Gregg Williams’ game plan made it too easy for Green Bay

If you have read enough of the work I do here for WFNY, you know that I don’t like blaming breakdowns on coaches unless the blame is obvious enough to warrant it. On Sunday, we witnessed Packer’s backup quarterback Brett Hundley methodically work up and down the field against the Browns defense to the tune of 35-46 for 265 yards and three touchdowns. This is by far the best effort we have seen from Hundley since taking over for the injured Aaron Rodgers, and if you watched the game Sunday you could see how easy it was for the Packers to make simple plays that allotted for both easy first downs, and big plays when Green Bay needed it most.

While I don’t think the initial schematic plan was terrible, the failure to adjust as the Packers kept successfully attacking it is what was most concerning.

The plan was obvious: Play your corners at about eight-to-ten yards depth and have them work initial bail technique. Williams obviously didn’t want Hundley to beat them over the top. Again, this was a sound initial concept from Williams, but as the Packers kept taking advantage of it, something had to change. If you keep getting beat in the quick passing game, run some hard down corner Cover 2, some exchange or invert Cover 2, press corner man concepts. The Browns keep a deep free safety for this exact reason. The failure to adjust in key situations on Sunday was beyond alarming and merits a second look.

Q-1 14:56 Hundley to Nelson, 12-yard reception

First play from scrimmage, and the game plan is obvious. This one is easy for Hundley as Nelson runs a quick hitch and Taylor, aligned eight yards off initially, is in hard bail technique. A sign of things to come.

Q-1 10:16 Hundley to Cobb, 9-yard reception

Key 4th-and-1 situation and Jason McCourty is aligned six yards off initially with inside technique and taking initial steps in bail. This “now” route and throw makes it too easy for the Packers.

Q-3 12:50 Hundley to Nelson, 8-yard reception

Another key down-and-distance involving short yardage and the Browns have their corner aligned eight deep and in initial bail technique. This throw from Hundley to Nelson is too easy.

Q-3 2:49 Hundley to Allison, 8-yard reception

Another easy pitch and catch to get ahead of the sticks. Three-step Hundley drop and a simple hitch route from Geronimo Allison results in eight easy yards as McCourty’s depth and bail do very little to put up a fight.

Q-3 2:06 Hundley to Allison, 8-yard reception

Stop me if you have seen this one before. Almost identical to the play above it. These throws are as basic and easy as it gets for an NFL quarterback.

Q-4 8:21 Hundley to Williams, 9-yard reception

Browns continually use Joe Schobert in deep Tampa-2 coverage (using the MIKE linebacker to cover deep middle of the field) when they present the pre-snap coverage with two high safeties. When they do this, it makes check downs to the running back simple. The Packers showed zero deep middle threats or schemes throughout the game, yet Williams kept using this scheme. Even late in the game.

Q-4 8:12 Hundley to Adams, 8-yard reception

Packers come back to the “Now” route concept with McCourty eight yards off. Easy throw and catch, as McCourty failed to come up and make open-field tackles on Sunday.

Q-4 7:35 Hundley to Nelson, 8-yard reception

Short down and distance at a key time in the game, and Browns allow for an easy slide and chip scheme here. The depth pre snap makes this scheme so easy to operate. Also, this is not a pick play as long as the receiver makes the catch one yard from the line of scrimmage, and in this case, Nelson had caught the ball by the time the block was made.

The problem here is the ease and simplicity with which Green Bay was able to march up and down the field. All the throws I presented to you were made withing five yards of the line of scrimmage and most resulted in easy eight to nine yard gains. When you allow a young quarterback like Hundley to get in a rhythm like this, it is dangerous for your defense. In response Gregg Williams treid to do what he normally does: blitz.

