The Browns played well against the Ravens but the game pointed out several areas that are not good enough to win games.
The sad part of the loss to the Ratbirds is that the Browns played well enough to win this game. But two special teams errors and breakdowns on both offense and defense late in the game prevented a win.
QB Brian Hoyer was efficient and for the 3rd game this year did not throw an interception. He has the 2nd most consecutive throws without a pick. But there are issues. Hoyer missed a couple of open receivers either of which could have made the difference in the game. He is getting the ball out on time and sees the field even in the face of a rush. He was able to overcome penalties which is something that has not happened often since 99. Some have had issues with Hoyer’s arm strength but he has enough to throw the ball 40+ yards with accuracy as he did Sunday.
The running game was OK but I can not understand why Isaiah Crowell is not the primary running back for the Browns. He runs harder, has better vision, and makes better cuts to the hole. This is a coaching error that must be corrected.
The O line did a decent job blocking the run. But the line still struggles to pass protect. While the left side is usually solid, RT still is an issue.
The play calling was solid except in the 4th quarter. The last two possessions were poor calls. The Browns should have run on all three downs on both late game possessions to take time off the clock. Crowell should have been the back in at the time. He breaks tackles.
WR Andrew Hawkins deserves special mention. He is among the leaders in catches and had over 80 yards in receptions. His young running mate Taylor Gabriel only caught 2 passes but was also over 80 yards in receptions.
The preseason talk was about a D that would be top 10. Instead it ranks 31st overall. The D can’t even slow down the run let alone stop it. A perfect example was the 31 yard run by Ratbird RB Lorenzo Taliaferro early in the 2nd quarter. The D line had a game on where NT Ahtyba Rubin was supposed to slant to the RG spot. He never got there and the result was a long run. The run D is not getting off blocks, taking bad angles to the run, and is slow in recognizing the play. The front 7 failed to get much pressure on QB Joe Flacco.
The preseason chatter said the D would be blitzing from every direction and pressuring the QB often. We have seen very little pressure on the QB in the regular season.
The pass D has not been any better. All pro CB Joe Haden has not come close to his level of play in prior years. The 8th pick overall in 2014 draft, CB Justin Gilbert, has been targeted over and over successfully by the opponent. Gilbert either gives up a big play or causes a flag for a spot foul.
The D gave up nearly 5 yards per attempt rushing and 7 yards per pass attempt and had no sacks. It did get a pick and had an outstanding goal line stand early in the game.
The special teams cost the Browns the game. There was a high snap on the first field goal attempt that contributed to the kick bouncing off the left upright. A major leak in kick protection caused the 2nd FG attempt to be blocked. Either of those kicks would have forced the Ratbirds to score a TD to tie the game. Bad special teams play has haunted the Browns for years, several of which were under current position coach Chris Tabor. This is not the first time I have criticized Tabor and I am sure it will not be the last. But when the snap has cost the team an extra point in the last game and a FG in this game, it MUST be addressed. Nothing seems to change under Tabor.
There have been a number of 12 men on the field on defense. While the 4-4-4 D is effective, it is also illegal. The coaching staff has to get it together and get the right 11 guys on the field for each play.
The play calling late in the game was questionable. Not only was the wrong RB in the game but the attempt to pass on 2 of the 3 downs was inexcusable. Run the ball and punt if you have to but get as much time off the clock as possible.
The Bottom line:
The Browns are better than last year. But to win those close games in the AFC North, you have to win the 4th quarter. They have not yet figured out how to do that yet. The win over the Saints was a very positive step. But this is the Nasty North. To win here you have to run the rock and play solid run D. So far that has not happened. They managed to lose two games where they had the lead with 10 seconds left. There are no moral victories in the NFL. The Browns are better but not good enough.
That is what I think. Tell us what you think by commenting here or tweeting me @NNRonDSN.
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Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and a non-fiction work at http://www.merriam-press.com/. Follow him on twitter @NNRonDSN to get the schedule of Special News, Notes and Rumors broadcasts. You can hear the previous shows on https://fryingpansports.com/radio-show/ and the live show Mondays at 6 PM Eastern time on .
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Browns: Better but not good enough. by Bill Smith