Cleveland Browns Film Room: Game 8, 3rd and 1

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.

“We did a study on it and we’ll keep our results to ourselves. On third and one you need to be able to execute at a very high percentage for one yard. We’ve had a combination of things that have happened to us and it’s not always on the runner, but we need to enforce our will and get a yard. I’m aware of those numbers and we’re working on it to get it better.” – Pat Shurmur, earlier this week, on what he thinks the main problem is with Richardson only converting 2 of 7 third and one situations.

Sounds like a film room study to me! (I promise, not to feature Richardson next week…) We’ve already broken down one of these runs. It was against the Eagles, and it is found here– the second play reviewed.

Let’s start with the most recent, against the Chargers.

So many things to talk about here. First, the formation. This is not the typical looking 3rd and 1 formation for the Browns. Scroll through and take a look at the other formations. Double tight ends. Unbalanced lines. All under center. Some kind of lead blocker. Not this time. Shotgun formation, single back, three receivers to the left, one to the right. If you look at all the previous third and one situations with Richardson in the backfield, you will see several trends- the primary one being the direction Richardson runs. Up until this run, they have all been between the tackles (or at least drawn up that way.)

Also interesting to note, the Browns always throw on third and 2. Always. My guess is that the Chargers were a bit surprised by this formation on third and one. They likely expected a pass, or that delayed hand-off to Richardson up the middle.

Which is why I love this play call. The play is a quick pitch around left end. At the snap, Watson and Cribbs block down. Watson seals the edge, which is huge for this play. Little is going to lead around the end, with Greco and Alex Mack pulling.

Take a second to admire this shot. The edge is set and the Browns have three blockers in front of Richardson. Take a second and identify the Chargers that could possibly stop this play. #20 Jammer. #38 Gilchrist. Maybe the MLB #56 Donald Butler.

I mentioned this week in my Winners and Losers piece that I thought Greg Little did an outstanding job blocking against the Chargers. This is one of those blocks. Now, he doesn’t square up and contain the back, but he does put a shoulder into Jammer’s hip and takes him out of the play. Greco does a nice job getting a chip block to make sure Richardson is sprung.

Richardson zooms past Mack and Jammer on his way to an 11 yard gain. Great play call, great execution. The Browns would use this quick pitch a few times against the Chargers, and I really like the play. You can’t do it that often in a game, unless you are just that much quicker to the corner. In the NFL that isn’t very likely.

Here’s the next third and one Richardson run against the Chargers. This time, things do not go so well. Notice the formation- strong to the right with Alex Smith as the lead blocker.

The Chargers have 8 in the box. They are clearly ready for this kind of play. At the snap the linebackers attack the line. If you are Richardson, you are watching things unfold in front of you. The play is designed to follow Alex Smith. There appears to be a slight opening to the inside as well, between Mack and Lauvao.

Alex Smith usually does a good job blocking in my opinion. This is not his finest play. He completely whiffs on the linebacker. Richardson will have to make a move on him in order to get the yard, or go through him.

He decides to cut left and try to get around the left end. Not a good idea. Richardson had to slow down making his move, where the linebacker just came right at him. Joe Thomas had position inside of the DE. When Richardson tries to go outside, the DE easily releases and pursues. The ends in a loss and a punt.

We go all the way back to the Bills game. This is actually the second time Richardson gets the ball in a third and one situation. The first time is the Eagles play referenced at the top. Note the formation. This really is the exact same as the play right above it. Watson is the TE on the right, Cameron is lined up as a wing off the TE, and Marecic is your lead blocker.

At the snap, Pinkston pulls down the line. At least he tries. Ben Watson gets blown two yards back, wrecking the lead block of Pinkston. Marecic actually trips over Cameron’s feet.

Richardson runs right into the back of Watson and Pinkston. Obviously, you don’t want your back running into the back of his lead blockers.

Count how many blue jerseys are on the left side of the blue line marking the line of scrimmage. I see four, and two more really close. This is domination by a defensive line. When Shurmur says ‘you need to impose your will on the defense’, I’m pretty sure this is the kind of thing he’s talking about.

Next play against the Giants. Here is a double tight formation, again with Marecic leading Richardson. Pay attention to the blue line of scrimmage again.

