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.
Right off the bat, I have to apologize. For whatever reason, last night the all 22 coverage and my computer would not get along. I could stream the regular broadcast, but when I tried to switch to the coaches film, all chaos happened. So this film room will be from the original broadcast footage. But the show must go on.
Let’s play some word association. It’s third and six, and the pass is complete for a _____ yard gain. What number did you put in the blank? Probably a four or a five. But what about last Sunday?
Against the Bengals, the Browns were 7 for 15 (46%) on third down conversions. (For a point of reference, the Browns were 2 for 13 against the Eagles. Last season the Browns finished at 39% for the year. It has been suggested that number was a bit inflated, as the team converted more than their fair share in “garbage time” when the defense was playing prevent, sitting on a lead.)
Fifteen third down plays. I broke them down into three categories- short (1-3 yards) medium (4-6 yards) and long (7+ yards). The offense converted on all 5 of it’s 3rd and short opportunities. They were 1 of 3 on medium yardage conversions, and 2 of 6 on long conversions. (One of those conversions was short lived as Ogbonnaya fumbled at the end of the run. There was also a Richardson 9 yard run for a conversion wiped out by a holding penalty.) Brandon Weeden was 9 of 11 on third down passes.
Let’s get to the tape…
We’re not looking at every third down attempt. This is actually from the Browns third possession. Here the Browns are in shotgun formation, with Ogbonnaya in the backfield. Ben Watson is the tight end on the right side of the offense. Massaquoi is lined up outside Thomas on the left. The Bengals are in a nickel defense, with Maualuga in the middle.
At the snap, Ben Watson runs straight at the middle linebacker and MoMass is running a crossing route over the middle in front of the sticks. The Browns do this by design. Why? Well to start with, the ball gets out quickly. Next, a defender will play off the receiver keeping them in front of them and then make the tackle short of the first down. The Browns expect their receivers to either get enough separation on the route to get the additional yardage needed, or to fight for the yards needed. More often than not, this has not worked for the Browns.
The Bengals do manage to get pressure from over Shawn Lauvao. Ogbonnaya draws the attention of the OLB, Watson crosses in front of the MLB, and MoMass is able to get a step on his cut across the middle. His defender stumbled just a bit, and he is getting into position for the pass.
Weeden steps up, and Lauvao catches up with his man allowing Weeden to get the pass off. He hits MoMass in stride (which is why the play succeeds) and MoMass runs for a 13 yard gain. First down Browns, even though the pass was clearly thrown short of the marker.
On the same drive, The Browns face a third and 6.
Here the Browns are bunched on the left side. Watson is again the tight end on the right. Notice the defensive alignment. The Bengals are in nickel again, rushing just the front four. (Take notice of this. The Bengals’ game plan was not to bring extra rushers on third down. This allowed Weeden time to go through his progressions on third down.) The defensive backs are not pressed up on the line like the last example we looked at. They appear presnap to be in a soft zone.
At the bottom of the screen is Greg Little. He is going to run a ’4′ or a short in route. (On the passing tree, an even numbered route cuts towards the middle of the field, an odd number cuts towards the sideline.)
Weeden gets great protection on the play. You’ll notice Ogbonnaya has made his way out of the backfield and into the pattern. In my opinion, he should have probably gotten the ball here. I don’t know if he would have made it to the first down marker, but I think he has a better chance than Little on this play.
What you don’t see here in this screen capture is Little sitting down in the zone around the 40 yard line and outside the hashmarks. He turned and faced the QB like a buttonhook route. He repositioned himself to his current spot where Weeden delivered the ball. My problem with this route is that Little was stationary prior to the catch. He had no momentum carrying him towards the first down marker, and he is settled in the middle of the field surrounded by Bengals. If you look at the first example again, you’ll see really good spacing by the Browns on the play, giving each receiver room to operate and keeping them away from extra defenders. I’m just not a fan of this play. If you are going to throw short of the marker, it needs to be on a route where the QB hits the receiver in stride. Buttonhooks three yards shy of the mark don’t work.
Next is the first of a few passes to Ogbonnaya that we’re going to look at.
Notice the Bengals crowding the line of scrimmage on this 3rd and 2. Even though they are showing blitz, they will only bring the front four. MoMass goes in motion and settles in front of Ogbonnaya. A defensive player followed him, indicating man coverage.
