The Cleveland Browns are 0-6 and looking worse than last season—which is saying something. The Browns were boat raced out of Texas on Sunday, falling to the Houston Texans, 33-17. The game was not even that close as Cleveland trailed 24-3 at the half. Not much went well for the struggling Browns. The film was not pretty with so many mistakes and just bad overall play by the entire team, players and coaches.
In this week’s Browns film room, we will focus on the plays where I and probably many others were left thinking, “What are they doing.” I narrowed down that long list to six plays from the Browns defense that left me shaking my head.
So with that, pull up a chair, grab your favorite comfort food and let’s take a look at the ugly Browns performance versus the Houston Texans.
Roll the tape.
Q1 13:26- TE Ryan Griffin 18-yard reception
This was another example of the Browns inability to cover a tight end. For this play, the Texans line up in a shotgun formation with an empty backfield after the Texan player motioned out of the backfield. The Browns are trying (and failing) to hide their coverage. The unit decides to blitz both outside linebackers. On the line, the Browns rush three with defensive tackle Danny Shelton, yes Danny Shelton, going back into “coverage”. Behind Shelton, linebacker Joe Schobert is in zone covering the middle of the field. The Browns have two deep safeties, who are pretty much out of the play because of the incredible depth they are lined up at.
The play call by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is a disaster. This play pretty much leaves three Houston receivers wide open. Shelton dropping back is a waste of a man because he is just standing in the middle of field looking completely lost. Schobert is covering no one, too. He is in zone coverage in the middle of the field, but he is shaded to the side of the field without a pass catcher on the end of the line. The only thing quarterback Deshaun Watson has to do on the play is to quickly make up his mind and complete the wide open pass to any of three open targets. Watson chooses tight end Ryan Griffin, who lined up in the left slot back position. All he does is run a five-yard stick route in the open zone and runs up field for a big 18-yard gain. Schobert is too far to get to Griffin and the safety is too deep to come up in time. This defensive play call was horrible.
Q1 2:07- TE Ryan Griffin 21-yard reception
Hey, look—it’s another play where the Browns are beat by a tight end.
In this play, the Texans line up in a shotgun with a back to his left, three receivers wide and tight end Ryan Griffin on the left end of the line. The Browns defense has one major flaw on this play. It forgets to cover the tight end. Cleveland rushes four on the line, along with both outside linebackers blitzing on both sides of the line. This leaves five defenders to cover five potential pass catchers. But, the Browns back end looked like they were running something completely different from what the front part of the defense was running.
The Browns looked to call for cornerback Jamar Taylor to blitz from the left side of the field, but he was too far away and just decided to stop and cover the running back coming out of the backfield. Safety Jabrill Peppers came up and covered the receiver on the far left. The real mess was with linebacker Joe Schobert and defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Those two were in position to have to handle tight end Griffin on the left end of the line and the receiver in the right slot. But, neither really did anything to cover either player. Boddy-Calhoun, rather than come up and cover the slot receiver, went back to cover center field. Schobert, rather than shift to the right to cover the tight end, decided to just cover the intermediate middle of the field. Both the slot receiver and Griffin were left wide open and Watson took advantage. Griffin once again ran a five-yard stick route in the open zone and ran down field for a big 21-yard reception. It was another head scratching play call.
Q1 :41- WR Will Fuller 39-yard TD reception
This is yet another play where the defense looked like and were running two different play calls. The Texans are in a shotgun formation with two players to the right of Watson in the backfield and three receivers out wide. The Browns rush four on the play. Houston runs a play action with the main focus on the play being receiver Will Fuller, who is running a corner route to the end zone. The Browns have miscommunication in the secondary, in particular between safety Jabrill Peppers and cornerback Jamar Taylor. Peppers goes immediately back and toward the middle of the field, playing like he was tasked to cover center field. But, that would make Taylor have to cover the deep right side of the field and that does not happen. Taylor stays in the right intermediate zone, leaving Fuller to run right into the gapping hole in the deep right corner.
Following the game, Peppers took blame for this play, saying he and Taylor were in two different coverages.
