The Cleveland Browns are 0-4 after the Cincinnati Bengals blew the Browns out, 31-7, on Sunday. After four games, the team is still looking to get its first lead of the season.
Even in the blowout loss, there were some big game-changing plays that could have kept the Browns in the game. But, the big plays went pretty much to the Cincinnati side of things. These plays could have stopped the rout from forming, but the Bengals were able to capitalize and put the game pretty much away by halftime.
In this week’s film room, we will take a look at these game-changing plays and illustrate how the play went in the Bengals direction. So with that, let’s put the tape in, pour a glass of bourbon and take a look at Sunday’s big plays that led to the rout of the Cleveland Browns.
Roll the tape!
Q1 11:14- Kizer throws incomplete pass to Britt on 3rd-and-10
This was a crushing play by the offense. After the Browns defense forced a turnover against the Bengals defense, Cleveland had the ball in great field position to score the first points of the game. Following the first two plays of the drive, the Browns were faced with this 3rd-and-10 play. In this play, the Browns line up in a shotgun formation with four pass catchers out wide and a running back to the left of quarterback DeShone Kizer. The Bengals come out with man coverage on the four Bengals out wide and the running back, while they rush four and have two safeties in zone in the backend of the defense. The key route to watch is Browns receiver Kenny Britt’s 15-yard comeback route on the left sideline. Britt runs up the field for 15 yards and then turns around toward the sideline and comes back to the ball. His cut allowed him to gain separation from Bengals cornerback Adam Jones and open for Kizer to hit for a first down pass.
But, the play fails for two reasons. The first and probably the biggest reason it failed is because Britt stumbles out of his cut, causing him to have to quickly recover and get his head up to catch the incoming pass. This slight stumble causes him to drop the pass. The pass actually goes right through his hands in a catchable spot, but his stumble caused him to be surprised that the pass was coming that quickly. The other and the lesser factor for the failed pass was that Kizer threw the pass a little low to Britt. Britt had to get low to bring in the pass. However with Britt’s stumble, the receiver was already on the level of where the throw would end up. In the end, I put most of the blame on Britt.
Q1 3:55- Dalton completes pass to Kroft for six yards on 3rd-and-5
This play was a big 3rd-and-5 play where the Browns could have stopped the Bengals first scoring drive of the game. The Bengals had put together a quality drive late in the first quarter, with the offense just outside the redzone at the 30-yard line. The Bengals come out in a shotgun with four pass catchers out wide and a running back to the right of quarterback Andy Dalton. The Browns fake a blitz on the left side of the line, but actually just rush three true rushers. In coverage, the Browns are in man coverage on each of the route runners, including the running back who slips out the backfield late, with a deep safety over top, a spy on Dalton and another linebacker who latches onto the crossing route to double team the receiver crossing the field on the short route. Dalton initially fumbles the snap, but he recovers to continue to scan the field. The Browns initially do not get pressure, but Browns edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah gets around the right edge and causes Dalton to look to escape the pocket to the left.
When Dalton starts to run out to the left, the Browns spy begins to chase down Dalton and put pressure in his face. But, Dalton stays calm and is able to leak out to the left because edge rusher Nate Orchard left the edge to swoop underneath to rush the pocket, losing contain in the process. Tight end Tyler Kroft initially ran a short curl route in the middle of the field, but when he saw Dalton scramble to the left, the tight end was in scramble mode and went with Dalton to the left. Throughout the play, the Browns had tight coverage on every route runner on the field, limiting the targets for Dalton to throw to. But when Kroft left his route and retreated to the left, he gained just a little bit of separation from safety Derrick Kindred. Kindred had overran Kroft a little bit, falling a little behind the tight end. When Kroft turned back to the left, Kindred was too far behind to recover in time to make a play on the pass. Dalton delivers an accurate pass to Kroft, who had the inside leverage, for a first down to extend the drive. A stop could have held the Bengals to a field goal at the very most.
