The Cleveland Browns were drudged into a reality check after the Houston Texans beat the Browns soundly, 29-13. The game was decided pretty early in the game with the Browns ending the first half down 23-0. All facets of the team struggled in the first half. It was a bad performance from the Browns.
The game had many bad and ugly parts for Cleveland. However, the game was not a total wash. There were some positives in the game, even though the game was never really close.
In this week’s Browns film room, I will examine the good, bad and ugly parts of the Browns loss to the Texans. I will give out the areas I thought were good, bad and ugly for the Browns. Here we go!
The Browns offense may have had their share of problems, especially in the turnover department, but the Browns passing game had a lot of success in the form of big plays. Of the 29 completions quarterback Baker Mayfield had on Sunday, 13 of those completions went for at least 15 yards with eight of those going for at least 20 yards. Here are the two longest pass plays of the game for the Browns.
Q3 3:55 3rd-and-12: Mayfield to Callaway for 71 yards; Callaway fumbles on two-yard line
For this 3rd-and-12 situation, the Browns lined up in a shotgun with four out wide and a running back to the right of Mayfield. The Texans call for a zone defense in the secondary with four pass rushers. On the left side of the field, the Browns have two receivers running deep routes toward the left sideline. The key route is wide receiver Antonio Callaway on the right side of the field, running a deep post route. When the play is started, Mayfield is almost immediately met with pressure from his right side, but he keeps his eyes on the left side of the field. This keeps the safety covering the left half of the field to shade a little too far over to the sideline to affect this pass. Mayfield avoids the pressure by stepping up in the pocket and fires the pass to Callaway when the receiver enters the zone in the middle of the field behind the linebackers. The safety on the right reacts quickly to the ball, but Callaway makes a great catch and is able to absorb the contact and continue down field for run after the catch. Though, Callaway is caught and stripped at the end by a trailing defender.
Q4 11:36 1st-and-10: Mayfield to Landry for 28 yards
For this play, the Browns came out in a shotgun with four out wide and a running back to the left of Mayfield. The Texans are once again in a zone coverage with two deep safeties cutting the field in half in the back end of the defense. The ball is snapped and Mayfield first looks to the receiver running in the middle of the field, but Houston tightly covers him. While Mayfield looks down the middle of the field, a pass rusher starts to get free, forcing Mayfield to escape out the right side of the pocket. As he viewed the middle of the field, the safety on the right side of the field got swept inside a little too far because of Mayfield’s attention to the middle of the field. This allowed wide receiver Jarvis Landry to get behind the underneath defender on the right sideline and to find an open void in the defense. As Mayfield rolls out of the pocket, he sees Landry and fires a beautiful pass right over the underneath defender.
The Browns run defense was not great versus the Houston Texan run game. The Texans rushed 39 times for 187 total yards. Houston averaged 4.8 yards per rush attempt. Here are a couple of the big runs the Texans were able to make versus the Browns run game.
Q4 7:33 1st-and-10: Miller rushes for 32 yards
The Texans line up in a single back set with a receiver on both side of the field. The Browns have eight in the box versus this outside run play. Running back Lamar Miller takes the handoff and starts to head toward the left edge. Miller goes out there and shows really good patience, letting his blocking set up. Miller pauses in the backfield and causes defensive lineman Myles Garrett to hedge just a bit inside of his blocker. This opens up a lane to the outside. Miller sees it and heads right to the outside of Garrett. With the hedge to the inside, Garrett’s blocker is able to shield Garrett from getting to the lane. The hesitation and patience by Miller was the key to this play. Miller is untouched until he is driven out of bounds.
Q3 1:39 1st-and-10: Blue rushes for 17 yards
The Texans are in a shotgun with four out wide and a running back to the right of the quarterback, while the Browns have seven in the box. The run play is to the left with the right guard pulling to the left to lead running back Alfred Blue. The right guard pulls to the left edge, while the left tackle crashes inside and the tight end on the left end of the line goes down field to block the linebacker lined up over him. The blocking scheme leaves linebacker Joe Schobert unblocked and in position to fill the running lane. But, Schobert over runs the play and heads to far outside. Blue is able to cut to the inside of Schobert and run through the hole. The running back is able to pull off a nice gain with the back adding a few more yards at the end of the run by fighting through multiple tackle attempts.
The ugliest part of the loss to the Texans was the turnovers by the Browns. The Browns gave the ball away four times and turned it over on downs twice. The turnovers turned in Houston points and ended possible momentum swings of the Browns offense. Here are a couple of the turnovers the Browns had on Sunday.
Q2 6:47 1st-and-20: Mayfield intercepted by Joseph
The Browns come out in an I-formation with a wide receiver on both sides of the field and a tight end on the left end of the line. The Texans are in a zone coverage for this play. The ball is snapped and Mayfield keeps his eyes on the left side of the field. Mayfield is trying to draw the inside linebacker on the right side of the field to shade too far inside, so he can have a lane to wide receiver Antonio Callaway, who is running a curl route. But, two things happen. Mayfield takes too long to turn his attention to Callaway. The cornerback covering the right sideline sees Callaway sitting down for the curl route. The corner is able to get to Callaway and undercut him to pick off the ball. The other factor was that Callaway did not come back to the ball at all, which allowed the corner to get underneath. These factors led to the ball being picked off by Johnathan Joseph.
Q2 1:52 3rd-and-10: Mayfield intercepted by Hal
For this third down play, the Browns line up in a shotgun with four out wide and a running back to the right of Mayfield. The Texans have man coverage on the four targets out wide with two deep safeties. The key route is tight end David Njoku, running a streak route down the middle of the field. The play was just messed up from the start. The pressure from the right edge of the pocket forces Mayfield to have to escape the pocket, which messes up the entire timing of the play. Njoku is able to get behind his man in coverage and is splitting the safeties down the middle of the field. But, the ball needed to be out right when Njoku gets beyond the defender covering him. Mayfield had to scramble, causing him to miss the timing. Then, Mayfield compounds the failure of the play by throwing an ill-advised and off target pass to the endzone. The pass is forced and thrown way too far back for Njoku to contest the pass.
The highlight of the game versus the Houston Texans was the Browns pass protection. For the third straight game, the Browns line did not allow a sack. The offensive line was able to hold a dangerous Texan pass rush led by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney to no sacks. The Browns offensive line is really gelling into a quality line for the team.
The lowlight of the game versus the Houston Texans was the fact that the game was pretty much decided at halftime. The Browns were on a roll as a team, but arrived in Houston to receive a strict reality check that they are not ready for the prime time. The Browns are not there yet. It was a rough realization, but one that was not a huge surprise.