Williams corner depth and over blitzing made these throws too easy for Hundley, and basically nullified any hope the Browns had in getting home on Hundley for a sack or pressure with their front four. Hundley was to get rid of the ball at an average of 2.16 seconds on Sunday. That is extremely quick by NFL quarterback standards and makes things almost impossible for the Browns front to be impactful. It’s not like when Williams actually shifted their corner alignment, he didn’t see results. Hundley consistently missed on deep throws up the sidelines.

The Jason McCourty struggles were quite obvious, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t one hundred percent healthy given his change in results from his first half of the season tha saw him playing amongst the top five corners in the league. The Packers plan to attack him was quite successful.


The Browns formula for failures is widespread in 2017, and plenty of blame is to go around. Gregg Williams has done some nice things for the Browns defensively, but other areas have really suffered as well. For the Browns to get the most out of this injury riddled defense in the last three games, Williams will have to mix up his looks, and make things more difficult on the opposing quarterback than he did this past Sunday. I hope we see some of those changes this week against Baltimore.

  • mddawg

    The head coach should order his DC to make adjustments, unfortunately we don’t have one.

  • Harv

    Watching different versions of death-by-a-thousand-cuts play out week after week is difficult to watch. We kept hearing how Williams liked to attack, but placement of the secondary seems to signal the opposing OC that he can just jab until he punches himself out. It’s like Williams is scared to dare even the greenest QB, and he instead pumps their confidence.

    I get that he’s working with dreck back there, bailing wire, chewing gum and a rookie. But 8 yards off the line on third and 4 is intentionally sustaining a drive.

  • JM85

    They really need to stop doing the stupid safety plays 30 yards away thing. It’s been 13 games and it’s not working.

  • tsm

    I have been waiting for this analysis since the game ended. Thanks for this. As has been pointed out, why not put some pressure on this young QB to throw some balls into tight windows? He did have problems with deeper balls on the sidelines, so I can’t fathom what Gregg was so worried about. At least mix it up so you have a chance at a pick. At -12 you have nothing to lose, so take chances.
    On the other side of the ball, they went into a shell with the 14 point lead. No reason to do this as Kizer was playing well.
    Near the end they had a few 3rd downs with short yardage, which screamed for Kizer to do a play fake and then take it around end with his speed ant athleticism, but they never attempted this.
    The final straw was failing to throw deep with 17 seconds left in regulation. It was obvious that GB had all the momentum and would stand the best chance if the game went to OT. We had nothing to lose. If complete to either Gordon or Coleman then we are ready for a FG. Pass interference would accomplish the same thing. A sack would not be a problem and neither would an interception. Throw a jump ball 50 yards for Gordon and let him kae a play.

  • mgbode

    Quick note: if you want the analysis quicker but not quite as in depth, Jake does his first pass on Monday at:

  • mgbode

    Packers competed a deep pass the one time they challenged it. Yay!

  • Harv

    While I’ve been a proponent of them needing to run more, let’s remember that when the one decent corner covering Gordon got hurt the Packers were playing undrafted rookie free agents (which helps explain Corey Coleman getting open with relative ease all game). I don’t think play calling is the be all and end all – teams have to execute what they do best – but if you aren’t better than your opponent at anything the situation calls for a little flexibility. Just another fail in an epically bad Browns era.

  • tigersbrowns2

    good one !

  • tigersbrowns2

    MacGyver could make those things work.

  • Pat Leonard

    It’s just unfathomable. How can the defensive coordinator watch Hundley pick apart his CBs on short throws all game long and never adjust? I’m so tired of change, but if Hue is going to be around in 2018 by declaration of the owner, at least ditch GW. He clearly has no interest in adjusting his defensive philosophy in spite of great evidence to do so. I love being able to stop the run, but this is a passing league and it is so much more important to shut down the pass.

  • Pat Leonard

    And it’s not like we would even know. GW won’t change his schemes, so we can’t tell if the Browns would be more effective if he relied on his players to make plays.

