Browns v. Titans

Overall thoughts:

While the Titans are clearly a much better team than the Browns, I think, the score doesn’t accurately represent how close of a game this should have been.  The primary reason for this discrepancy was Crennel’s lack of aggressiveness in trying to win the game. 

In a theory more fully articulated by Greg Easterbrook, (ESPN writer), he speaks of the lack of aggressiveness NFL coaches have in going for it on 4th and less than 5 in between your 40 and the opponents 35.  His assertion, and backed with statistics rests on the fact that: 1) Teams convert about 40% of the time in these situations 2) Coaches of teams that do go for it on these situations have better records 3) going for it in these situations sends a message to the offense that you believe they can convert 4) going for it in these situations sends a message to your defense that you believe they can stop the opponent 5) Teams with bad defenses should go for it more often than teams with good defenses  – field position means less if you have a harder time stopping the other team (e.g. if you’re playing the Patriots last year and you have a bad defense, chances are they’re going to score anyway, therefore, you should maximize your opportunities with the ball) 6. Your playing calling on downs 1-3 would change (3rd and 7 is no longer a “passing down”, and thus a draw or 3 step drop which makes it 4th and less than 5 still gives you a good chance at converting  the 1st down. 7) Bad offenses benefit more than good ones do as an average of 2.6 yards per play is required for a first down, as opposed to 3.4.

As mentioned in previous posts, Crennel, unlike his mentor Belicheck, is extremely conservative, and hardly every goes for it in these situations.  I vowed never to judge decisions based on actual results (which is unknown at the time), and instead judging them an expected results, but will provide the results of this consequences of the lack of aggressiveness below. 

To explain this theory in a brief way, here’s an example: I have a bag with 100 balls in them.  70 of them are worth $100, the other 30, result in you losing $5.  Would you play this game?  Most people would answer “yes”.  If then, you pulled out a ball, and got one that said you lose $5, did you make the wrong decision to play the game?  By judging the decision with an expected value of $68.5 (7*100)-(.3*-5), you made the correct choice by playing the game, regardless of getting a bad result.  Said differently, if you had another opportunity to play the game, it’s likely that you’d play again.

Below recaps the wrong decisions made by the Browns staff, and the results.  Further, a 4-8 team with a coach trying to win to save his job (more on this later) should be more aggressive than an 11-1 team looking to make it into the playoffs healthy.  Regardless, the decision is wrong regardless of result.  I also want to point out, Zastudil, a top 5 punter in the league, had a horrible game.  Yet, the lack of aggressiveness can’t be blamed on him

1)      In the 2nd offensive drive, the Browns had the ball on the Titans 37 yard line, and punted on 4th and 4.

a.       Result – touchback à next play interception by D’Qwell (actually a positive result, but I don’t think you can credit the Browns for knowing that D’Qwell would get a pick)

2)       4th and 3 (right after Ten TD) on Ten 44 yard line

a.       23 yard punt, Tennessee starts with the ball on their own 21 yard line

3)       4th and 7 on the Titans 48 (this is outside the 4th and 5 creed, but the Browns were down 15 at this point in the game, and still 4-8 with a coach that is probably going to get fired if he doesn’t win out

a.       Punt results in touchback –

b.      Eric Wright recovers fumble forced by Corey Williams.  (again, I don’t think the Browns saw this as a predictable result

4)      4th and 10 on the 26 (again outside of 4th and 5 mantra), but you have to imagine that if the Browns had viewed this as 4 down territory, the 3rd and 10 call may have been different)

a.       Missed FG (Dawson is having an incredible season regardless of this miss)

5)      4th and 1 from the 37 – Up the middle to Vickers resulting in 1st down

6)      (same drive, beginning of 4th quarter) 4th and 9 from the 22 – down 21-6 at this point, still 4-8.  Again, a 4 down territory view of this possession may have made for a different play call on 3rd and 9.  This FG still left the Browns down two TDs

a.       FG good

7)      4th and 1 from own 24 (less than 9 minutes to play).  This is the ultimate in “I give up” by the Browns.  Not surprisingly, so did the special teams on the punt return and the defense on the next play

a.       Punt – returned 44 yards

b.      Next play TD

Conversely, Fisher went for it (with a play action pass) on 4th and 1, down 6 on the Browns 28.  Result, 28 yard TD.  I’m guessing the browns kick the field goal there.  To be fair, Fisher didn’t go for it on 4th and 1 from their own 41, but they were up 15 points at the time, and the Browns offense showed very little ability moving the ball.  Thus, punting is the correct decision.  Fisher also went for it on 4th and 2 from the Browns 6.  I’d argue there’s not just correlation between their record and his aggressiveness in 4th down play calling.