This is just ugly. There are five Browns on the right side of this screen capture blocking three Giants. And the Giants are on the Browns’ side of the ball. Richardson has a choice to make. Should he try to get outside? Personally, I don’t think he makes it, but it still may be his best shot. He could also put his head down and try to plow through the middle between Mack and Pinkston.

This is one of those plays that fans point to when they say Richardson dances in the backfield. He tries to find a hole, when he really just needed to bull through and get a yard. Get low and try to win the leverage battle.

Here’s a play against the Bengals. Note your formation. See what I meant earlier when I said the Browns looked predictable on third and one? These are the same films the Chargers studied leading up to last week’s game. The same films the Ravens are looking at.

The Browns win the line of scrimmage here. Notice how many Browns are past the 25, the line of scrimmage. Richardson follows his blocks to the left tackle spot.

Notice the block of Little again at the point of attack. This block is the difference between a two yard gain and a six yard gain.

Here we have an attempt against the Colts. The formation is strong right, but they are going to run left, with the tight end motioning to the hole.

Not to sound too repetitive, but look at where the Colts end up. I get that you aren’t going to push the defender off the ball every time. I’ve played the line. I know that isn’t realistic. But on these short yardage plays, you have to at least stand your ground and give your back a fighting chance to get past you.

Mack and the tight end (I believe Watson) get blown back and the line backers fill the hole. Just no where for Richardson to go.

Something else I noticed while researching this. Weeden is 100% when using the QB sneak to get the first down. Perfect. Just sayin.

Until next week, the film room is closed.

  • Natedawg86

    The film room should never close!

  • Pat from Cbus

    Excellent breakdowns. These are the best articles. Thanks and well done.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Another fantastic piece, thanks Rick! Your last point is the one that might bug me the most. I get that you want to protect your QB and not have his nuggets punched and his eyes gouged in a big pile of bodies, but the Browns have been extremely succcessful on the QB sneak to get 1 yard. Run that crap until it stops working, then line up the same formation and run a different play out of it. But with that said, our offensive line and tight ends need to do better with their blocking, and T-Rich needs to stop dancing around.

  • Jason Hurley

    And yet…Shurmur doesn’t seem to draw any conclusions from the same film…

  • CB Everett

    I loved the flashback of the Marecic “lead block”/tripping over Cameron’s feet. Oh you will be missed Owen. Rest up those surgeon hands buddy and let’s hope Smith does the job.

  • Natedawg86

    Save qb sneak for a fourth and 1 down by 4 on the opponents 40 with less than 7 minutes left…or punt

  • Natedawg86

    Do teams have someone who actively reviews their own film and tries to develop trends based on their own tendencies?

  • mgbode

    from my understanding, this is usually the job of the Quality Control coach.

  • mgbode

    close the door, you’re letting a glare get in here :)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Why? Go with what works.

  • rick grayshock

    Absolutely. They have charts on tendencies and everything you would possibly want. The question really is if the play caller has confidence in calling something out of the norm on those downs.

  • Eli_L

    Great work Rick. Watching this stuff life, I tend to just see a cloud of dust and a pile of bodies and then become furious at the result (not always, but often). It is good to see how the Browns are approaching this situation in different ways. And, it also gives me hope that as Richardson gains more experience against NFL defenses, he’ll have a better eye for when to wait for his blockers, or plow through.

  • mgbode

    love these as always Rick.

    1st play: looking at the defensive formation, it was the perfect play call. the CB at top is giving the corner (and again, a team playing 5-2 like Indy did). all we had to do was take it. remember all those earlier film sessions where we’d look at the defensive formation and we’d make things hard on ourselves? this one was not the case.

    2nd play: Richardson just has to bull his way forward sometimes. This was one of those times. He always seems like he wants to make the big play, but on 3rd and 1 getting forward progress sometimes can get you that yard on 2nd/3rd effort if you are willing to go there.

    3rd play: overall OL does a terrible job as you noted how many Bills get in the backfield. Mitchell Schwartz destroys his man though and I wanted to point that out as a good thing. But, looking closer, there is absolutely no way that was the correct guy and he pushes Lauvao out of the way to get him (and the angle). If Lauvao takes him and Schwartz takes the LBer to his side, then the play would still get blown up because of others, but it would have had a chance (if Richardson breaks the initial tackle).

