Browns vs Patriots – Week 14 – Defend Cleveland Preview
It’s Week 14 and which shitty Browns QB will it be? Will it be Jason “Checkdown King” Campbell? The Full Weeden? Some guy from Youtube? Or a 6 year career backup who was cut by the Ravens in preseason and wasn’t on an NFL roster at all this year until the Browns signed him a couple days ago…a week after having passed him up to sign the Youtube sensation?
Best part, whomever it ends up being gets to travel to Foxborough and go against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Talk about a cruel joke.
They might as well draw straws.
Matchups to Watch For
– Hey Ray Horton, Where Have All the Good Times Gone? – Remember prior to the Cincinnati game coming out of the bye week and how good we were feeling around here? The Browns had just beat the Ravens, were but 2 games out of 1st place and finally looked ready to turn the corner and become relevant in the AFC North for what might as well be the first time ever. It was nice having the Browns look like real competitors, real nice, and they were mostly doing so behind a reinvigorated, realigned, Ray “Get The Quarterback” Horton schemed defense. A defense which ranked overall in the top 10 and looked to be headed to that of elite status1.
A lot has happened since then.
What has mostly been overlooked in the vast ocean of offensive issues (including all the effects of the Full Weeden), is just how bad Horton’s defense has become of late. Though most took note of out how bad it was that the Jaguars worst rated offense orchestrated what looked like an effortless 80 yard game winning drive last week but the real issue defensively has been on display all season.
Prior to their bye week in Week 10, Horton’s defense was as advertised; top 10 in most defensive categories including getting pressure on the quarterback and points allowed (averaging just under 4 sacks and 13 hurries a game and allowing just under 22 points a game). The three games after the bye has been a totally different story as the Browns only have 1 sack total in that time, are hurrying the opposing quarterback less than half as much (5.7 hurries a game), and in addition allowed over 33 points a game, an almost 2 touchdown increase.
What happened during the bye week? Did the Browns secretly bring back Dick Jauron as coordinator?
Of course the rate of costly turnovers and poor field position have hurt the defense lately but the fact is Horton is no longer dialing up the blitz so that he can use more linebackers and safeties in coverage. Though this seems a sound strategy which not only utilizes their excellent down linemen more in stopping the run to free up the extra coverage, it looks most like it was a strategy devised to help this team get stops and not be killed on 3rd downs and by their porous coverage on crossing routes and over the middle, especially in the redzone. The problem is these changes haven’t improved anything, in fact, it’s become worse.
According to Football Outsiders this year teams are converting redzone trips into touchdowns at a clip of 65% against the Browns. That’s bad enough to see Cleveland ranked 30th overall. What’s crazy about this stat is just how good the Browns defense appears to be otherwise, as they rank 1st overall in yards allowed per drive, 2nd overall in forcing punts, 7th overall in forcing 3 and outs, and of course 5th overall in both passing and rushing yards allowed. The added craziness of this is that the Browns are even worse than they were last year in stopping redzone touchdowns, and there’s no history to suggest it’s a flaw in Ray Horton’s scheme because his last two years with the Cardinals saw their defense in the top 5 of this category each year. None of it makes much sense. All I know is if this non-blitz pact was put in play to stem all the scoring in the redzone, it’s not working; the touchdown rate is continuing to rise.
Yes, the turnovers, bad special teams play and the void that is the quarterback position for the Browns has killed them the last 3 weeks, however, the Browns defense needs to start shouldering more of the blame too. No matter what, unless you have an offense that can get you 30 points a game (see the Patriots, Denver, New Orleans, et al), by not getting pressure on the opposing quarterback and also allowing teams to score a touchdown on almost 3 out of every 4 trips to the redzone, is flat out a recipe for failure.
After 9 weeks of all out blitzing all the time and now 3 weeks of only rushing 4 on most passing plays, it looks like the Orange and Brown blitzkrieg needs to come back in style, and quick. Roger Goodell might have made it illegal to hit Tom Brady on the basis that he’s too pretty, but the bottom line is if Horton’s defense doesn’t do an about face this week and get after the Golden Boy, Brady will turn the entire field into the redzone and the Browns will easily lose by more than four touchdowns.
– The Golden Boy vs.What’s Behind Door Number (Whichever) – Do I really need to say anything here? Tom Brady in Belichick’s offense could make Gary Barnidge, Greg Little and Devon Bess look like Pro Bowl players. He’s that great. Period. The Browns choice between the four quarterbacks who might start this one? It goes in order of bad to worse, to Weeden.
– Bill Belichick Please Come Back! – If the “Come Home” campaign for LeBron doesn’t work we really need to consider a “Come Home” Bill Belichick campaign. Granted he didn’t grow up here, but he did live he a few years. How does that saying go, again? “Brohio”? No, not that one. “Welcome to Ohio, now you are stuck in Ohio!” Yeah, that one. Come home, Bill!
The line opened +10.5 Browns and has gone up to +11.5 since. Unless the line somehow gets over +20…you know what to do. Drink, hope they put Boss Weeden in so at least you’re entertained by the awfulness of the worst case scenario, keep drinking, and bet that the Patriots cover the spread.
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- Statements like these come from ProFootballFocus unless otherwise noted or obvious [↩]
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