Browns, Cleveland Browns Film Room

Cleveland Browns Film Room Game Five: Big Third Down Conversions

For the third consecutive year, we’ll take a seat each week in our very own WFNY Browns film room and break down a little tape from the game, with a specific focus.  Do enjoy.


There were several big moments in Cleveland’s win over the Bills last Thursday. Certainly T.J. Ward’s interception return for a touchdown could have been the biggest. Today I want to focus on a few crucial third down plays for the Browns’ offense and how they were able to convert.

Here’s the first one. The Browns are down 10-3 in the second quarter. This is the second full drive for Weeden since coming in for the injured Brian Hoyer. He hasn’t looked very sharp until this point. The Browns have the ball on their own 28 yard line and it is third and eight.

Cameron catch presnap

Pre-snap we see the Browns have three wide outs plus Jordan Cameron and Willis McGahee. The Bills have snuck a defensive back to the line of scrimmage to the offense’s right and are showing blitz with their inside backers.

Cameron catch snap

At the snap Buffalo brings five including #25 safety Da’Norris Searcy (circled). This leaves the Browns with single coverage on the left side including a linebacker on Cameron Jordan (inside receiver at the 27 yard line). The arrow at the right of the screen is the other safety. The first down marker is at the 36 yard line.

Cameron catch throw

As you can see the Browns do an excellent job picking up the rush, including McGahee who gets enough of the blitzing safety for Weeden to make his throw. Weeden does a good job with his pre-snap read to know exactly where the open man is going to be. As Cameron makes his break outside Weeden is already in his throwing motion. Could the ball have already been on it’s way? Yes, but given the time he had to make the play, you can’t fault him for giving Cameron an extra second to shake the linebacker.

Cameron catch reception

Cameron catches the ball right at the sticks and heads upfield. The play nets 19 yards as the linebacker didn’t have enough speed to keep up with Cameron.

This is actually the same drive. It was a big drive in that the Browns scored the tying touchdown, plus it gave Weeden and the offense a little rhythm and confidence.

Little slant presnap

Here the Browns have the ball on Buffalo’s 48 yard line, third down and five. When you hear an announcer or coach say that some plays set up other plays, this is one play that could have been set up by the previous third down play we looked at. This time Jordan Cameron has come in motion to the right side of the offense. Willis McGahee is the back on the left of Weeden. Everyone else is in the same spots. Cameron draws a linebacker to him and the safety is closer to the line.

Little slant snap

At the snap, the Bills again bring five rushers. McGahee does his job getting from the left side to the right to pick up the outside rush. Cameron releases down the line of scrimmage towards the flats. Take a peek at the top of the screen and notice Gordon getting jammed by the corner on the play. Watching this game film I noticed that Gordon was having some difficulty getting off press coverage. This might be a topic for another film room, and it could be why he was so successful against the Vikings, and not as much against the Bengals.

Little slant throw

A couple things here. First, as was said a second ago McGahee does a good job picking up the blitz. Next, the safety was caught in no man’s land for a second not knowing whether he would have to help with Little or Cameron. Notice that the ball is already in the air. Weeden is putting the ball on the money just as Little clears the linebacker. (Notice Gordon on his backside at the top of the screen.) Do also notice that Weeden has Bess open over the middle.

Little slant catch

Greg Little looks the ball into his midsection and gets the first down. Would Bess have gotten more yardage? Hard to say. The first read was Little, and he was open enough to get the first.

Here’s another one. Who says that big third down conversions have to be passes?

McGahee run presnap

Here we are in the 3rd quarter tied at 24. The Browns have a third and six at Buffalo’s 28 yard line. This drive will end in the go-ahead field goal. The Browns have the same personnel, two wide at the top with Gordon and Bess, and Little at the bottom. Jordan Cameron is lined up tight on the right side. Shotgun formation with McGahee in the backfield. If you are the Bills, you have to be thinking pass.

McGahee run snap

At the snap John Greco (circled) pulls. Shaun Lauvao heads to the second level to try and pin the inside linebacker. Cameron rides the edge rusher outside. Schwartz locks onto the defensive tackle.

McGahee run pt 3

Lauvao isn’t able to pin the inside backer, who pursues down the line. Credit Lauvao for not giving up though. Greco chips the defensive tackle and heads downfield. The defensive backs have stopped their backpedals and are rushing up for support. Greg Little ties up the cornerback with a block.

McGahee run pt 5

Lauvao catches up to the linebacker and gives McGahee a cutback lane. The defensive back makes a mistake by guessing that McGahee is going to continue outside. McGahee has great vision on the play and makes his cut.