    4th play: 9 men in the box + 10th man not giving the corner away at all. This is why they have audibles in the NFL. If we are not going to at least attempt to spread out the defense, then we need to audible to a pass here. I guess we can try to just beat them man-on-man eventually, but that’s not smart against the NYG DL.

    5th play: a 5-4 defense? but, I think we might have a read on direction if the corner is playing off on these 3rd and short. notice this is the 2nd time the CB is playing off the line and the 2nd time we run directly at that spot. we got the 1st down both times.

    6th play: 6-3 defense. again, 9 guys just in the box. I think this is a big reason the Colts get that leverage and push back. We have absolutely no angles on the blocks here. Yes, we need to at least hold our ground, but we also need to keep the defense guessing a little bit to help these guys out.

  • mgbode

    tangent! this is how the Jets should use Tebow. why the heck do you care about protecting Sanchez’s feelings? 3rd and short put in Tebow and the threat of the QB-sneak (plus, if he gets hurt, then you care less as he’s your backup QB), deep pass or handoff are all in play.

    and why I wouldn’t mind getting Tebow (as long as we have a HC strong enough to enforce proper utilization and not bend to the media/fans)

    hmmm….Colt. He is shifty and a decent runner himself. Not a bulky power guy. But, we could give him a few bootlegs in situations like this one except that we usually do leave the weakside DE unblocked as he cannot make a play in short yardage (see last play of set). Colt won’t really work. Darn. Ok, trade Colt for Tebow (Colt’s at least as good as Sanchez :) )

  • Harv 21

    Thanks for all the work, Rick. Quality stuff as always.

    I see relatively little fault on Trent here, or the play/formation calling. As Marty said when he took over for the getting-too-fancy Sam Rutigliano, football is really a simple game, you need to beat your man. In future seasons when December games will determine the everything we’ll need to win those battles when the defense knows we need that yard and the shotgun and misdirections won’t be great slippery field options. Watson looks like he’s not blocking well anymore. Cameron (or whatever TE) will need to do better. The lead blocker can’t whiff. The guards need to get that push when it’s that time. And then we can knock Trent for trying to dance or break one. I think he’ll be less tentative when he’s more confident of solid blocks ahead.

    I’m actually more concerned about first down. The wco is supposed to provide high percentage first down plays that give you consistent 2nd and 4 or 5 yards and let you open the playbook wide. Weeden is in a lot of second and 9 and10s. In the beginning of the season I thought that was due to a lot of first down passes where they thought he would face less pass pressure. Now I’m not sure why but there’s still way too many 3rd and longs caused by bad first down yardage.

  • mgbode

    I think that Weeden should always have this as an audible-option. However, I don’t think it should ever be called (if that makes sense).

    If the defense lines up in a 6-3, then there is little chance of a QB sneak being successful. But, if they are in a 4-3 or 5-2 and we have a gap or angle for the QB, then by all means take it.

  • Natedawg86

    our QC coach sucks

  • Natedawg86

    When are we gong to let Weeden audible?

  • Natedawg86

    I was refering to the Indy game in which we punted on 4-1

  • Vindictive_Pat

    My fault, didn’t pick up on the sarcasm… I sure hope Pat Shurmur was shamed into never doing that again by every talking head in the country.

  • Natedawg86

    Or by the reaction by the boss haha

  • mgbode
  • Vindictive_Pat

    This is true… I still haven’t noticed Weeden using an audible at the line… like ever. I’m open to being wrong… just haven’t noticed it and I find that strange, even with a rookie QB.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I would LOVE to have Tebow for those short yardage situations. I thought for sure this was how he would be utilized by the Jets. Almost seems like Rex Ryan had no idea what to do with Tebow when Tannenbaum decided to get him. One of my good friends is the main writer for and every time I watch a game with him, he spits curses about the way they use Tebow. He’s just a wildcat guy to them.

  • mgbode

    yeah, it’s going to get Rex fired I think. really, Tebow is only good at 3 things (and terrible at all others):
    1. QB Sneak
    2. Handoff (with fake-option)
    3. Deep passes off play action or threat to run

    On short yardage situations that is exactly what you want out of a QB. Silly Jets.

  • Seth

    Weeden changed a play when he saw something he didn’t like in the Colts game. But yeah, I dont think Shurmur is down with his qb’s doing audibles

  • News, Notes & Rumors

    Great article and very good analysis.