Originally written on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 11/18/14
Like we did last year before it became fashionable, we’ll take a seat each week in our very own WFNY Browns film room and break down a little tape from the game, with a specific focus.  Do enjoy. Today we are going to look at just one play. It was the single most infuriating play that happened in Sunday’s game (at least to me) and that includes the fourth down call. Here is the situation. It’s the second quarter, and the Browns are down 14-0. The drive started at the 20 after a touchback, and has moved to Baltimore’s 16 yard line where it is now third and nine. On first down Richardson ran for a yard, and on second down Weeden threw behind Richardson in the flat and he was unable to make the catch. This is where the Browns had their “communication issues” and ended up calling a time out rather than get a delay of game penalty. It was the second burned time out on the drive. So coming out of a time out, and badly needing a touchdown to get back in the game, let’s see what the Browns dialed up. We are going to use the coaches’ film this week so we can see what the receivers and defense are doing. Let’s check our pre-snap reads. The Ravens are in nickel defense (the personnel tell us that, not necessarily how they are lined up here). The Browns have Gordon wide left, Richardson and Alex Smith in the backfield, Travis Benjamin is the wide receiver on the right (on the line of scrimmage), and Greg Little is the slot receiver on top. Little goes in motion before the snap. Nobody follows him. The Ravens are in a zone defense. The corners are playing off the line, giving our receivers space. At the snap, a lineman is going to back into a zone. Baltimore is rushing just three, and dropping eight into coverage. Here, let me give you an idea of what we’re looking at. Not 100% accurate, but you get the idea. So Weeden drops back. Gordon on the bottom is actually running a route with a double move. He is going to run a slant and then post towards the corner of the end zone. Benjamin decides to run straight at the CB and collide with him. I honestly don’t know exactly what his route is supposed to be because we never really see it materialize before Weeden gets rid of the ball. My best guess is a deep out or post. Little runs a clean route, angling towards the front pylon at about the five. Alex Smith chips on the DE before passing him to Schwartz and heading to the flat. Richardson takes off out of the backfield when he sees no blitz. Here we see a couple of things. You see Smith open on the right side in the flats. (By the way, the area outside of the tackles to the sideline is what is called the flats. The flats don’t extend much further than two or three yards past the line of scrimmage. Typically a LB has coverage responsibilities in the flats.) The second thing I see is a small (ok, very small) window for a slant pass to Gordon. The ball would have to be leaving Weeden’s hand when Gordon makes his break, but I think that is the best play with the ball here. Of course, Gordon is running a double move remember, and that slant is not part of this play. Another thing worth looking at is the number of defenders on the right side of the play (where Weeden passes) as opposed to those on the left side, where Richardson is going to run his safety valve route. Here is a screen shot of the beginning of the pass. Weeden has made his decision and is throwing to Smith. Smith makes the catch. The Browns have thrown short of the first down marker again. As we were told in training camp, they do this expecting the receiver to make a play after the catch and pick up the needed yardage. Here, Alex Smith is supposed to shake one defender and pick up nine yards to get the first down? Not gonna happen. He does shake the first tackler, but by that time he is swarmed by defensive backs and linebackers. I want to take you through a series a pictures. This is the same play, from the end zone camera. What do you notice here… What did you notice? I saw a short drop back. I saw a QB who did not look even one time to his left at Josh Gordon. I saw a QB who threw the ball within 3 seconds of taking the snap. (I wish we could post video. You’ll have to trust me on this one, the ball was out of his hands by three seconds.) I saw a QB who was very well protected. Why go through that second exercise? Well, for one because I don’t think Weeden gave the play enough time to develop. Gordon had just started the second part of his double move. I’m guessing that Weeden is assuming that Gordon is double covered since he is the only receiver on that side of the field. Of course, had his man fallen down Weeden would never have known it. There is also a chance that Weeden could have gotten the ball to Little if the timing was right. Here’s the biggest beef I have with this play. It’s third and nine. The defense is in nickel, and you have a limited amount of field to work with. I don’t really understand why you have only three WRs on the field. The only way that you are going to get the ball downfield far enough to get the first down is with a timing route like a slant or out route. (Which the Browns would run eventually, but Gordon’s slant was called back due to penalty.) Why do you have two safety valve receivers? Why doesn’t Weeden take the time to let a couple of his players run their full routes before checking off to Smith? So many questions, so few answers. When Shurmur dialed this play up, I don’t think he really wanted the Smith check down. But he didn’t really call the best type of play for the situation either, which is frustrating since it was called during a time out. Until next week, the film room is closed.
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