The Cleveland Browns were shellacked by the San Francisco 49ers on Monday, falling to the undefeated 49ers, 31-3. Not much went right on Monday for the Browns. But, one of the biggest failings in the loss was the collapse of the Browns defense. The unit had performed pretty well this season, but against the 49ers, they had no answer for the 49ers offense. They particularly struggled to defend the run, giving up 235 yards on 40 carries. The defense was quite frankly dominated. Of the 40 attempts, nine of those runs had instances where a 49er runner did not get touched by a Browns defender for at least five yards past the line of scrimmage. So, why did the Browns struggle to stop the run? In today’s film room, we will break down the nine plays where a 49er runner ran at least five yards past the line of scrimmage without being contacted by a Browns defender, diagnosing what happened to the defense in each play. Let’s begin.
Q1 13:28 first-and-10: Breida runs 83 yards for a touchdown
This is an excellent misdirection play by the 49ers. San Francisco has a zone run on, but they use the flow of the offensive line to disguise the direction of the run. At the snap, the run looks to be going to the right with the offensive line and backfield all going toward that direction. But, then the fullback cuts back and shoots to the left edge to take on the unblocked edge defender on the left side. Running back Matt Breida follows the fullback, cutting back to the left. With the motion to the right, the entire defense flowed to the right, leaving very few defenders left on the left side. Linebacker Mack Wilson is the linebacker on the left side of the formation and in charge of covering the inside run lanes on that side. But, he flowed too aggressively to the right, allowing himself to be pinned to that side and leaving the left lanes wide open with no one to fill them. Defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson is also plowed out of the way in this play. He swept to the right, leaving left edge rusher Olivier Vernon as the only defender left on the defensive line to confront the run play. But, he is taken out by the fullback. The other defender on that side, corner T.J. Carrie, is blocked off by the free blocker, who was originally supposed to go after Wilson, but with Wilson gone, the blocker was free to go get after Carrie. That left absolutely no one else to get in the way of the runner except for safety Damarious Randall, who was 15 yards downfield. However, Randall was too late to react, taking him out of any chance of making the tackle and all but leading to the touchdown. The Browns were fooled by this run play and completely dominated by the execution of the 49ers blocking scheme in this play.
Q1 9:50 second-and-4: Kittle runs for 18 yards
This is another play where misdirection completely confuses the Browns defense, leading to a numbers win for the 49ers. Before the snap, the offense motions tight end George Kittle to the right. The ball is snapped right when Kittle crosses the quarterback. The tight end takes the handoff, but the quarterback and running back fake a handoff to the left, which causes much of the defense to flow to the left. The play disguise also freezes key defenders for this play. The biggest key was getting right edge rusher, Chris Smith to hesitate for a split second, allowing Kittle to get around him and turn the corner. Smith was in charge of setting the edge, but Kittle blew right past him. With contain gone, the 49ers had three blockers for three defenders. The disguise on this run gave the 49ers the numbers win. The three blockers all win their individual matchups against the three Browns defenders, giving Kittle an almost free 18-yard gain. The disguise of the play and the lack of discipline from the Browns defense made this play work.
Q1 7:57 second-and-7: Goodwin runs for 15 yards
This is another show of a lack of discipline by the Browns defense in this play. The 49ers run a double reverse run with receiver Marquise Goodwin. The Browns’ entire defense and I mean entire defense went aggressively to the right to follow the first reverse to the right. Though, this leaves the left wide open. Not one defender stayed on the left to keep contain. Vernon and safety Eric Murray are the main culprits for losing contain. They were drawn way too far to the right so that the speedster Goodwin was easily able to get the left edge where he had open space to pull off a big 15-yard gain. The lack of discipline doomed the Browns defense in this play.
Q2 11:18 second-and-10: Coleman runs for 15 yards
This is just a dominating blocking performance by the 49ers for this play. The offense runs a run/pass option with the run going toward the right. The 49ers wanted to wall off the edge, so running back Tevin Coleman could run between the tight end on the right end of the line and the fullback, who motioned to the outside of that tight end. The 49ers do just that in perfect fashion. The tight end and right tackle double team Browns right edge rusher Myles Garrett at the beginning of the play, but the tight end leaves that block to pick up the approaching linebacker, Joe Schobert. The center gets in front of Daniel Ekuale, who was lined up on the right shoulder of the center. The final block comes from the fullback on linebacker Adarius Taylor. The fullback creates the outside of the wall, giving running back Coleman a lane on his inside to hit. Schobert was the player who had the best position to make the stop, but the tight end came off his original block to get to the linebacker in time to disrupt Schobert’s ability to make it to the ball carrier. This play was perfectly blocked with not one defender getting any sort of advantage against the blocker. This was another dominant blocking performance for the 49ers.
