I wish I was doing some film review sessions after Browns victories — those always made it funner to break things down. If the Browns win, you’d probably see a five-part film breakdown because I’d be so giddy about everything that worked. Instead, we’re stuck with another two-part session from Cleveland’s 33-17 loss to the Houston Texans.
Play 1 - More Tight Ends Uncovered
The Texans only managed a field goal on their opening possession, but I highlighted this play because of how tiring it is to see tight ends have their way against Gregg Williams’ defense right up the seam.
The Browns decide to blitz both of their outside linebackers, Christian Kirksey and Jamie Collins, off the edge. If the anticipation is that they will force a quick throw, then why are both safeties 20 yards off the ball at the snap? The Texans motion the running back to the slot, and both he and TE Ryan Griffin have no one covering them. MLB Joe Schobert plays zone toward the other side of the field where Kirksey blitzed from, and DT Danny Shelton drops back in no man’s land.
S Briean Boddy-Calhoun takes a chance that the running back will get the pass, so he goes right past Griffin. Either way, it would’ve been a 10-yard gain; the missed guess turns it into an 18-yard gain. The only way this play might have been stopped is it Shelton had dropped back toward the tight end’s side.
Play 2 - Early Timing in Off-Man Coverage
I was optimistic about QB Kevin Hogan heading into the game, and he got off to a decent start. On the Browns’ first offensive play, WR Kasen Williams lined up wide left with WR Ricardo Louis in the slot.
Both players run 8-9 yard curl routes, and with the Texans playing off man coverage and the playfake holding the linebackers, Hogan delivers a good timing throw to Williams. I will say that when I saw this throw, I did think to myself, “hmmm...that throw looked like it was ballooned a bit, but maybe it was because it was a safe, open throw?”
Play 3 - Nice Move Wiped Out by Dumb Penalty
Still on the first drive, the Browns were near midfield on a 2nd-and-7. RB Isaiah Crowell picks up the blitzer, and with Houston again playing off man coverage, Hogan throws the ball out to WR Kasen Williams again on a quick stick route. This time, the defender is a bit more aggressive, but whiffs on the tackle as the catch-and-run goes for 17 yards and would’ve put Cleveland near field goal range.
However, pay attention to the part where I freeze it during Williams’ run. You’ll see that Crowell comes back into the play and delivers a shoulder into the back of a defender. That’s just a dumb decision -- what is there to possibly gain from that, when that defender isn’t even involved in the play at that moment? The Browns didn’t lose the entire play because of it, but instead of it being 1st-and-10, it was now 2nd-and-3.
Play 4 - Defenders Quickly Catch On
After some early success with the out routes, it didn’t take long for Houston defenders to start baiting QB Kevin Hogan. They smelled blood. This play is a 3rd-and-7 that was two plays after the previous depicted play. WR Bryce Treggs is wide right running an intermediate out route. On the left side, TE Seth DeValve runs diagonally to the left out of a trips bunch, with the two other receivers clearing out.
CB Johnathan Joseph deflects this pass to force a punt. You’d really like to see an adjustment here or an option route. The safety quickly vacated the middle, leaving the post open and a more favorable route to break open. But we’re talking about a quarterback making his first start, a receiver who has been here for two weeks, and a head coach who probably doesn’t trust his players to make such adjustments. With Hogan’s passes taking so long to get to the outside too, it would’ve seemed to play more to his strengths to work the middle of the field at times.
Play 5 - Peppers Lost in the Cover 2 Defense
Something had to be lost in translation on the 39-yard touchdown pass from QB Deshaun Watson to WR Will Fuller. Both cornerbacks are playing the underneath zone, and it appears as though the safeties are supposed to defend their half of the field in Cover 2. But right at the snap, S Jabrill Peppers (lined up toward the right sideline) drifts to center field.
Fuller, with a free release, as fast as he runs, and the entire right side of the field to work with, gets an easy touchdown here. Here is what Peppers said about the play when asked about it on a conference call:
On Texans WR Will Fuller V’s TD and Fuller finding space between DB Jamar Taylor and him, and if it was a communication error:
“That is one of the things I mean when I say we are shooting ourselves in the foot. All that was is a communication error. I was playing one coverage, and he (Taylor) was playing another. When that happens, not too many good things stem from that. That was a touchdown, and it just looked bad all around. As a safety, it is my job to correct whatever wrongs go on on the field. Like I said, I will take that one, too. We just had a miscommunication, and it turned into a touchdown. It was a big, explosive play. That is unacceptable in our defense and that is unacceptable in this league. Like I said, we have to keep pushing and pushing, over-communicating and making sure that everyone is on the same page because when we are all looking at what we are supposed to be and playing the same defense, we are really tough to move the ball on.”
Play 6 - The Overthrow, Part 1
With the Browns trailing 10-3, several straight successful runs set them up in a good situation, although a delay of game did set them back to a 1st-and-15 here. I’m only focusing on the right side of the field here because that is the instant read for QB Kevin Hogan. WR Ricardo Louis is wide right running the slant, and TE Seth DeValve goes out.
DeValve is open for what should be a minimum of a three yard completion (the cornerback does a nice job breaking on the ball, which I feel would’ve prevented any yards after the catch). It’s a moot point because Hogan sails the ball 2-3 feet over DeValve’s head.
Play 7 - Let’s Try it Again
If at first you don’t succeed, let’s try again and have the ball pick-sixed this time. Why not?
Cleveland lines up with a different look — the split backs include TE Seth DeValve on the left and RB Duke Johnson on the right. WR Bryce Treggs is running the go route wide right, but CB Johnathan Joseph passes him off to the safety (unlike the Browns, Houston appears to have OK communication in their secondary).
At first, I thought this was an overthrow just like the previous play with DeValve. After reviewing it, I believe it was a miscommunication. Johnson goes to the 20 yard line and sits in the zone coverage. QB Kevin Hogan throws the ball as if Johnson was going to continue running the out route, and the leading throw falls right into the lap of Joseph for a pick six. Johnson’s read appeared to be the correct one. If the ball is stuck on Duke, and knowing how shifty he is, he could’ve spun inside and possibly even gotten a first down out of this.
The pick six was a killer. With the game being 10-3, in a worst-case scenario, you’d like it to be 10-6. Instead, it’s 17-3, and you feel like you’re completely out of the game. This isn’t the first time this has happened with Hogan. Against the Ravens, he had an interception at the end of the half that led to a similar swing in momentum.
We’ll continue reviewing more plays from the game in Part 2 shortly.