Now on to recaps:

QB

Hard to judge Dorsey in this game.  Pass blocking was atrocious, and not having Winslow certainly hurts.  I was impressed by his accuracy on short passes, but he missed some opportunities to hit Edwards deep.  Also, I loved the fact that he was able to call plays from the LOS, something Anderson is incapable of doing, and normally costs the Browns 10 seconds per play.  All in all, he’s probably a really good 3rd QB.  Able to start a game or two if need be because he’s smart enough to pick up the offense in a week.

RB

Impossible to judge this group.  They were unable to get any momentum going forward in this game as the Browns OL was destroyed (more on this below.  When your RBs carry the ball 13 times for 11 yards and one of them is a 5 yard gain, it’s not their fault.  The “Flash” formation worked well however as Cribbs went 6 carries for 24 yards.  Although calling the same play 3 times in a row hardly works

WR

Braylon again showed why he’s a great receiver in this game.  He’s very good at getting open on slants, and deep routes.  He dominated Nick Harper in this game, and he also blocks really well. He got his hand on one pass that he didn’t bring down, but he was the lone threat in the game on the Browns O.  One issue, I feel like he runs only 4 routes: 3 yard slant, 7 yard slant, 15 yard in, and a go route.  Some variability is needed to get open.  Likewise, Stallworth’s only catches seem to be on drag routes, and occasionally a deep ball will be thrown to him.  I feel like Chud uses a variety of formations to mask similar routes for his players.  Steptoe asked to block repeatedly again.  I have no idea what game film Chud’s watching when he decides it’s a good idea to do this again.

OL

Absolutely dominated by Ten.  Running game went nowhere, Dorsey spent every other pass play on his back or hurried.  I’m not sure what the issue was versus last year as this is the 8th game the group has played together (5th in a row).  Shaffer is clearly worse than tucker at RT.

Chud

Above I mentioned the frequency of similar pass routes, but there’s another issue.  When Harrison is in the game, and the WR to the strong side starts coming in motion towards the OL, it’s a sweep to Harrison, or a pass play where the motion WR runs a drag.

In 3rd and 2-4 yards, Braylon will line up by himself on one side and run a slant when the opponent tends to play man coverage.  Against teams that play zone, Winslow will be on his side and the two will run a slant/out combo route (Edwards with the slant).

In short yardage situations, and Vicker’s healthy, he gets the ball on a dive (I don’t remember a play action from this recently)

Defense

Actually played pretty well, and forced a bunch of turnovers.  The running defense can’t really be blamed since 1) this is the 2nd best running team in the league 2) We’re starting Shaun Smith, 3) The law firm plays a lot 3) McGinnest is horrible and holding contain 4) Alex Hall gets destroyed in running plays

DL

Rodgers is having a difficult time as teams realize he’s the real threat on the DL.  Williams played well, and just recently it’s surfaced that he’s been fighting a shoulder injury that could require surgery since week 3. 

LB

D’Qwell needs to be in the pro-bowl.  This was his coming out game, lost by the fact that the Browns offense didn’t win the game.  2 picks and almost a 3rd.  He had 12 solo tackles despite getting very little help from the DL in keeping blockers off of him.  To put this in perspective, the difference between the number of tackles he and Andra Davis have (62) versus NE (28 tackle difference between their ILBs) Pit (approx. 35 tackles as they rotate their ILBs more), Sand Diego (at best 15), SF (35) is dramatic. 

DBs

Not much to evaluate here, as it was so easy to run on the Browns that passing wasn’t a priority for the Titans.  Pool fell too hard for the play fake on 4th and 1, and Jones repeatedly did this.  Some bad angles on trying to catch Chris Johnson, but he’s probably the fastest RB in the league, so that’s expected.  Most of the time Johnson got to the outside, it was the OLB’s fault, not the DBs.

 

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