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Browns vs. Bill: 7 Talking Points

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The historically bad Browns see another game go down the drain.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The 0-16 parade is just two games away from becoming a reality.

The Cleveland Browns lost again in embarrassing fashion, this week to the Buffalo Bills, 33-13.

The Browns have now lost 10 of their 14 games by double digits, the most since 2000. The club is one double-digit loss away from tying the “new Browns” record of 11, set in 2011. The Browns are also one defeat away from setting the franchise record for total losses in a season.

The Browns did not even hold a lead today. The last time the Browns had an advantage on the scoreboard was November 11.

Here’s another fun stat: The Browns have led for 116 minutes and 34 seconds out of 840 total minutes of gametime. In other words, the Browns have possessed the lead just 13.9% of the time.

Ahh, good times.

Let’s now proceed into the talking points from a truly awful game.

1. More early woes: Yet again, the Browns sputtered out of the gate. The Browns never seem ready in the first quarter.

The Browns’ offense set the tempo on the first drive of the game. Isaiah Crowell ran for 12 yards to start things off, before the play was called back due to a holding penalty. A couple plays later on third down, Robert Griffin III missed an open Duke Johnson across the middle, forcing a punt.

On the ensuing punt, the Browns committed kick-catch interference, granting the Bills wonderful field position at the 47-yard line. Buffalo took advantage of its chance, as LeSean McCoy dashed for runs of 21 and 24 yards.

The Browns’ defense did stiffen inside the red zone, forcing a Bills’ field goal. However, Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan deserves much of the blame for not placing the ball in Shady’s hands from inside the 10-yard line.

To the Browns’ credit, the offense did rebound on its next drive, cutting to the Bills’ 5-yard line. Crowell set up the scenario with some very nice runs, and Corey Coleman helped with a pair of nifty catch-and-runs.

But as per usual, the Browns sputtered inside the 10-yard line. RG3 looked skittish in the pocket, scrambling out of bounds on one play and taking a sack on 3rd and goal. Cody Parkey tied the game with a 35-yard field goal, but the Browns missed a chance to take a rare lead.

2. RG 3 struggles again: Robert Griffin III looked about as good at Home Alone III.

Captain Obvious speaking here: Passing the ball is an important job of the quarterback, yet RG3 does not seem too adept at it.

The Browns’ starting signal caller missed open throws today, overthrowing several wideouts and had difficulty reading the Buffalo defense. Griffin showed discomfort in the pocket and often held onto the ball too long.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that RG3 is not the answer at quarterback.

Griffin did run the ball well on several occasions, including his 18-yard touchdown scramble early in the third quarter. Griffin found open holes on a number of scrambles, to his credit.

However, two of Griffin’s scrambles were called back due to holding penalties. That’s the problem with a running quarterback – an offensive lineman on a pass blocking assignment finds out his quarterback is on the move after the opposing defensive lineman does. That places the blocker at a distinct disadvantage and increases the possibility the offensive lineman will hold the defender in order to negate the advantage.

To RG3’s credit, Crowell, Gary Barnidge, and Terrelle Pryor all dropped passes. However, RG3’s indecision in the pocket and lack of vision downfield is hurting the Browns.

3. Shady throws more than shade at the Browns: LeSean McCoy ran all over the Browns on a less than shining day for the Browns’ defense.

The Browns have had difficulty stopping the run all season, so it’s no surprise the Browns scuffled again today against the running game.

McCoy notched 90 yards before halftime, gashing the Browns for runs of 21 and 24 on the team’s first offensive drive. McCoy blasted through the hole on several runs, as the Browns dove futilely as McCoy dashed by.

The problem today seemed to lie with the Browns’ linebackers. As much experience as DeMario Davis and Jamie Collins have, the duo did not plug holes and shoot the gaps, a key responsibility of the linebackers in the Browns’ scheme.

When McCoy managed to move past the first level of defenders, the Browns linebackers struggled to limit the damage.

The Bills even made the Browns pay when McCoy sat on the sidelines or did not get the ball. Gillislee scored a 3-yard rushing touchdowns at the end of the first quarter, and Brandon Tate raced for 30 yards on a reverse play. Tyrod Taylor got in on the fun midway through the third quarter, too, dancing 28 yards to set up a short McCoy touchdown run.

With 5:50 left in the third, the Bills led the Browns, 24-10, thanks to 185 rushing yards on 23 attempts, equaling 8.04 yards per carry.

If Melvin Gordon returns to the field for the Chargers, the Browns will have a tough time next week, too.

4. Flying south for winter: Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson started the game off well, tearing off nice runs before the Browns had to resort to nearly all passes to catch up with the Bills.