At the snap we see MoMass heading to the flat on the left. Notice that he draws the attention of not just the defender that went with him in motion, but also the MLB. Lauvao appears to be beaten, but this is likely by design as he will head out to lead block on the play.
Weeden pump fakes. I don’t know if this is part of the play’s design (I doubt it, but possible) but it works beautifully. The defender closest to him gets confused, assuming the ball is going back to the middle of the field.
You can see the defender has actually turned his head from Ogbonnaya as the ball is now delivered on target and in stride. Mitchell Schwartz gets a good block on the DE, plus Lauvao and Alex Mack are now in position to help get him downfield.
You don’t mind your receiver catching the ball short of the sticks on third down if he gets the ball in stride and without a defender draped around him. YAC. Yards after catch. The Browns would pick up 9 yards on 3rd and 2 here, plus tack on another 15 yards with a Bengal penalty.
Here’s another Ogbonnaya play. On the previous play, the RB was the primary receiver. Actually, forget primary receiver, it was more of a designed screen to get him the ball. Not so with the next play.
Here Weeden is going to have options. It is a third and seven, and the Browns have Benjamin at the top of the screen. Notice the space he gets from the DB. The Bengals are showing blitz presnap. They have crowded the middle with two LBs, and have a defensive back on the line right over our TE. The CB on the bottom of the screen is pressing Little, and the nickel back lined up on the slot receiver indicate tight man coverage with safety help over the top.
The Bengals back out of the blitz at the snap, rushing only the front four again. Look at Benjamin fly down the field. He may appear open, but there is a Bengal in front of him off screen. The Bengal linebackers that were crowding the center of the line have dropped into coverage. They were out of position from the start of this play, and honestly didn’t have much of a chance. Maualuga is the LB trying to get into position to cover Ogbonnaya. He sprints from the center of the line to the edge, where Ogbonnaya makes a hard cut. Ogbonnaya actually plants his hand on the ground trying to change direction as fast as possible.
The cut forces Maualuga to slip, giving Ogbonnaya space.
Weeden hits him in stride again, but the real beauty of this play (besides the Bengals asking a LB to sprint out of blitz position to pick up a receiver) is how the Browns have opened the middle of the field for a run after the catch. Look at the lane here. Ogbonnaya is going to pick up 21 yards. Unfortunately, he will fumble as he’s being tackled giving the ball to the Bengals. But it was a nice play.
Here’s a different kind of play.
On third and two, the Browns bunch up on the short side of the field. MoMass is the split end, there is a tight end off the line of scrimmage plus Ogbonnaya in front of Richardson. Richardson has already scored and is gaining some momentum as the game goes along. Notice the defensive alignment. Clearly a zone here as the Bengals don’t stack defenders to match the Browns alignment.
Weeden fakes to Ogbonnaya. These may seem like useless things, but notice the steps forward by the linebackers. The offensive line also is involved in the fake, appearing as if they are blocking for a run play to the left. The tight end also stays in to block.
The play is a designed roll out. The attention of the LB (#57) and the DB is clearly on Richardson who has run to the flat in front of Weeden. Clearly he is an option on the play, but Weeden correctly sees the space in the zone over the head of the CB and in front of the Safety. MoMass is going to find that soft spot in the zone.
A nice read by Weeden and a good throw to the sidelines where only MoMass is going to get it. MoMass makes a nice grab, dragging his feet before going out of bounds.
Last one. Another Ogbonnaya pass.
Weeden’s presnap read is man coverage with two deep help.
MoMass went in motion towards the middle of the field and the ball was snapped while he was still in motion. What happens next is an old fashioned pick play. MoMass runs right at the LB who has responsibility for Ogbonnaya coming out of the backfield. This is just another way to get the ball to a receiver with room to work. Again, this pass was thrown short of the marker, but ended up in a first down because the ball was delivered in stride to a receiver with space away from the defender.
So what did we learn? Well, we looked at six third down plays. Five of them were passes thrown short of the marker. The sixth had an option (Richardson) short of the marker, but Weeden saw the deeper route open. Of the passes thrown short of the first down marker, four of them resulted in first downs.
It isn’t passes short of the marker that Browns fans should hate. It is passes thrown short of the marker to receivers without a shot of picking up the first down that we should hate.
Until next week, the film room is closed. Go Browns.