The Cleveland Browns lost to the Los Angeles Chargers, 38-14, in a game that got out of hand early in the second half. It was the first game of the season where the Browns were not in striking distance for the entire game. There were many problems for Cleveland, both on offense and defense. However, one of the biggest culprits to the blowout loss was the Browns poor run defense. Los Angeles rushed 36 times for 246 yards against the Browns defense. The Chargers averaged 6.8 yards per carry. The Browns just could not stop the Chargers run game.
One of the main breakdowns of the Browns run defense against the Chargers was their allowance of big run plays. The Chargers gashed the run defense all day with big runs. In total, the Cleveland defense allowed 12 runs of at least 10 yards. The Browns could not limit the Chargers runners all day.
In this week’s Browns film room, I will take a look at the 12 Chargers’ runs of 10 yards or more. I will examine what went wrong for the Browns defense in these plays. So, let’s get to it.
Q1 12:06 2nd-and-6: Melvin Gordon rushes for 16 yards
This run play was successful because multiple Browns defenders in this play left their assignment. The Chargers run a zone stretch run to the left. Immediately off the snap, Browns defensive lineman Myles Garrett cuts inside to the right from his spot on the outside shoulder of the left tackle. This leaves a huge hole on the left side of the line. But, there should have been a back up in the likes of linebacker Joe Schobert. But, he was blocked out of the play by the center. This happened because Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi decides to make a quick move to the right to avoid the center. But, Ogunjobi is swept up by the right guard, making the move useless. However, the move by Ogunjobi was a negative for the rest of the defense. Because Ogunjobi eluded the block of the center, the center was able to get to the second level and block Schobert who was in the range of filling the gap left by Garrett. With linebacker Jamie Collins going to the outside to set the edge, Chargers running back Melvin Gordon had a massive hole to run through with no one touching him until he was tackled 16 yards downfield. The play had too many players trying to make the play themselves, ending up in a defensive breakdown.
Q1 11:25 1st-and-10: Keenan Allen runs for 16 yards
The Chargers call for a wide receiver reverse with wide receiver Keenan Allen coming from the right to take the handoff and head around the left end. The Chargers also add the wrinkle of a fake run to the right with the running back heading that direction at the snap. The fake actually draws all the linebackers to the right. This leaves just Myles Garrett and Browns cornerback E.J. Gaines. Garrett is almost immediately out of the play because of the quick speed of Allen receiving the handoff, but more importantly, Garrett crashes inside just a little. This move allows Allen to get around him, leaving just Gaines on the edge. But, Gaines decides to go to the outside of the receiver trying to block him, making the inside lane wide open for Allen to speed downfield for a big gain where he was mostly untouched. The lack of discipline in this play by the linebackers and Garrett were key to the breakdown. I am not blaming Gaines as much because he was trying to keep the outside leverage by shooting to the outside.
Q2 12:08 2nd-and-5: Melvin Gordon rushes for 13 yards
This was a numbers game. The Chargers see that the Browns have four defenders bunched on the left end of the line, but only one defender on the right edge. So, the Chargers run a brilliant counter run to the right. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers goes the left like it will be a handoff to the left, while Melvin Gordon takes a step to the left. This causes the Browns defense to fire off to the left initially. This allows the blocking to set up. With Larry Ogunjobi pushed out to the left, it left three defenders on the right. Browns defensive tackle Trevon Coley, who is at the right B gap, is double teamed and pushed to the ground. Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey is fooled by the initial counter action, causing him to take a step or so to the left. This allows the right tackle to get off his double team assignment to meet Kirksey in the second level where he can block Kirksey. This leaves defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah as the only free defender on the right side of the formation. But, Ogbah is blocked out of the way by the leading blocker, who came from the left side of the line. The blocking is perfect, allowing Melvin Gordon to run through a big hole untouched until he is tackled down field. It was a great play call and execution by the Chargers.
Q2 2:13 1st-and-10: Melvin Gordon rushes for 14 yards
I am blaming this run play on two players, Myles Garrett and Christian Kirksey. The Chargers called a simple handoff to Melvin Gordon where he is to head to the left edge. Kirksey and Garrett are both swept inside in the play. Kirksey attacks the line aggressively and allows himself to get stuck in traffic, so he cannot chase the runner to the outside. This leaves Garrett as the only defender on the edge to derail a big run to the outside. However, Garrett crashes inside too far inside where he is caught by a blocker who shields him from getting to Gordon. Gordon now has open space around the edge. Joe Schobert is able to come across the formation and meet Gordon five yards past the line of scrimmage, but Schobert overruns the runner and gets swept up by a blocker. This allows Gordon to cut back inside for a few more yards. It was bad discipline once again by the Browns defense.
Q3 14:56 1st-and-10: Keenan Allen runs for 20 yards
The Chargers run a receiver reverse with Keenan Allen crossing the formation from the right and getting the handoff to head around the left edge. The first pillar to fall on the Browns defense was the false steps by both Myles Garrett and Jamie Collins. Garrett gets off the line and goes inside just a few steps, but those steps allow Allen to get past Garrett before Garrett can react. Collins, who is the linebacker on the left side of the formation, immediately comes up to the line after the snap and tries to avoid the blocker by making a move to the inside. This takes him out of the play and leaves just safety Jabrill Peppers to keep the edge. But, Peppers is driven out toward the sideline by the tight end, who was at the left end of the line. Peppers does well to keep the outside leverage, but the lack of defenders inside allows Allen to slip inside of Peppers and head downfield for another big gain. The Browns front seven defenders once again fail in defending an outside run.
