Monday, December 05, 2005

Jags 20, Browns 14

My head hurts. Before we get to the game though, the news on Braylon Edwards can be summed up in three letters: ACL. See you next year Braylon, maybe.

It used to be that the list of the world's most hazardous professions included things like astronaut and firefighter. However, based on experience, you've got to add being a Cleveland Browns #1 pick to that list. Kellen Winslow, Braylon Edwards, William Green, Courtney Brown--the parade of walking wounded stretches back even before the Browns left town.

What's even more scary, however, is that Browns' #1 picks have an alarming tendency to...let's see, how can I put this.., um, well, die. Seriously, think about guys like Eric Turner, Don Rogers and, most famously, Ernie Davis. All of these poor souls died well before their time. While Eric Turner had a solid career and even made the Pro Bowl in 1994, Rogers and Davis are on every Browns fan's short list of "what ifs?" It probably isn't too much of a stretch to say that if Cleveland had Ernie Davis to go with Jim Brown back in the 60s, and Don Rogers roaming the secondary with Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield back in the 80s, there might well have been a few more titles in this town. What might have been...

Anyway, the Browns game was extremely frustrating, because they certainly had every opportunity to win that game. Lots of positives: a decent job by Frye, the ability to move the ball on the ground some against the Jags, the best performance by the O-line all season, and a nice performance by the defense, with the exception of the 3rd quarter. Even then, you can't fault the D entirely for what happened in the 3rd quarter--field position played a big role in their downfall.

One of biggest problems the Browns had yesterday was their inability to adjust to the blitz in the second half. The Browns' coaching staff is taking some heat from fans for play calling, but I think that's not entirely fair. They tried to make adjustments, but the players didn't execute. They tried to run a screen or two, but those plays depend so much on timing, they are very difficult to run with a makeshift offensive line. They also tried to adjust to the blitz by going to three step drops, but Jacksonville played press coverage and, for the most part, tied up the Browns' receivers very effectively. Meanwhile, Frye became his own worst enemy by holding onto the ball for way too long. You can't sit there with happy feet on a three step drop. If somebody isn't open right away, tuck it in and run or throw it away.

I do think it is fair to criticize the way they approached the running game, both in the first and second half. The Browns don't use a lot of deception or misdirection in their running attack. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for trick plays, but I do think that they need to trap and counter more than they do. They've got a bull as their feature back, and so they opt more for the straight ahead power running game. When they do attack the outside, they rely almost totally on the zone stretch play. That is a particularly questionable decision in conditions like those in which yesterday's game was played. The zone stretch play is designed to stretch the defense laterally, thereby creating cutback lanes for the ball carrier to attack. A slippery field makes it very difficult to cut sharply and attack the gaps created by the play. Droughns is a stud, but I can't help but think they aren't capitalizing on his talent as much as they might.

Still, I don't think their inability to adjust to the blitz or the play calling was as much of a factor in the loss as field position, which I think was critical. Jacksonville played with a short field on each of its first two scoring drives of the second half, starting the first on its own 49 and the second on the Browns' 42. For that matter, even though the final touchdown drive started with Jacksonville on its own 21, a 46 yard pass interference penalty put the Jags in business in Browns' territory. You can't consistently give a playoff team a short field and not pay dearly for it. If nothing else, the Browns learned that lesson yesterday.

1 comment:

Vinny said...

You stole my thunder. I thought the same thing when Edwards went down.