continues. The Browns had to punt and the Jets tacked on a field goal on their next possession to go up 24-10.
- Not on the Same Page: This was the first play of the fourth quarter.
WR Travis Benjamin is wide to the left of QB Johnny Manziel, streaking up the field. TE Gary Barnidge is next to him running out to the sideline.
Manziel appears to be looking for the home run ball, but Barnidge is wide open for a good chunk of yardage.
Pressure forces Manziel out of the pocket. When he starts rolling to his left, Barnidge begins blocking upfield. The problem is that Manziel wanted Barnidge to come back to him so he could toss him a pass at the sideline. Instead, Manziel has to put the ball in his left hand and throw it out of bounds (gotta save that elbow!).
- Special Teams Notes: The Browns had 1 special teams tackle and it came via ILB Craig Robertson on a great individual effort. There were 4 assists with 1 each from ILB Craig Robertson, ILB Christian Kirskey, WR Marlon Moore, and OLB Barkevious Mingo. P Andy Lee had a great day as his punts were over 60 yards with a net of 54+.
- 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, OL Cameron Erving played on six-linemen sets for three snaps. On defense, DL Armonty Bryant filled in for OLB Scott Solomon after his injury.
- Brownies: The Jets only out-gained the Browns 333 yards to 321 yards. ... Cleveland led in time of possession with 31:40 compared to the Jets' 28:20. ... The Jets were 4-of-6 in the red zone and 3-of-3 at the goal line. ... The Browns were penalized 12 times for 109 yards. ... There is no upside to RB Shaun Draughn returning kicks, I'd rather have WR Marlon Moore doing it. ... It was puzzling to see FB Malcolm Johnson and TE Rob Housler get a fair amount of usage on the opening drive, only to be ignore the rest of the game.
CB Pierre Desir only played 3 snaps, all on special teams. ... LT Joe Thomas was PFF's highest-graded player on offense, but both guards struggled in run blocking. ... None of the Browns' front seven were graded positively by PFF. ... The top-rated defenders by PFF were ILB Craig Robertson in limited snaps, and then DL Armonty Bryant came close to being average.
Up next, the Browns take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in their home opener. Keep it tuned to Dawgs By Nature for our coverage leading up to the game!
BONUS FILM STUFF:
- Dawg Pound Nation broke down the struggles in the run game and some stuff on QB Johnny Manziel.
- Browns Beat broke down the big plays QB Johnny Manziel was involved in.