Crowell finished the day with 8 rushes for 28 yards, 25 of those yards coming on a great run in the first half. Crow showed what he can do with open space. Unfortunately for the second-year back, the offensive line did not open many holes for him.

Similarly, Johnson had a nice early run, a 13-yard scamper on a 3rd and 19 draw play.

The Browns finished with 107 yards on 21 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per carry. That’s not a bad day on the ground, all things considered.

Heading into next season, the Browns need not invest heavily in running backs. Crowell and Johnson are certainly not all-stars, but are far from the source of the problem. The two backs are serviceable, and the Browns have far bigger problems.

5. Hue’s hiccups: Head coach Hue Jackson called some nice plays today, but his defense did not perform well at all.

Is it time to consider firing defensive coordinator Ray Horton?

The Browns’ defense is struggling mightily. The defense has allowed 30 points in 7 games this season, and 23 or more points in every game.

That’s atrocious.

Some of the defense’s woes can be attributed to poor performance on the field. For example, Ibraheim Campbell missed a wide-open sack of Tyrod Taylor on a nice blitz call, and Tramon Williams missed his assignment on a few plays, as per usual. The Browns’ linebackers also played poorly.

However, the Browns’ defensive schemes have to shoulder the majority of the blame. For example, Charles Clay came wide-open in the end zone on a Cover 1 call that saw no player pick up the tight end. Calling for single coverage of Clay with little safety help was not a smart move.

The Browns’ blitz schemes also looked ill-suited for the Bills’ protections. The Browns rarely touched Taylor, sacking him just once and only hitting him four times, according to the stat sheet.

On the other end, the Browns did find some plays that worked. Calling screens to Coleman is a smart move. Finding Pryor in 1-on-1 coverage near the sideline worked out well in the first quarter.

Jackson called one-read short throws early that were easy to execute for RG3, and helped the Browns drive the ball down the field.

Jackson did draw up some working plays. However, he could not string enough together, and did not simplify the game enough for RG3 down the stretch, in order for the Brown to win.

It’s obvious that Jackson is no dummy. He simply needs talent and time to develop himself into a successful coach and the Browns into a winning team.

How much time is that? A year? A decade? Who knows?

6. Rookie rundown: The Browns’ rookies flashed some skills today. Corey Coleman and Emmanuel Ogbah each made a few nice plays.

Many have called the entire Browns’ draft class terrible, ripping on the new regime for not drafting enough talented players. Well, the early results say the Browns whiffed on some lower round picks, but the Browns’ top picks actually look decent.

Coleman showed shiftiness in open space today, and connected with RG3 better than last week. Coleman finished with just 3 catches for 24 yards, but the rookie looked dangerous in open space.

If the Browns can find ways to get this kid the ball, he can be a great player.

It’s easy to rip on the young wideout for not having the size of a true “X” receiver, but Coleman can be a starting wideout in this league if given the time and the coaching to properly develop.

Ogbah has similarly shown more fire in recent weeks. The defensive end has rushed off the edge and pressured the quarterback more effectively. He’s starting to take quicker angles to the signal caller and using his hands better.

On the season, Ogbah has 5.5 sacks, a solid number for a rookie. He’s still got a ways to go, but he’s at least showing improvement.

So, when you’re dishing out blame and harping on the “analytics” angle, don’t say the new regime has been a total failure yet. It’s too early to tell.

7. 3rd and a train wreck: The Browns got killed on 3rd down today. The Browns’ problems start, but don’t end, on third down.

Third downs are critical for any team, but more so when you’re a team desperate for a win. A critical third down stop here or a clutch conversion on third and long there can turn the tides and lead to a different outcome.

Today, the Browns could not stop the Bills on third down.

The Browns allowed the hosts to convert on 4-of-6 third downs to start the game. The Bills finished 4-of-9, but the last few did not matter. By that point, the Bills had scored more than enough points to win. One of the biggest came early on, as the Bills managed to pick up a 3rd and 22, due to poor coverage by the cornerback on a Tampa 2 zone coverage scheme. The middle linebacker responsible for the middle of the field was sucked back by a deep route, opening the field for the conversion.

Today’s game reveals a season-long tendency for the Browns on third down – the defense can’t get off the field. The Browns entered the day dead-last in third-down defense, allowing opposing offense to convert on 48.2% of their third downs.

That speaks to not only poor game planning, but inefficient execution.

The same is true for the offense. The Browns converted on just 3-of-11 chances on third down. The only positive play on third down for the offense was RG3’s touchdown scramble.

One piece of advice for the Browns – get the ball to Coleman or Johnson on third down. These two can make plays in the open field and make your job easier as a coach.

But what do I know, anyways?

Two more games ...