  • scripty

    No Calhoun, Peppers, Collins, Shelton or Ogbah. One LB can only blitzz or run support. Nassib got his monthly pass block and choked a sack away. Our franchise DE didn’t change the game and blew a tackle on the winning play. They scored 21 points in regulation.

  • JM85

    It’s also allowing offenses to throw short and medium passes with no defensive players around.

  • Pat Leonard

    It’s easy to say that, but look at the defensive scheme. Sorry, there’s just no defending that scheme. If you replaced McCourty with Darrelle Revis in his prime, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

  • scripty

    Yes it easy to say missing half their starters is not ideal. Yes there is some concern over McCourtey’s failures. Am I blowing my stack over this, not yet.

    The replacement players are stiffs. If Sammie Coates isn’t on the roster and Nassib could actually tackle, they win and the defense gets a lot of credit.

    More Nacua, more Orchard, more Bello? I respect your work here but this is where people are putting too much blame where it doesn’t belong. At a certain point, Williams brought a depleted defensive roster to the brink of a win. They bent but didnt break. Perhaps get some real ST players who can tackle and maintain lane integirty. Perhaps tell Nassib he’s gonna sit until he overachieves. Perhaps tell the offense to forcefeed your superstar.

    I’m not trying to be hipster or antagonize. The plan worked until the special teams failed and the players got soft and quit executing.

  • Pat Leonard

    You’re missing the point. The roster is not the reason why we lost the game. The backup players were fine. Yes, Nassib missed a sack, but otherwise, they did a pretty good job. It’s so much more challenging for the defense to have to perform within these schemes. Nate Orchard actually did have a sack.

  • scripty

    It would cost this team nothing than a half million in cap space to have added a few special teams aces. Those last roster spots aren’t really working in development. Sashi wasn’t committed to winning. It shows.

  • scripty

    I get your point and I disagree. I didn’t miss anything.

  • Pat Leonard

    Fair enough… we shall shake hands and walk away.

  • bossman09

    2 thoughts –
    Green bay scored 3 TDs in 60 minutes. It’s not like they racked up 40 points. The soft coverage really became an issue in 2 key situations – the 65 yard punt return that changed a 90 yard drive for a game tying TD into a 25 yard drive in 2:20. If the punt return is 10 or 20 yards, we are not having this conversation.
    The INT in overtime was the other scenario, GB only had to get 12 of the 42 yards to get into field goal range. Everything after that was already after the end of the game. The Browns blitzed on pretty much every play in this scenario
    In both cases, the dink and dunk approach worked because of the short field position.
    Second, the Blitz rate picked up in the 4th QTR and that hurt the Browns because it made the quick reads that much easier with less people to challenge the reads and make tackles.

  • Harv

    My working theory – based on absolutely nothing – is that Williams thinks that suppressing points by limiting big plays with this depleted roster will help him rehab his damaged rep in the league. No other explanation for the guy that supposedly spent all off-season pushing big plays and turnovers has gone into a shell worthy of Foge Fazio in this franchise’s only playoff game. The linemen play hard but stupid, everyone else plays confused and scared.

  • MartyDaVille

    As I recall, Foge got a bad rap on that. It was Butch who panicked with the lead and called the dogs off.

  • mddawg

    As Herm Edwards said: “you play to win the game”. 21 points in regulation is immaterial, Green Bay scored enough points to tie and then win the game. Starting the 4th quarter with this defense was the fatal flaw and even I was screaming at my tv when they went into prevent mode that early.

  • Jake Burns

    Speaking from a quarterback standpoint there is nothing easier than know you have deep corners and they’re bailing on the snap. It sets your mind at ease. Same with the concept as an OC. Makes play calling easy, they got the ball out at 2.16 seconds on average. Garrett/Ogunjobi/Nassib can’t have much an impact when it’s that easy.

    All this is calling for is switching it up on occasion to break predictability. That isn’t too much to ask for in my opinion. Hundley competing 35 passes all below 10 yards, except for one – that tells the story. He had a career day. This obviously isn’t all on Gregg, but the game plan clearly failed.