Q3 11:54 1st-and-10: Melvin Gordon rushes for a 10-yard touchdown
The Chargers call a halfback toss to the right, but they also throw in a wrinkle where there is a reverse action running to left. This action holds the backside defenders just a few seconds, but it takes them out of the play from coming and tracking the run play down from the backside. The first misstep in this play is Emmanuel Ogbah, who decides to penetrate the blocking by heading inside around his blocker. So, Ogbah is unable to get to Melvin Gordon before he is already on the outside of him. Jamie Collins heads too far outside and is then blocked out of the play by one of the lead blockers. The last key play was actually penalty worthy, in my opinion. Linebacker Joe Schobert was in striking distance to make a play after a few yards, but Schobert is grabbed and turned by his blocker after Schobert is able to get past the blocker in pursuit of Gordon. With Schobert unable to get to Gordon, a final block downfield gave Gordon an easy touchdown.
Q3 6:18 2nd-and-15: Austin Ekeler rushes for 16 yards
Though it was a long second down situation, the Browns defense was ill-prepared for a run. There were only three defenders on the right side of the formation with just one linebacker in the second level even close to the line of scrimmage. The Chargers call for a handoff to the right edge. Larry Ogunjobi, who is at nose tackle, is contacted just a little to disallow him to blow up the handoff at the start of the play. Emmanuel Ogbah, who is in the right B gap, is double teamed and taken out of the play, while Christian Kirksey, who is on the outside of Ogbah, is taken out by the tight end on the right end of the line. The final block comes from the pulling right guard. He is able to come over and block Browns linebacker Genard Avery, who was lined up on the right end of the line. With Browns linebacker James Burgess deciding to attack the line from his post in the middle of the formation, there were no more defenders who can make a play in this run. Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is untouched till he is tackled 16 yards downfield. The Browns had no second line of defense, giving the Chargers an easy gain.
Q3 5:21 1st-and-10: Austin Ekeler rushes for 13 yards
This quite frankly is just bad tackling. The Browns had this play well defended. The Chargers run a handoff to the right. James Burgess and Jamie Collins read it well and fill the hole that Austin Ekeler was about to hit. But, Ekeler makes a jump cut to the right and makes both linebackers miss the tackle. Ekeler breaks another tackle downfield and drives Jabrill Peppers a little more yards before he goes down. This is just bad tackling.
Q3 3:57 2nd-and-5: Mike Williams runs for 10 yards
This is another great play design by the Chargers. The play call is a wide receiver reverse with a fake handoff to back before the toss to the receiver. The fake toss makes the whole box for the Browns shift to the right where the handoff was going. It leaves little resistance on the left side of the field. The only defender to stop this reverse is Jamie Collins, but he decides to penetrate the backfield in the inside of his block. He is unable to reach Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams before he gets out to the edge. With Collins behind him, the left side of the field is wide open for another big gain. The Browns edge setting fails again.
Q3 3:15 1st-and-10: Melvin Gordon rushes for an 11-yard touchdown
This is another example of the Browns’ struggle to defend the edge. The Chargers call a halfback toss to left. Myles Garrett is able to get a good jump upfield, but he is blocked just enough from the receiver to his outside that Melvin Gordon is able to get around him to the edge of the defense. However, Browns cornerback Denzel Ward is coming upfield to try and take down Gordon before he can get a good gain. Ward, though, is thrown down by the left tackle who is leading Gordon on the run. The block is close to a penalty, but it is not called. Gordon gets past Ward and eludes two defenders to finish off his run into the endzone.
Q4 10:57 1st-and-10: Austin Ekeler rushes for 20 yards
For this play, the Chargers call a handoff to the left. The breakdown here comes from the coordination between Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey. Collins immediately heads upfield and takes on the lead blocker. He does this and takes himself out of the play. If he did this, you would think that someone would fill in behind him because the edge is wide open after Collins heads upfield. But, Kirksey decides to attack his block by shooting inside and making a diving attempt at Austin Ekeler. Kirksey misses the tackle and that leaves no one on the edge to stop Ekeler, who runs downfield for a big 20-yard gain. The play of those two linebackers was a microcosm of the breakdown the Browns run defense had all day.
Q4 9:28 2nd-and-1: Melvin Gordon rushes for 15 yards
This final play, the Chargers call a handoff up the middle of the defense. I think this play should have been called back for holding. Browns defensive tackle Trevon Coley, who is lined up as the nose tackle, slips into the backfield very quickly after the snap. He has a free lane to the backfield, but the right guard grabs Coley and does not allow Coley to collapse into the hole. With Coley subdued, Melvin Gordon slips through the middle of the line. Emmanuel Ogbah almost takes the runner down, but Gordon is able to break through the tackle. Gordon is taken down after a 15-yard gain. The play should have been called back for holding.
Highlight of the Game
The highlight of the game versus the Los Angeles Chargers was returner Jabrill Peppers. There were not a lot of positives in the game, but Peppers’ performance as a returner was a nice sign. He returned four punts for 51 yards and three kicks for 71 yards, averaging 12.8 yards per punt return and 23.7 yards per kick return. It may have been his best day as a Browns returner.
Lowlight of the Game
The lowlight of the game versus the Los Angeles Chargers was the performance of the Browns run defense. As I illustrated above, the Browns run defense was atrocious. Giving up 246 rushing yards is just too much to give up for any team to win a game.