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Ravens vs. Browns: 7 Talking Points

Duke Johnson and the Browns scuffled again.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Will the Browns ever win?

The Cleveland Browns fell to the Baltimore Ravens at home, 27-10, ending a terrible home slate of games at FirstEnergy Stadium.

At one point, the Browns held a lead, before self-destructing and abandoning working plays, as has been the case all season.

So, what’s new? These talking points to help you survive the conversation at the watercooler:

1. Killer turnovers: Four turnovers sank the Browns today. Surprise!

The reason the Browns suck is simple – the team turns over the ball too frequently.

Kizer is the easy target of turnover talk. The rookie has the most interceptions in the lead, and should shoulder much of the blame for a bumbling offense. However, his offensive teammates did not help him today.

Duke Johnson, while we might love him for his playmaking ability, lost the ball ona fumble after a reception. As a running back, you have to hang onto the ball. Johnson’s fumble granted the Ravens the ball at the 45-yard line. Instead of punting and giving the Ravens poor field position, the Browns coughed up the ball and the Ravens scored three plays later to make it a 10-point game.

Spencer Drango also made an awful block in the third quarter. The fill-in for Joe Thomas allowed the Ravens’ edge rusher to come in hard and fast and strip Kizer of the ball before he could toss it away. You cannot blame Kizer for the strip sack and fumble, as none of his receivers were ready for the ball.

Yes, both interceptions were terrible passes. Kizer is starting to learn when to throw the ball away, but the pick in the end zone was ill-advised and avoidable.

2. Browns’ ‘backers in coverage: The Browns’ linebackers did a slightly better job of covering the Ravens’ tight ends and running backs underneath, but Benjamin Watson beat the Browns’ zone coverage.

The Browns’ linebackers, particularly Joe Schobert and James Burgess, Jr., played well in man coverage. The two hung with their assignments well, making some big plays. Schobert, serving as the deep linebacker in the Cover 2 Buc scheme on several occasions, kept his wideouts at bay. Schobert also helped to limit Danny Woodhead to just 31 yards on 6 receptions.

Burgess did well in the first half especially, knocking away a pass that might have resulted in a touchdown. Burgess attacked potential wideouts with nice closing speed, thwarting one would-be catch with a big hit.

On the other hand, Christian Kirksey did not do so well. Kirksey was sucked in by the playaction fake on a couple occasions, allowing Benjamin Watson to run free across the middle of the field.

Watson finished the game with 4 catches for 74 yards. Again, the tight end hurt the Browns on Sunday, an issue that continues to plague the Browns. Along with the quarterback draw in the red zone, crossing routes across the middle and other similar plays haunt the Browns over and over.

At the same time, the Browns defense did not have too much help from the offense.

3. Dashing down the field: The Browns’ running game played a big impact, as Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson helped to jumpstart the home team’s offense early on in the game.

As Kizer scuffled, Crowell and Johnson picked up the slack in the first half. The duo gashed the Ravens on the Browns’ lone touchdown of the drive, including Crowell’s 59-yard burst that was the team’s best play of the day.

Crowell’s run exhibited the Browns’ offense at its best, with each player doing his job. The play called for Crowell following the pulling guard and fullback and running right up the middle. Kevin Zeitler pulled from right to left, knocking off the outside linebacker. Danny Vitale led the way and deceived the linebackers. Shon Coleman blocked the right side, with JC Tretter held off his defender to open room. On the left side, Spencer Drango and Joel Bitonio double-team Brandon Williams at the point of attack. Austin Reiter performed marvelously as an extra tight end, coming back inside after Randall Telfer helped seal the edge. Reiter saw CJ Mosley coming to the point of attack, and got to the second level to stop Mosley and allow Crowell to dash through the hole. Reiter’s quick reaction made this play, and his effort held off the corner coming from the playside. Reiter even ran down the field to keep blocking.

Crowell and Johnson enjoyed solid sledding when the offensive line paved the way. Each player had negative rushes, but ran for a combined 95 yards on 12 carries.

The running backs proved to be critical for the Browns when they were used, especially following the defense’s big goal line stop.

However, the running backs were not used effectively.

Out of 56 offensive plays, the Browns only attempted 14 run plays. Sure, the Browns played with an early deficit. But the total lack of run and pass on offense is a little eye-opening.

On those 14 run attempts, the Browns gained 101 yards. ‘Hey, Joe, 59 of those yards came on 1 play!’ you might say, and you would be right. However, the Browns still gained 42 yards on the other 13 runs, which is 3.5 yards per carry. That’s still solid, in my opinion. That’s about on par with Kizer’s 3.95 yards per pass attempt.

Why not run the ball more inside and allow Vitale to block more frequently? Why not run more from under center? On designed runs from the shotgun, the Browns gained 26 yards on 7 carries. From under center, the Browns notched 75 yards on 7 carries, including the long Crowell dash. Or, why not dial up a couple draws from the shotgun?

Regardless, the Browns did not run the ball enough. It was part of the reason why the Ravens throttled the Browns in time of possession, 36:48 to 23:12.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns
Crowell had a great game today.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

4. DeShone Kizer has a no good, awful, terrible day: The Browns’ quarterback did not do well today. For every solid pass Kizer threw, the rookie tossed two to three duds.