Q1 1:44- Dalton scrambles for five yards on 3rd-and-2
On the same drive, the Browns defense faced another chance where they could limit the Bengals offense to just a field goal. On this 3rd-and-2 play on the 16-yard line, the Browns come out in a shotgun with four Bengals out wide and a running back to the right of Dalton. The Browns rush four with man coverage on all five of the available pass catchers in the play, a defender in the middle of the field to help cover the intermediate area in the middle of the field and a safety covering the backend in the middle of the field. The Browns coverage is pretty darn good in the play. The Browns pass rush is the problem on this play. Cleveland is unable to get any sort of pressure on Dalton. So, Dalton has time to sit in the pocket and let the rush progress up field, leaving a gaping hole to run through and get the past the first down marker. Neither Jamie Meder nor Nate Orchard were able to get away from their single blocker. It left just linebacker Joe Schobert to get to Dalton before he reached the first down. But, Schobert was covering the intermediate middle of the field and was too far back to get there in time to stop Dalton before he reached the first down. Dalton scrambles and rushes for five yards to extend the drive again, which would end up being the first touchdown drive of the game.
Q2 10:12- Kizer throws incomplete pass to DeValve
Following Cincinnati’s first touchdown of the game, the Browns offense responded with an impressive drive, leading to this 2nd-and-9 play inside the redzone. The Browns line up in a shotgun with an empty backfield and five wide. The Bengals rush four on the play with man coverage on all the pass catchers except the one in the slot with two linebackers in underneath zone in the middle of the field and a deep safety over top. The Browns had a couple of opportunities on this play. The first opportunity was with receiver Rashard Higgins on the right side of the field. He gains immediate separation from his coverage, who decided to go over top the outside receiver that Higgins ran underneath of. Higgins was running a out and up route, but Kizer and Higgins should have been able to break it off early and make an easy five to ten yard completion. But, Kizer was focused on the other side of the field at that time.
The second missed opportunity was one where Kizer might have missed a potential touchdown. On the far left, receiver Kasen Williams was running a designed post route. Williams gained the inside leverage on the route and when he turned inside he was open at the goal line. There was a safety over top, but Kizer could have used his eyes to move him far enough away from Williams for Kizer to fit a pass to Williams for a touchdown. But, Kizer was too quick to leave Williams and move another option on the field. The final missed opportunity is on tight end Seth DeValve. Through all the possible missed opportunities, Kizer was in position to still make a positive play with a completion to DeValve. The tight end got away from the Bengal linebacker and had a chance to get a pass in space where he could use his athleticism to head up field. But, DeValve drops the accurate pass from Kizer. It was just one more missed opportunity on the play.
Q2 10:07- Kizer throws pass to Britt that is deflected and intercepted in redzone
This was probably the biggest play of the game. Following the dropped pass by DeValve on the previous play, the Browns were faced with a 3rd-and-9 inside the redzone. The Browns came out for this critical play in a shotgun formation with an empty backfield and five wide. The Bengals come out in man coverage on all the Browns out wide except the one in the slot with the linebackers in the middle of the field in zone, a deep safety over top and four pass rushers. The main receiver to watch on the play is Britt on the far left side of the field against Bengals cornerback Adam Jones. Britt runs a 10-yard curl route versus the off-man coverage of Jones. The play begins perfectly. With single off-man coverage on Britt, the curl route allows the receiver to get to the first down marker and get open just enough for Kizer to hit him for a first down conversion. Kizer throws the ball with perfect timing, letting go of the ball right as Britt begins to turn around. The pass is not completely accurate with the receiver having to reach a little to his outside to make the catch. But, any NFL caliber receiver should have caught the pass. But, Britt lets the ball clank off his hands and deflect right to Bengals safety Clayton Fejedelem for an interception. The play should have been a first down, but Britt’s hands derail the success of the play.
Q2 5:34- Dalton completes pass to Kroft for 21 yards on 3rd and 15
After the crushing interception of Kizer, the Browns defense had a chance to limit the damage and stall the ensuing drive on a 3rd and 15 from the Bengals 27-yard line. Cincinnati lines up in a shotgun with four out wide and running back to the left of Dalton. The Browns rush four on the play with zone coverage to cover the long third down play. The key route to watch was Bengals tight end Tyler Kroft, who was running a streak down the numbers on left side of the field. The play is successful due to the huge hole left in the zone coverage. The communication by the Browns defenders on left side of the field was not good. Linebacker Christian Kirksey had the underneath zone on the left side of the field, while cornerback Jamar Taylor was in charge of the anything left or on the numbers above Kirksey. Safety Derrick Kindred was the safety over top on the left side of the field.
