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During the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts game, the Browns had a tale of two defenses. The Colts seemingly put the game away early, but the Browns battled back and made it a game, even to the point that one more well put together drive would have won the game for the brown and orange. This was a game the Browns should have won, instead, they lost 31-28, so what happened? Time to check the notes:
1. Second Quarter Blues: Cleveland gave up 21 points in the second quarter. This has to be a major concern going forward. The first week of the season, the Browns only gave up a touchdown to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second period. The next week, they gave up two touchdowns. Though it’s only been three games, it’s clear to see that the biggest problem has been the Browns defense in the quarter. They’ve allowed one touchdown and two field goals in all three games combined in the third and fourth quarters of games. The defense is doing something right in every other quarter, it’s just been this one that’s been a struggle.
2. Down On DeShone: One of the biggest qualms fans have with quarterback DeShone Kizer has been his tendency for the big mistake. That didn’t stop with yesterday’s game where despite his 286 combined yards and three touchdowns, he also threw these interceptions. However, one thing fans don’t realize is the nature of these interceptions. The first interception was intended for wide receiver Kasen Williams, and this one could have gone either way in terms of blame. It looked like Williams went one way, when Kizer wanted him to go the other way, so there was a miscommunication somewhere.
This is something that could fall on Kizer, so for arguments sake, it will go on the chalk board as on him. The second interception was a ball that bounced into wide receiver Kenny Britt’s hands, popped out and into the hands of cornerback Rashaan Moore. By all accounts, this was a ball that was caught, with two hands, then dropped by Britt and happened to fall into the defenders hands, so this one is on Britt. The final interception is one that you have to be desperate to pin on him, one that came on a Hail Mary at the end of the game. The Hail Mary is a play designed as a high risk, high reward where the coach sends all his wide receivers deep, in the hopes of making a play. The play itself has very low success rates, usually leading to an incomplete pass or interception and that’s exactly what happened here.
So really, of the three interceptions, only one of them can really be pinned on Kizer and even that’s debatable. One major improvement that came to the young quarterback is that he was sacked only once all game. The first game was a wake up call to Kizer where he was sacked seven times, but since he has only been sacked four times in two games combined. Kizer is showing improvement, but fans are growing impatient to the point of labelling him a bust. Things are getting ugly when even former NFL quarterback Michael Vick, said, “the fans need to pump the breaks on this kid.” The fanbase needs to get behind this kid or else he’ll never succeed.
3. Dropping The Ball: Nine dropped passes is just inexcusable. One of which, as mentioned before, lead to an interception. While they ultimately are counted as incomplete passes on the stat sheet, when a ball should be caught, it makes the quarterback look bad, and the wide receivers look worse. Probably the most shocking stat other than those dropped balls is the fact that a running back, Duke Johnson Jr, lead the team in receiving yards. While Johnson is projected more as a receiving back and part time slot wide receiver, the fact he lead the entire team in receiving yards is head scratching.
Then there’s Kenny Britt, who last week was called out by Browns head coach Hue Jackson for his lack of production. Something lit a fire under him, as caught three passes for 54 yards and a touchdown: However, he dropped a few passes, one of which went right into the hands of Melvin, leading to an interception. While that’s starting to look better, he needs to improve if he wants to stay on the team. The receiving core needs to get their act together. As long as they can get the ball to the red zone, it gives Kizer a chance to target the bigger bodied tight ends, like David Njoku.
4. Building The Wall: The Browns defense last week against the Ravens couldn’t stop the run, giving up over 100 yards on the ground. This week, the Browns allowed 91 rushing yards. The glaring problem at first glance is that they allowed three rushing touchdowns, most of which came from quarterback Jacoby Brissett on scrambles. While these get counted as rushing stats, they’re harder to defend as they’re not designed run plays. There are two real ways to defend this, the first one being the blitz.
The Browns sent people after Brissett and actually got hands on him, they just failed bring him down for a sack. While they played coverage well, they didn’t bring the quarterback down which lead to Brissett making plays with his feet. Sending one more person could have made a difference but it was a bit hard to tell. The other and more realistic option would be to spy the quarterback. This is designed to prevent the quarterback from running as they’ll know a defender will follow his every move, should he make a break for it. The longest run allowed by Cleveland was a 21 yard run by half back Frank Gore. Other than that, every other run was under 10 yards. They were able to really stop the run pretty well, they just couldn’t stop the quarterback in the red zone.
5. Run-Down: 14 rushing attempts by the Browns is not enough. The Browns went down early, and when a team gets down that early, they’re less likely to run the football because of playing catch up. One of the biggest things to have come from this week was half back, Isaiah Crowell’s comments. One story said that he questioned the Browns play calling only “sometimes” and thinks about getting paid “all the time.” That’s a terrible mindset for any player, let alone a key piece of your offense. One thing a lot of fans do agree on is that Cleveland should look into Penn State’s half back, Saquon Barkley this spring.
While it’s too early to talk draft, the fans are becoming vocal that he should at least be considered. The bottom line though, is that if Isaiah Crowell wants to get the ball more, and wants to get paid like a good running back, he needs to keep his mouth shut and actually prove that he’s worth it. This season, Crowell is averaging 2.9 yards a carry, and 38 yards per game. Meanwhile Johnson, who has 33 less carries than Crowell, is averaging 14.7 yards per carry. Maybe Cleveland should run the ball more, but Crowell is not helping his case so far.
6. Looking Ahead To Next Week: The Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at 1:00 P.M. ESPN’s pick center has the Bengals as an early favorite by three, with their matchup predictor giving the Browns a slight edge by 1.8%. This game is the second of the Browns stretch of possibly winnable games. They lost the first one to the Colts this past weekend, they face another 0-3 team in Cincinnati this weekend, followed by hosting the New York Jets next weekend and a trip to Houston after that. If the Browns are going to have any shot, they’re going to need to get to the quarterback. Andy Dalton, the quarterback for the Bengals, has been sacked one more time than Deshone Kizer. If Cleveland can rattle Dalton’s cage, they should be able to do some damage. Especially considering that there’s rumors that the number one overall draft pick in this years class, Myles Garrett, could be making his season debut this weekend. Coach Jackson has said, “he’s close to returning.” Given that the Bengals offensive line was essentially stripped during free agency, expect Gregg Williams to blitz early and often in this game. One major problem will be stopping wide receiver AJ Green. He’s eighth in the league in receiving yards with 252. If Cleveland can pressure Dalton and avoid the big gains from AJ Green, there’s a chance they can stay in this game. Their offense should look to run the football here, as the Bengals on average have allowed 129.7 yards per game(25th in the league) on the ground, as opposed to 292.7 yards(7th lowest in the NFL) allowed through the air. If Crowell wants that big contract, this will be the game to make the most out of every opportunity. Cleveland has a chance, but they’ll have to make it for themselves.