Q2 4:00 RB D’Onta Foreman 39-yard run
This play was just a recipe for disaster. For this 3rd-and-1 play, the Texans come out in a shotgun formation with running back D’Onta Foreman to the right of Watson, three receivers out wide and a tight end on the left end of the line. The Browns line up with seven in the box, including six defenders along the line of scrimmage. In the secondary, the Browns are in man coverage against the three players out wide and a deep safety playing the “angel” position. The Texans motion the receiver on the left across the formation at the snap, showing some misdirection before Watson hands the ball off to Foreman. With the receiver vacating the left side of the field, the Browns have no one behind the defensive line. This puts pressure on the Browns defenders on the line of scrimmage to win their one-on-one battle.
Without anyone filling in the A or B gap on the left, Foreman is untouched until he is tackled 39 yards down field. The play call set up the Browns defense to fail because it put all the pressure on the line of scrimmage defenders to win immediately. Defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi beat the left guard, but he did not get there quick enough to make the stop and that is not on him, but the play call.
Q2 3:04- WR Braxton Miller 1-yard TD reception
In this 2nd-and-goal play from the one-yard line, the Texans line up in a shotgun with a running back to the left of Watson, two receivers out wide to the right and two tight ends on the left end of the line. The Browns come out with eight in the box. The culprit on the play here is cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who is in charge of keeping contain. Houston motions receiver Braxton Miller across the formation to the left. Watson receives the snap and tosses the ball to Miller, while faking the handoff to the running back. Boddy-Calhoun fails at keeping contain on this play. Rather than stay to the outside of his block to force Miller inside, the cornerback tries to slip under his block to get to Miller. He is too late to get to Miller and so he allows the receiver an easy touchdown to his outside.
However, Boddy-Calhoun’s poor decision covered up other mistakes. Had Boddy-Calhoun kept contain and forced Miller inside, it still would have been a touchdown. Prior to the play, there was confusion between linebacker Joe Schobert and defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah. Ogbah did not know where to line up and Schobert pushed him to go line up on the other side of the line, but he was late to do it and was pretty much inconsequential during the play because of the confusion. That confusion left one less defender on the left side of the line to defend against the play to the left. Also, linebacker Christian Kirksey was fooled by the fake handoff to the running back, which caused Kirksey to be too late to react to the toss to Miller. His slow reaction left the inside of Boddy-Calhoun wide open for a cut back had Miller needed to.
Q3 6:48- WR Will Fuller 23-yard reception
This final play was another one where the Browns defense was unable to recognize a numbers advantage for Houston. The Texans come out in a shotgun formation with a running back to the right of Watson and four pass catchers out wide. The Texans motion the tight end to the left to have three pass catchers on the left side of the field. The Browns rush five defenders on the play. But, the Browns seem just unfazed by what the Texans are lined up in, especially after the motion. The Texans have three pass catchers on the left side of the field, while the Browns have just one defender over there. It was a simple numbers game that Watson had to read. The young quarterback saw the advantage and threw a quick screen to the left to receiver Will Fuller.
The Browns were not able to touch Fuller until he was tackled 23 yards down field. The Browns lack of awareness was jaw dropping in that they did not see a problem on the left. The cornerback on the right side covering nobody was an example of this lack of awareness.
Highlight of the Game
The highlight of the game versus the Houston Texans is defensive lineman Myles Garrett. Against the Texans, he posted five tackles, two and half tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and a sack. The number one overall pick is among the few bright spots over the past couple weeks. He is already the best defender on the Browns and has drawn the attention of the opposing offense. He will be one of the few players to look forward to for the rest of the season.
Lowlight of the Game
The lowlight of the game versus the Houston Texans was quarterback Kevin Hogan. Against the Texans, he completed 20 of 37 passes for 140 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. He was just horrible. His accuracy was off all day with many of his passes soaring high above his target. He did not provide any sort improvement from DeShone Kizer and was actually worse than the rookie had been. It was not pretty.
Joe Gilbert’s 2017 Season Film Rooms