Kizer’s statline tells the tale of his day: 20-of-37 passes for 146 yards (3.9 yard average) and 2 interceptions.

Kizer’s first quarter set the stage for his bad day, as Kizer completed 3-of-7 passes for -12 yards and an interception. Kizer could not complete any pass longer than the flat, as his one deep pass for Corey Coleman was way off. The playcalling did not help Kizer, as a screen pass losing several yards on second and long was predictable.

Accuracy issues surfaced throughout the day, as Kizer missed routine throws, not just difficult passes. Kizer overthrew receivers on the outside, and underthrew Gordon on multiple plays, even on open routes across the middle.

Even throws to the flat were not secure, as Kizer missed Duke Johnson early in the fourth quarter on an easy toss. Slant routes did not work like last week either, as Kizer could not execute short throws on a consistent basis.

Beyond the simple accuracy issues, Kizer locked into his primary target on too many occasions. The signalcaller telegraphed his throws, allowing Baltimore’s defensive linemen to time their leaps to deflect passes at the line of scrimmage. On one such play, the ball floated high into the air, nearly into the waiting arms of Mosley. Thankfully, Kizer dashed to the spot and deflected the ball away like a possessed defensive back, avoiding another catastrophe.

Kizer did make a couple of nice passes to Seth DeValve and Josh Gordon on plays across the middle of the field. Kizer’s 23-yard throw to DeValve while in the grasp in the pocket saved the team’s drive at the end of the half. The drive resulted in a field goal, the last points the Browns would score today.

However, as a whole, Kizer is simply not consistently reliable from an accuracy standpoint. Kizer makes the occasional nice throw, but he cannot be depended upon to consistently complete the types of throws every starting NFL quarterback should make.

Also, a brief fun fact – 50 of 56 offensive snaps came from shotgun. Even then, Kizer could not be effective.

5. Garrett and Nassib keep improving: The Browns’ young defensive ends deserve credit for a job well-done today. The team’s defensive linemen helped the Browns defense have a solid day.

You might look at the scoreboard and see 27 points and assume that the Browns had a poor day. That’s not the case.

Seven of those points came on the fumble return for a touchdown by Brandon Williams. Seven came on a quick 45-yard drive after Johnson’s fumble. Three points came after a failed first down conversion at the Baltimore 39-yard line. Only one scoring drive, the first drive of the game, can be truly attributed to poor defense. The Browns, on the whole, had a solid day defensively.

Similarly, Myles Garrett had an under-the-radar good day on defense.

The rookie defended the run quite well, playing a part in several tackles. Garrett kept contain, setting the edge and forcing the running back inside. Garrett was only credited with a couple tackles, but played a big part in holding Alex Collins to 19 yards on 12 carries. Garrett seemed to be in the backfield frequently and often near the action.

Garrett did not make as great of an impact in the passing game, but read Joe Flacco’s eyes on one play and batted down one screen play that might have resulted in a decent gain. Garrett seems to be reading plays better and better each week.

Carl Nassib also seemed to take a step forward this week. The second-year defensive end, who for some reason often splits out way wide, made a number of nice plays. Nassib also deflected a screen with his big paw, correctly diagnosing the screen play. Nassib hit Flacco once, too, laying down a crushing blow to Flacco’s ribs as he released a pass.

The Browns’ defense, unlike what the GM says, has some real players. Now it’s time to complete the puzzle with another game-changing playmaker or two.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns
Garrett is known as a pass rusher, but his ability in the ground game needs to be praised.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

6. Gunning down field position: The Browns’ special teamers hurt the team once again. Ravens punter Stephen Koch pinned the Browns inside their own 5-yard line FOUR times.

On a punt, the receiving team’s speed players are tasked with blocking the punting team’s gunners. For some reason, the Browns’ blockers took a page out of Gregg Williams’ playbook and granted the Baltimore gunners with big cushions.

The space allowed Baltimore’s gunners to pick up plenty of steam, outrunning the Browns’ blockers and dashing down the field to down the punt inside the 5-yard line.

Some might blame punt returner Jabill Peppers, but as a return man, your job is to get out of the way and hope the ball bounces into the end zone. The worst thing you can do, besides fumble, is catch a ball inside the 10-yard line that might have bounded into the end zone.

As the CBS telecast showed on one replay, the Browns’ blockers completely missed the gunners on one return, which is inexecusable. Why line up blockers on the outside if they’re not going to stop the gunners?

The Browns’ resulting poor job on special teams resulted in the Browns’ average starting field position being at the 19-yard line. That’s awful.

The Ravens won the field position battle today (by a long shot), and as a result enjoyed a distinct advantage.

7. Will we have a parade? Chances are, yes.

The Browns have two shots at wins to avoid a parade – the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both on the road, one against a rookie quarterback improving every week and one against an unbeatable quarterback at home.

The Browns offense will not succeed with Kizer under center. As much as I would like to see him succeed, it just is not going to happen. He has weapons around him, but he cannot succeed with his current accuracy issues.

The coaching is not helping, from the playcalling to special teams.

The defense has done a nice job this season, as a whole, but large cushions in the secondary and head-scratching schemes hinder the unit and its playmakers.

It’s looking bleak in Berea, but we might have ourselves quite a party in early January.