The Cleveland Browns had one of their weirdest season openers this past Sunday (which is saying something), as the Browns tied the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-21. The game had its ups and downs with Cleveland showing some really good things and some really troubling things.
One of the biggest areas of stress was the Browns pass protection. The Browns allowed seven sacks, losing a combined 47 yards in those sacks. The sacks are a big concern going forward. Who, though, is to blame for these seven sacks? Well, it cannot be answered with one cause. Each of the seven sacks can be attributed to either the blocking, the lack of open receivers, Tyrod Taylor or a combination.
In this week’s film room, I will take a look at the seven sacks the Browns gave up against the Steelers. I will evaluate the sack and lay the blame on one or more of those culprits for each sack. Let’s get to the film!
Q1 7:39 1st-and-10 – Taylor sacked for a five-yard loss
There is a lot going on in this play. The play starts with a fake handoff to the running back. When Taylor turns around, he sees wide receiver Antonio Callaway running open between the two defenders covering the left sideline in zone coverage. But, Callaway is running an out and up route and does not turn around when reaching the open zone in the coverage. So, Taylor could not throw it to him. The rest of the coverage is very tight and so when Taylor scans the field, he cannot find an open option.
This is where Taylor gets in trouble. Taylor feels the pressure from behind him, so he steps up into the pocket. But, he moves up a little too far and then tries to slip through the tiny hole on the left side of the pocket. In doing this, he runs right into the pressure and the eventual sack. Had Taylor stayed in the middle of the pocket, he would see the right side of the pocket wide open to escape for a possible scramble or room to continue to look downfield or throw the ball away. The verdict on this play is that the wide receivers are the problem at the beginning of the play with Taylor compounding the play to get eventually sacked.
Q2 3:50 2nd-and-10 – Taylor sacked for a seven-yard loss
This sack was all on the blocking and the inability to pick up the blitzer. The Steelers bring a blitz from their strong side linebacker, Jon Bostic. Cleveland leaves Bostic unblocked, allowing him to easily get to Taylor for a sack. The mix up in protection is on the left side between left guard Joel Bitonio, left tackle Desmond Harrison and tight end Darren Fells. Both Bitonio and Harrison go inside to block, while Fells blocks the outside edge rusher. This leaves a huge hole between Harrison and Fells for Bostic to run right through. Bitonio blocks no one on the play, while Harrison takes the defensive lineman in the B gap. Running back Nick Chubb in the backfield went to the right initially to block, so he was too late to get over to pick up Bostic. The blame falls squarely on the blocking assignments and the breakdown of the blocking call pre-snap. You can’t leave a hole that big in the protection.
Q2 0:37 2nd-and-16 – Taylor sacked for an eight-yard loss
For this sack, I am laying the blame on Taylor. Yes, left tackle Desmond Harrison gets beat pretty quickly in the play, but Taylor had an open option early in this play. Taylor makes a smart move early on in the play by putting his eyes on the left side of the field. This causes the linebacker in the middle of the field to shade to the left, leaving an open space to his right. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who is lined up on the right, is set to run a deep post route across the field. With the linebacker shading to the left, Landry is able to run into the open hole in the coverage. Once he gets inside the linebacker lined up over the tight end, he is open for a pass. But, Taylor does not fire the pass and misses the opportunity to complete the pass. The play was there for Taylor, but he does not make it.
Q3 15:00 1st-and-10 – Taylor sacked for a 10-yard loss
This sack is mostly on the blocking with just a little to the receivers. The ball is snapped and there are no open targets for Taylor to get rid of the ball quickly. With no quick options, Taylor had no chance because of a breakdown in the blocking by tight end Darren Fells. He is lined up on the right edge and is assigned to block Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt. Watt just blows past Fells. Watt is too quick for Fells and is able to get the edge on Fells, leading to Watt quickly getting to the quarterback. Fells gave the Browns no chance for a successful play here.
Q3 6:53 3rd-and-12 – Taylor sacked for a five-yard loss
The sack on this play should be blamed on Taylor. When the ball is snapped, Taylor is given a clean pocket for around three seconds. This is plenty of time for him to find an open receiver and there was one. Jarvis Landry was in the left slot running a deep post route. Landry runs a perfect route and gets the defender covering him to make some false steps. The defender is facing the sideline and is hedging for an outside route, so when Landry goes inside, the defender has to turn around quickly, making him slip a little doing so. This gives Landry a little space to be open in the middle of the field. Taylor is still clean in the pocket when Landry gets open, but he is looking at Gordon on the outside, completely missing the opportunity to throw it to Landry. So, Taylor holds onto the ball too long, causing him to get sacked.
Q4 12:11 2nd-and-4 – Taylor sacked for an 11-yard loss
I am going to give the blame for this sack to the offensive line. The Browns offensive line did not block long enough for a deep pass to develop. Right guard Kevin Zeitler does not shuffle his feet quick enough, allowing Steelers defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt to quickly penetrate through the line and get into the face of Taylor. Taylor is forced to scramble and is eventually taken down for a sack. Interior pressure is the hardest to deal with and Tuitt was able to create it pretty quickly in this play. It blew up the whole play.
OT 4:57 2nd-and-10 – Taylor sacked for a one-yard loss
This is another play with a lot going on in this play action pass. Taylor fakes the handoff and turns to look downfield, but he immediately met with pressure on the right edge. He does well by avoiding the pressure and rolling out of the pocket to continue to keep the play alive. However, when Taylor rolls out, he misses an opportunity to get the first down and avoid the sack. Wide receiver Josh Gordon is on the right sideline running a hitch route five yards past the first down marker. Gordon is able to get separation from the corner covering him, but Taylor is looking elsewhere and does not see Gordon open. As Taylor heads toward the sideline, Gordon could have come back to the ball to make himself an option throughout the entirety of the play. Overall, this sack has troubles from the blocking, quarterback and the receivers.
Highlight of the Week
Myles Garrett is the highlight of the week versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. Garrett posted six tackles, three tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, two sacks, and two forced fumbles. He was the leading force in getting the Browns back into the game from a two-touchdown deficit and he made numerous game-changing plays that put the Browns in position to win the game. He was great.
Lowlight of the Week
The lowlight of the week for the Browns game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers was the Browns offense. With the influx of offensive talent added this offseason, the Browns offense had a lot of expectations going into the season. But versus the Steelers, the Browns were unable to get into a flow all game. The unit only mustered seven points off the six turnovers the Browns defense gave them. There were not many bright spots on that side of the ball.