The Cleveland Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, in a game where the team had numerous chances to win. The Browns squandered opportunities, especially late in the game. In the final two possessions of the game. The Browns offense had just a total of seven plays over the course of those two series. The drives netted 12 total yards in just two minutes and 22 seconds of game time. The biggest gain was due to a penalty on Pittsburgh. So, what happened to the offense late in the game? In this week’s film room, I will examine the seven offensive plays the Browns had in their last two drives of the game.
Q4 7:18 First-and-10: Mayfield throws incomplete
This is the first play following the big interception by the Browns defense. I like going for the shot right after a turnover. The play design is a good one, too. The Steelers are in a Cover 2 Man coverage look. The Browns have a nice combination on the left side of the field, with receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the receiver nearest to the left sideline, running a post route and receiver Jarvis Landry, the receiver in the left slot, running an out-and-up route along the sideline. The throw by quarterback Baker Mayfield is a good one. It is thrown to the outside and with good timing. The safety is taken out of the play because he was forced to stay inside a bit longer due to the post route by Beckham. Landry, though, is unable to complete the catch when the corner gets over to him and knocks the ball loose. The play and throw are really good, but the defender makes a strong play causing Landry to not be able to secure the catch.
Q4 7:11 Second-and-10: Mayfield completes pass to Hunt for no gain
This is the play I would have liked a run play called. The Browns weren’t able to complete their big shot on first down, so the Browns should have tried to run the ball here. A run would have been a smart move versus this Cover 1 Man coverage of the Steelers defense. With the Browns spread out wide with four on the outside, the Steelers had just five in the box. A handoff to running back Kareem Hunt could have been a nice number’s win for the Browns. But, the Browns called a pass play instead with the four out wide getting no separation from their coverage. There was nowhere to throw for Mayfield and a rusher was bearing down on him, so Mayfield made the best decision and dumped it off to Hunt in the right flat after he slipped out of the backfield. Hunt was in single coverage and had he beaten the defender after the catch, the running back had a lot of space to make a nice gain. But, Hunt could not get away from the defender, with the defender making a nice open-field tackle on Hunt.
Q4 6:28 Third-and-10: Mayfield is sacked
After two plays of no yards gained, the Browns are forced to pass on third down to get this long first down. The play is derailed by the blocking. Right guard Wyatt Teller is quickly beaten by defensive tackle Javon Hargrave on the pass rush, allowing the defensive tackle to get in the face of Mayfield in under two seconds and eventually bringing the play to a stop in seconds with a big sack. The Browns had a receiver underneath running free, who could have made a catch and run that would have netted close to a first down. But, the blocking collapsed and it gave Mayfield and no offense no chance of success in this play. The sack forced the Browns into a long field goal or a punt with the Browns choosing to punt.
Q4 1:45 First-and-10: Mayfield throws incomplete
With no timeouts and under two minutes to play, the Browns were unable to utilize the run game anymore. This is an excellent defensive look by the Steelers defense. They are in a Cover 3 Zone coverage in the secondary, but they disguise the positioning of two of their defenders. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick lined up as the deep safety on the right side of the field before the snap, while defensive back Cameron Sutton lined up on the left side in the intermediate level of the field before the snap. But, when the ball is snapped, Fitzpatrick sinks down into the middle of the field and Sutton slips back into the deep middle of the field as the right corner takes the deep right part of the field. Mayfield misses this move by Fitzpatrick. When the play starts, Mayfield is eyeing the left side of the field and misses Fitzpatrick coming up. Mayfield looks back inside and throws the pass to the crossing Landry in the middle of the field, not seeing that Fitzpatrick is right there. The pass is behind Landry and quite frankly should have been picked off by Fitzpatrick. Either way, the pass should not have gone to Landry on this play. I think a quick easy dump off to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones in the right flat, where the tight end had space and the sideline to get a nice gain on the play of the drive and a chance to stop the clock.
Q4 1:40 Second-and-10: Mayfield throws incomplete, but Pittsburgh called for roughing the passer
The Browns lucked out on this play netting a penalty against Pittsburgh. Cleveland for some reason has tight end Seals-Jones assigned to chip Steelers edge rusher Bud Dupree on the left edge and then has left tackle Justin McCray run over to the edge to catch Dupree before he can get to the quarterback. It went as well as you would have predicted. Dupree is barely touched as he has a free run to drill Mayfield in the back. Cleveland was lucky that Mayfield was able to quickly get rid of the ball before he was hit and that the hit was called for a roughing the passer penalty. The blocking scheme was a recipe for a disaster.
Q4 1:36 First-and-10: Mayfield completes pass to Hunt for 5 yards
This play is once again affected by poor blocking. Mayfield faced a zone coverage once again, so the routes take a bit of time for them to get into the gaps of the zone. The blocking did not really afford Mayfield a lot of time as both the center and right tackle were beat, allowing their defender to bear down on Mayfield. The quarterback was pretty much forced to throw early and make the quick dump-off pass to Hunt. The pass was a positive play, but it gained little yardage and took too much time off the clock when the Browns needed chunk plays quickly. The offensive line just did not give this play a chance of being a good one.
Q4 1:06 Second-and-5: Mayfield is intercepted
This interception is on Landry and not Mayfield. The Steelers were in Cover 3 Zone coverage with a similar late adjustment as the first play of this drive. Steelers safety Fitzpatrick sinks down to the middle intermediate part of the field and defensive back Sutton takes over the deep middle zone of the defense. Landry is running a vertical route down the right numbers. But, Landry misreads the defense and moves inside instead of continuing going vertical. Landry’s route allows Fitzpatrick into the play as he is in position to undercut a throw if thrown to the inside route. But, if Landry stayed streaking down the numbers, the pass would be completed in the void of the defense. Mayfield was throwing to the correct spot. Landry was wrong to go inside.