I would place the blame on both Kindred and Kirksey. First of all, Kirksey had the underneath zone, but he lacked situational awareness on the play. The Bengals needed 15 yards and the Bengals had almost their entire potential pass catching targets run deep down field to try and get to the sticks. Kirksey had the first contact of Kroft, but he let Kroft run past him into an open zone. Kirksey did not need to stay underneath when there were no targets in the underneath zone and that for the fact the Bengals needed 15 yards for the first. His lack of situational awareness allowed Kroft to find a soft area in the zone. Over top, Kindred was too deep. With Taylor having to guard the receiver on the sideline running a streak and Kirksey covering the underneath zone, Kindred needed to be closer to the play, so he could help handle Kroft. But, Kindred was too deep to get to Kroft, allowing Dalton to fire a pass to the open Kroft and convert the play for a first down. This was a crushing blow to the defense that eventual allowed the Bengals to drive down and get their second touchdown of the day.
Q2 :47- Dalton completes pass to Bernard for 61-yard touchdown
This play was pretty much the final nail into the coffin for the Browns. The Browns were hanging on by a thread from this game turning into a rout. With just under a minute left, the Bengals were trying to put together a quick two-minute drive to add some more points to the board. Out a no huddle, the Bengals were in a shotgun with four wide and running back to the right of Dalton. The Browns had man coverage on the four Bengals out wide, a deep safety over top and six defenders rushing the passer.
The Bengals run a perfect play for the Browns blitzing of six defenders. With six defenders going after Dalton, it left running back Gio Bernard uncovered out of the backfield. The Bengals run a perfect screen pass to Bernard that is wide open. With Dalton getting rid of the ball before the rush could get to him, Bernard catches the pass with a lineman in front of him to lead the way. The Browns had just three defenders on the right side of the field, who could be in position to make the tackle. But, the two Browns defenders in man coverage against the Bengals two pass catchers on the right side of the field cannot get to Bernard in time. The two defenders are focusing on their man coverage to their man and when they see Bernard catching the ball, one defender does not realize in time to chase down Bernard and the other is getting stuck on a block by his man he was covering.
So, this leaves just safety Jabrill Peppers to make the stop on the screen pass. Bengals center Russell Bodine was the lead blocker on the screen and was the only man between Peppers and Bernard. Peppers tries to go underneath of Bodine, but he is clotheslined by Bodine, allowing Bernard to have a free path to the endzone. First of all, the play should have been called back because Bodine grabbed Peppers facemask to clothesline him from getting to Bernard. It should have drawn a flag for a facemask. But, Peppers took a bad route to try and get to the running back. Rather than go over top of Bodine and fill in Bernard’s running lane, Peppers decides to slip underneath of the blocker. This move probably would have failed because he would have had to quickly dive to get his hands on Bernard and that is never the best way to tackle a ball carrier. Peppers misjudged his route and took the wrong path to the runner. With this touchdown, the Bengals rout was on.
Highlight of the Game
Emmanuel Ogbah was probably the only highlight of the game versus the Bengals. Against the Bengals, he posted six total tackles, three and a half tackles for a loss, one sack, one quarterback hit, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. It was the first game of the season where Ogbah showed some of the play we saw glimpses of last season. He made some big plays early on in the game where the Browns should have capitalized on. Hopefully we see more of this, especially with the return of Myles Garrett.
Lowlight of the Game
The lowlight of the game versus the Bengals was the Browns pass defense. The Browns allowed Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to complete 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns for a 146.0 passer rating. It could have been worse. In just the first half, Dalton had completed 17 of 18 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns for 156.0 passer rating. With the game in hand for the Bengals for the second half, the Bengals did not need to take further advantage of the Browns defense in the second half. The Browns defense allowed Dalton do anything he wanted.
Joe Gilbert’s 2017 Season Film Rooms