There’s a reason “we just need to go out there and play 60 minutes” is a football answer cliche, and that’s because the idea of “playing a complete game” is such an obvious one no one needs to hear anyone say it to know that it needs to be true for a team to win.
Just ask the Falcons.
Or don’t, and be the tiny but healthy part of the football world that’s moved on.
A Tale of Two Halves
The Browns did not play a complete game on Sunday.
There’s no denying the Browns were terrible in the first half of Sunday’s game against the Colts. They couldn’t run the ball, they didn’t make big plays and on defense they gave the Colts chunk plays through the air and couldn’t keep contain on Jacoby Brissett.
By halftime, a late Browns rally made the score 14 to 28 and the Browns defense didn’t look like it had an answer to stop the Colts offense.
When the Colts came out of the locker room to recieve the ball, it turned out that the Browns were prepared for them. They quickly forced the Colts to punt through speedy linebacking and smart play reads, and the Browns offense got the ball back and effectively moved it.
The Browns offense was picking apart the Colts defense with help from some great Kizer throws, including one where he threaded it between two defenders to hit Njoku. Kizer then threw another pick; it wasn’t the result of a bad decision however, more of an ill-timed throw.
While it’s frustrating to view progress through the line of ‘this one wasn’t so much his fault’, that’s the best way to measure Kizer’s development at this time.
Kizer isn’t the only thing that’s developing on this Browns team; under Gregg Williams, the Browns defensive unit is starting to put the pieces together, and with the expected return of Myles Garrett in the next two to three weeks this should be a formidable defense. The Browns defense forced a huge turnover late in the third quarter to stop a Colts drive and give the Browns the ball back.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Browns offense was driving when a misplaced pass caused yet another Kizer pass to be picked off.
The Colts would go on to put a field goal off the turnover, and that would be their only points of the second half. After giving up 28 points in the first half, the Browns defense only allowed 3 in the second half.
The Browns would punch in a touchdown to make the score 28 to 31 with just over two minutes left in the game, but failed to recover the onside kick and by the time they got the ball back would be out of time.
After Week 1, people were optimistic about the Browns. They played the Steelers tough and the football populace seemed eager to watch them test their mettle against the Ravens and Colts.
The Browns were even favored to win this game against the Colts. It was the first time in years they were favored to beat a team on the road, and they let mistakes cost them their first win of the season.
Here’s why all of this matters:
The Browns are getting close. Really close, and you can see it in the tape.
They’re not just getting outplayed and outmatched by opposing teams like they were last season. These Browns are hanging in games and beating themselves through penalties and turnovers, the hallmarks of a young, undisciplined team.
The truth is that the Browns probably would have won this game if not for the pair of unlucky Kizer interceptions. Those were throws that were to the right read but targeted incorrectly, something that can be ironed out as chemistry with receivers improves.
This defense is already looking solid, especially once they showed that they can adapt to surprises (such as the legs of Jacoby Brissett). Only allowing 3 points after halftime is a testament to fantastic coaching adjustments, and Gregg Williams and his team did a solid job of shutting the Colts down after the half.
If the Browns are going to turn it around, they need to fix three key things:
- Reduce the penalty yards
There were a pair of big DeValve catches that were called back due to penalties, and for an offense that needs to take every big play they can get, the Browns can’t afford to be throwing away big plays due to sloppy penalties. This team needs to become more disciplined, and that should come with age and experience (two things the team doesn’t have too much of right now).
2. Reduce the drops
The Browns dropped an absurdly high number of passes on Sunday. Kenny Britt dropped two and Ricardo Louis also dropped the ball in a big spot. On a lot of plays, Kizer is hitting his receivers but they’re dropping the ball. The effort was better this game; though Sammie Coates wasn’t playing, Britt seemed to be playing harder. Ricardo Louis was the featured reciever in this game (he was on the field 74% of the time) and he came down with 1 catch for 10 yards off of 6 targets.
On the flip side, Jordan Leslie was on the field for 21 plays, was targeted once and made a spectacular catch to bring that target down.
— cover32 Browns (@cover32_CLE) September 25, 2017
3. Run the ball
After complaining about not seeing the ball enough, Crowell was given the opportunity to carry the rock more for the Browns and was underwhelming once again. He saw 12 carries for 44 yards, averaging 3.7 yards per carry. Duke Johnson only saw 2 carries, but ran them for 23 yards. Johnson is also used a lot in the passing game, and he’s been very effective for the Browns there. Cleveland just hasn’t been
Cleveland just hasn’t been to run between the tackles like they used to, and behind this offesnive line a lot of the blame is going to fall to the ball carrier. As the season moves on, the Browns have to be able to run the ball if they want to win.