On Tuesday, we covered the Browns’ first two offensive drives of the game in film review sessions (Drive 1 and Drive 2). We’re skipping Drive 3, which was killed after C J.C. Tretter snapped a ball too high for DeShone Kizer, resulting in a 14-yard loss (Kizer could not throw the ball away on the play because players were blocking downfield).
Our final film review session from the Bengals game will be split into two parts and focuses on the fourth drive of the game. This drive began in the second quarter, and came just after the Bengals had scored their first touchdown of the game (A.J. Green beating Jabrill Peppers on a corner route).
Drive 4, Play 1 of 11 - 3 yard pass to Njoku
The Browns line up with Kenny Britt on the left running a crossing route. Ricardo Louis is the furthest receiver on the right, and he runs a deep clearout. Next to him are David Njoku and Randall Telfer. Telfer will come across the formation to block, but really, that is intended to sell the run so DeShone Kizer can bootleg the other direction, where Njoku releases after initially blocking inside.
This is a straightforward read for Kizer. He rolls out, and if Njoku is open, he’s supposed to hit him. I think the disappointing part here is that Njoku is unable to get any yards after the catch, allowing Dre Kirkpatrick to tackle him in space for just a gain of 3 yards. Britt was also open over the middle due to the linebackers biting on the run, but again, going to Njoku here is fine.
Drive 4, Play 2 of 11 - 1 yard run for Crowell
On 2nd-and-7, the ball is handed off to Isaiah Crowell on a slight delay from Shotgun. The linebackers take a step back at the snap, and Cleveland has the numbers up front. This should work for a decent gain, and you can see a nice hole seems to be opening up.
Unfortunately, Geno Atkins completely bullies Joel Bitonio to disrupt the play, and Crowell has to move around just to gain 1 yard. At the second level, David Njoku wasn’t getting the best block either.
Drive 4, Play 3 of 11 - 7 yard pass to Johnson
On 3rd-and-6, Kenny Britt is wide left with Rashard Higgins in the slot. Ricardo Louis is wide right, and Seth DeValve is the tight end. The outside receivers fade upfield while the inside ones button hook near the first down marker.
Duke Johnson has the free release out of the backfield, with a linebacker dropping back into zone coverage. The linebacker drops back too far, Johnson turns at the proper depth, and DeShone Kizer fires it in at the right time for 7 yards and a first down.
Drive 4, Play 4 of 11 - Pass Interference
One thing I noticed is how often Hue Jackson is mirroring routes on each side of the field. I don’t know if that’s being done to make things easier for DeShone Kizer to process, but I don’t particularly care for it.
On this play, two receivers on each side are bunched toward the inside. The outside receivers fake an out and then go upfield, while the inside ones turn and sit down while drifting to the outside. CB William Jackson decides to jump Kenny Britt’s route on the far left off of Kizer’s pump fake. He knows he’s caught, so he grabs Britt for the pass interference penalty (netting 10 yards).
If you look at the offensive line, Kevin Zeitler was beat by DE Michael Johnson on a four-man rush, forcing Kizer to throw this ball falling backward and then taking a hit.
Drive 4, Play 5 of 11 - 4 yard run by Crowell
Facing a 1st-and-10, the Browns go to the ground game again. They feature an unbalanced line on this one, as Joe Thomas actually lines up next to Shon Coleman on the right side of the formation.
The Browns double team each of the Bengals’ defensive tackles — Joel Bitonio and J.C. Tretter take on DT Ryan Glasgow (No. 98) while Coleman and Kevin Zeitler attack DL Michael Johnson (No. 90). David Njoku is left to fend for himself on the left side against two defenders, so I assume that this is intended to be an inside run (which is where Isaiah Crowell takes it). Crowell gets 4 yards, which is a successful run.
Drive 4, Play 6 of 11 - Kizer sacked for loss of 7 yards
Now at midfield, the Browns have a 2nd-and-6. DeShone Kizer lines up with split backs — Danny Vitale to his left and Isaiah Crowell to his right. Randall Telfer is running a flag route from the tight end spot, and Ricardo Louis is button hooking underneath him. I can’t discern which receiver is at the top of the screen, but he is running a quick slant.
The Bengals do a good job of hiding their blitz until the last second, and Kizer is unaware of the linebacker and safety blitz coming free off the right side. That leaves Crowell completely uncovered, but Kizer is looking left as the ball hits his hands. Before he can pull the trigger, THUMP!
The Bengals are bringing a 6 rushes when Cleveland only has 5 blockers. However, the big issue is that Cleveland only ends up blocking 4 players — Kevin Zeitler is left without anyone to block, as Shon Coleman engages with the defensive end right away. It’s easy to say that Coleman should have slid to the outside and let Zeitler pick up the defensive end, which means the safety (who was further back) would’ve been the free man but taken longer to get there. However, I’m not an expert in blocking schemes/responsibilities.
That leaves us off with a 3rd-and-13. The next several plays were exciting, though, leading up to the interception that ended the drive. We’ll get to those plays in Part 2 a little later today.