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  • Skulb

    The weird thing is that most NFL teams do this or something very similar routinely when they are ahead. Apparently it is statistically beneficial if you tilt your head the right way. Fans usually call it prevent, but it’s actually zero-blitz Cover 2. Theoretically this makes it hard for the opposing offense to go deep, so that they will have to spend time running as many short/run plays as possible to get down the field. And it’s responsible for more fourth quarter defensive meltdowns than anything else I’ve ever witnessed.
    You know how they call it a copycat league. Well, they’re copying this right now. The Skins lost the Saints game exclusively because of it. And last year’s Detroit game.

  • Skulb

    Nah, NFL coaches are like lemmings. Their numbers tell them that this is the best way to defend in the fourth if you have a lead. I have absolutely no idea what sort of numbers these are, because they seem to contradict what fans are seeing every single week across the league. If there’s a fourth quarter collapse/massive miracle comeback in the fourth quarter of a game, you can bet good money that it happened because of this form of “defense”. It’s what the Falcons decided to do in the Superbowl, to take an obvious example. Yet still NFL defensive coordinators keep tormenting us with this obviously useless defensive concept. Because it’s best! According to the data! The data must be right, or that other DC I admire wouldn’t be doing this! I know best!

    If you lift your eyes from the mangled carcass of the Cleveland Browns for just a second, you will see that this is affecting every single fan base, because defensive coordinators across the league are all doing the same thing. If the Packers had been leading by two scores in the fourth, they would have been running this zero-blitz Cover 2 garbage and possibly lost to a Cleveland comeback. Because of this collective stupidity it is almost a disadvantage to have leads in the fourth quarter right now.

  • Skulb

    I should be more accurate; cover 2 works great as a changeup. You can bait errant throws with it, cornerbacks can set themselves up to jump routes and deep balls can be shut down. Against a poor QB and a sputtering offense it can be a killing blow. But it does not work at all if the opposing team knows that you’re just permanently in it, which is what most DCs are now doing, and not just Gregg Williams. Or indeed if you’re facing a good QB who knows that you’re permanently in cover 2. He will rip you to shreds in seconds.

  • scripty

    I feel I noted he could mix it up, but we don’t know if they had the personnel to mix it up given the losses. Could it be GW’s fault the back-up personnel couldn’t perform, sure that’s a worthy debate.

    The previous two weeks GB averaged 5.6 adn 5.2 yards per play, vs 4.6 vs CLE. They had 299 yards in regulation. I think at some point we feel they put out a respectable effort. At no point have I said this was a flawless gameplan.

    Occam’s razor tells me that the gameplan was decent. You’re saying the defensive plan clearly failed. I saw aexamples of execution issues in there that caused a lot of the “failure” and feel this L is on the offense and special teams. I just won’t say this plan CLEARLY FAILED.

  • Jake Burns

    Sure, the Yards Per Play stats you mention is solid, but consider Green Bay ran 74 plays this Sunday to mid 50’s the last two weeks – that skews the numbers as the Browns couldn’t get Green Bay off the field when it mattered in those key situations.

    I think this stat below backs up that it can be changed up without blaming personnel. Nobody blames the loss on Gregg Williams, but the game plan made life pretty easy for the very limited Packers offense.

    #Browns run press coverage on 26.5% of their plays – lowest rate in NFL

    In press: 4 TD, 3 INT, 75.7 passer rating – 8th best.
    No press: 22 TD, 3 INT, 117.3 – dead last.

    Browns lived in the no press world on Sunday, and those numbers don’t lie. Failed to adjust when they clearly needed to. Hundley was terrible up the sidelines deep on multiple occasions when they actually walked a corner down into someone’s face. NFL games are swung on minor adjustments. One’s we failed to see defensively.

    This is a game plan that failed it when it mattered. Doesn’t mean others didn’t contiribte to it and I never said the defense alone lost this game.

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