The Browns’ first drive ended in a three-and-out. So did their second drive, despite starting it in field goal range after the defense forced a turnover. First, we’ll take a quick look at the turnover before checking out the offense again.
Forcing the Turnover
This seemed like a great sign for the defense early on. Andy Dalton has been troubled this season behind a poor offensive line. Cleveland blitzes often but seldom registers pressure, but they were able to get to Dalton here with just a four-man rush.
The Browns are currently first in blitz rate (42.5% of dropbacks) and last in pressure rate (26.0%). That's unbelievably bad— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) October 3, 2017
Drive 2, Play 1
Cleveland took over at the 30 yard line, already in field goal range. On 1st-and-10, they ran one of the more unique run blocking schemes I’ve seen. Joel Bitonio goes under Joe Thomas to block the end, while Thomas takes on a linebacker. Similarly, Kevin Zeitler goes under J.C. Tretter to block a tackle, while Tretter jumps to the second level. Cleveland does this one more time, with David Njoku going under Shon Coleman to block a tackle, while Coleman takes on the end.
All three of those switches work well, and it opens up a big hole initially that allows Isaiah Crowell to get 5 yards. The only person who can’t quite get a good chip on his guy is Randall Telfer (No. 86), and Vontaze Burfict attacks inside to prevent this from being more like a 20+ yard run.
Drive 2, Play 2
Now facing a 2nd-and-5, the Browns show a commitment to the run, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, the execution on this play fails miserably, as two defenders come free at Crowell right as he touches the ball.
My belief is that Joe Thomas is supposed to chip Joel Bitonio’s defender and then try leaking to the middle linebacker at the second level. This means that David Njoku needs to block the linebacker in front of him, but he whiffs. Ricardo Louis is also unable to get a block on Nick Vigil. However, I can’t place much blame on Louis, because he can’t move (or its a false start), and right before the snap, Vigil is inching toward a run blitz.
I think Crowell is supposed to get this ball and then cut it back inside, leaving two linebackers missing out on backside pursuit. He can’t make the cut because of Vigil, though. This is something DeShone Kizer needs to recognize pre-snap -- Vigil isn’t going to stay on Louis, as there are two defensive backs deeper downfield. There were 20 seconds on the playclock when the ball is snapped. Cleveland should’ve been able to take their time, see this vulnerability, and adjust.
Drive 2, Play 3
Now facing a 3rd-and-10, the Browns spread the field with four receivers and Duke Johnson in the backfield. The routes are pretty elementary with no one crossing each other, so it’s up to DeShone Kizer to find the isolated match-up he likes best and go to it. Kenny Britt is lined up wide left and is just about to get open...when he stumbles coming out of his break.
You have to know your limits as a receiver. Maybe this is normal and I just don’t stare at these things often, but Britt seems to be taking an extremely sharp cut here to where I don’t know how a person could keep their balance very well coming out of this. It causes the slight stumble, which of course disrupts the on-target throw for an incompletion. Zane Gonzalez then misses the 48-yard field goal, which could’ve given Cleveland their first lead of the season.
The Browns’ issues are a combination of everything -- missed blocks, bad playcalls, inaccurate throws, or mis-steps at the receiver position. Several of those were on display in just these three plays alone.
On Wednesday, we’ll fast-forward to when the Browns trailed 7-0 in the second quarter and appeared to be putting together a response drive before the interception off of Britt’s hands.