Q2 2:05 fourth-and-1: Coleman runs for eight yards
The 49ers went for this fourth and short situation and came away with a big run. This time the offense took advantage of the over aggressiveness of the Browns defense. The 49ers show a pre-snap motion by the wide receiver to stretch out the defense and it does just that. The motion to the right causes the two outside defenders on the right to hesitate and stay out wide, negating their ability to help close down on the inside run. The key blow comes when right defensive end Myles Garrett pinches inside and then tries to slip through the inside of the blocker. The blocker easily shields Garrett to the left, leaving the whole right side of the formation wide open. The 49ers have three blockers leading running back Coleman into the gaping hole on the right side. The three blockers take on linebacker Schobert, who is the only defender in the lane that was vacated by Garrett. The right guard absolutely trucks defensive lineman Richardson back a few yards, allowing Coleman to run behind untouched for more yards. It isn’t until six or so yards downfield that a defender gets a hand on Coleman. This was perfect execution by the 49ers offense to completely blow up the Browns defense in the short yard conversion situation.
Q2 2:00 first-and-10: Coleman runs 19 yards for a touchdown
Another dominating blocking performance by the 49ers offense, but one where the offense saw the numbers advantage and took advantage of it. The left side of the field had five defenders on it. The 49ers end up having five blockers to match the number of defenders. The tight end and left tackle take on the two defensive linemen on the left end of the line, while the offense also pulls two linemen to lead running back Coleman. Linebacker Wilson tries to shoot upfield quickly, but he goes too far upfield, giving San Francisco a lane behind him to run through. With one of the pulling lineman shielding off Wilson, the other pulling lineman takes on the last remaining defender in the hole. The receiver makes a nice seal block on the inside to spring Coleman untouched for a touchdown. Another clinic on blocking by the 49ers offense and another defender being over-aggressive for the Browns defense.
Q3 7:47 first-and-10: Coleman runs for 15 yards
The 49ers once again take advantage of a numbers game. The Browns have only four defenders near the line of scrimmage on the left side of the field. Defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi on the left shoulder of the center is double teamed by the center and left guard. The wide receiver in the slot does an admirable job on sealing left defensive end Vernon from getting past him. The receiver is pushed out to the edge, but he does just enough to seal Vernon from getting to running back Coleman. The left tackle pulls and takes out the outside defender, cornerback Carrie, and the final block comes from the leading fullback on linebacker Wilson. Coleman easily makes it through the hole and downfield for a big gain. Once again, none of the defenders were able to beat their one-on-one block, giving the 49ers another big run with no one touching the ball carrier for quite a few yards.
Q3 3:10 second-and-7: Breida runs for 19 yards
This is yet another play where the Browns were gashed on a perimeter run. The 49ers run a stretch run play to the right with a fullback leading running back Breida. Right defensive end Garrett is double-teamed at the snap and then passed up to the right tackle where he is sealed off from the outside. That leaves three players left on the right side to get over and stop Breida from turning around the edge and pulling off a big gain. The middle linebacker, Schobert, has to guard against an inside run and he closes a little too aggressively toward the line of scrimmage where a lane was possible, taking him out of the play. The linebacker on the right side of the field, Wilson, is blocked off by the tight end, who left Garrett to move to the second level of the defense. That leaves safety Jermaine Whitehead on the right edge. But, he aggressively goes to blow up the fullback, thinking he would have help from behind to clean up the play after the leading blocker was taken out. But, there was no one left, leaving Breida a huge lane to pull off another big gain. A couple of things could have happened here that could have changed the play. Garrett could have helped out his linebackers by keeping the tight end and right tackle occupied and allowing Wilson to stay clean during the play. The other aspect is that Whitehead could have tried to go for Breida rather than just blow up the fullback. But, neither of those things happened.
Q4 7:02 first-and-15: Coleman runs for 14 yards
The 49ers put on another play misdirection with the pre-snap motion of the tight end. This motion causes the many defenders to hesitate and take themselves out of the play, including linebacker Schobert, who was lined up over the middle of the formation. The Browns had their backup defensive line in for this play and they were subdued pretty easily. The right defensive end, Chad Thomas, was double-teamed and swept to the right sideline, while the defensive lineman next to Thomas, Daniel Ekuale, could not get off of the center’s block to make a play on running back Coleman. Coleman cuts between those two defensive linemen and is met with no resistance after safety Murray was swept up behind the double team block of Thomas. With Schobert, not in the picture due to the motion, and the secondary defenders being fooled for a possible pass, Coleman had a lot of space to run before he was touched.
Quick Ending Thoughts