McGahee run pt 4

Here you see the cut, and the defensive back on the wrong side of the Greco/Lauvao block. McGahee sprints for 16 on the play.

Last one.

Gordon final presnap

Third and sixteen with the Browns leading by a field goal late in the game. The Browns are on their own 35, and punting here would put the Bills in decent field position. Josh Gordon is the wide receiver on the bottom of the screen. The line to get is Buffalo’s 47.

Gordon final snap

Gordon gets a clean release from the line of scrimmage. The Bills are dropping seven in coverage.Bobby Rainey is coming out of the backfield behind Gordon. For some reason Jordan Cameron is staying in the backfield to block.

Gordon final pt 3

Rainey draws two defenders to him. I have no idea why. The deep safety has to stay in the center of the field, if not lean to the top with both Little and Bess up top.

Gordon final pt 4

Gordon makes his break outside, and gets separation from the cornerback. Note where he makes his cut. He is at about Cleveland’s 43. He is going to take an angle that will lead him to the first down marker.

Gordon final pt 5

Weeden delivers a strike to Gordon who catches the ball at about Buffalo’s 48 and a half. He is able to get the first down easily from there. Very good protection for Weeden on the play. To be honest though, this was not good defense. Credit the Browns for taking advantage.

So there we see some examples of big third down conversions. Good protection + good routes + good throws = first downs. Let’s hope the Browns have more of them on Sunday against the Lions.

Until next week, the film room is closed.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Thanks Rick, that was great… you definitely pointed out some things that I wasn’t able to see both times when I watched the game. I thought you might focus on the trials and tribulations (and a couple wins) for John Greco last week, but I think that the focus on third downs was more interesting simply because this was an area where Weeden drastically needed improvement after his first two games.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Great breakdown, Rick.

    I think the reason Cameron was kept back was that they knew he’d effectively ‘waste’ that LB (who floats midfield covering nobody) while helping give enough time for the longer play. Agree though that that S shouldn’t have been helping on Rainey 10 yards shy of the first down; I’m guessing that the hope by the Browns is to either get that or single coverage by a LB that Rainey may be able to beat.

    Great job explaining the Greco pull for that run. The Browns ran a bunch of those plays where they created a funnel on the right side for McGahee to go down. It’s so nice to have Shaun Lavauo back!

  • vespo09

    Beautiful Rick, as always.

    In the first play, who is the WR at the top of the screen? Looks like he should be blocking downfield on the DB after Cameron makes the catch, instead of standing around. If I’m remembering that play right, it was the DB covering that top WR that shepherded Cameron out of bounds.

  • DJ

    I’m pretty sure that’s Greg “Mr. Dependable” Little standing around on the first play.

  • DJ

    I’m pretty sure that’s Greg “Mr. Dependable” Little standing around on the first play.

  • Harv 21

    Thanks, Rick.

    On that second play it appears that if Weeden goes to Bess on a quick 10-yards-in-the-air slant he’s in wide open field. Hoyer threw this pass a few times but we rarely see Weeden try it. Because Weeden’s stares at Little the whole way it’s clear Little was primary and maybe the safety slipped or something guarding Bess. Still, the middle is opening up while Gordon and Cameron draw attention and you would think that slant will be available, even if Weeden doesn’t excel at the short, quick timing throw.

    Love this Norv offense. It seems pretty indefensible with a couple of playmakers like Gordon and Cameron creating space.

  • humboldt

    Great stuff Rick, thanks for taking the time

  • mgbode

    all the Bills had to do was watch Greco to tip off the runs. seemed like he pulled anytime we ran the ball.

  • mgbode

    great stuff Rick. NFLN touched on the Gordon thing a couple times on their weekend shows as well. He seemed to “give up” when the Bills gave him physical press coverage including one play where Weeden watched him for 3 full seconds as he just stood there.

    Hoping the coaches kindly pointed this out to him in a professional manner so that he might not have this issue pop up as blatantly in the future.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I didn’t think to review, but did the Browns run any play-action with Greco pulling? If not, then I definitely think they need to do that some this week. Ideally, the offense would be run in such a way that the guard pulling isn’t any more of a tip off than watching to see if the offensive linemen are run-blocking or pass-blocking.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I was pretty sure it was Josh Gordon.

  • mgbode

    I remember watching Greco at the snap as a tell, and I don’t remember a play-action off of it. Perhaps we didn’t need it, so Norv is saving it for the Lions?

  • I didn’t get to hear that Michael, do you know what show it was on? I was a little put off seeing it on tape. It wasn’t something I noticed live. I will certainly be watching for it going forward.

  • mgbode

    Total Access I believe. Kurt Warner was the one who cut into Gordon’s tape (just a couple plays).