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I'm calm now...


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I jumped out of bed this morning to watch the game before heading to work. No spoilers, it was as good as live, but with the added benefit of being able to skip past the unfortunate replays and adverts. I immediately, of course, wished I hadn't, after watching our previously stellar special teams give up a punt return for TD, but that's by the by. I've calmed down, and here's my thoughts on the game.


The Good


Not a great deal on this one, but we again saw some big games from Benjamin and Barnidge, and even Hartline went over 70 yards. Probably due more to volume than anything else, since Hawkins and Gabriel were out with concussions, and Bowe was out with ineptitude.


Duke Johnson looked pretty handy in the dozen times he touched the ball (7 rush for 27 yards, 5 catches for 23 yards). I'm still not sure why we don't use him in the run game more, and I feel everyone's been saying that since about week 3.


Austin Davis' game tying TD to Benjamin was a very nicely thrown ball. When Tramon Williams got beat over the top by Generic Receiver III or whoever the ravens are trotting out to beat us, the ball was underthrown by Schaub or it would have been a TD. No such problems for Benjamin. Overall, Davis looked handy, with a couple of 'rookie' mistakes - he's been in the league a while, yes, but hasn't yet played 10 games (ish). Not getting out of bounds and a few more yards that would have made the FG easier was a big mistake, but a very coachable one. I hope this guy stays with the Browns.


Two picks were nice, and really should have given us the win. Not many bright spots on D but those were two.


The Bad


After my post about rush defense, I was waiting anxiously, hoping for a statement of a game whereby we repeatedly stuffed a rookie UDFA and a browns reject running behind a patchwork offensive line. Something like 20 carries for 60 yards, or there abouts.


While the actual result wasn't egregiously bad (no 180 yard games or anything), they still had no problem moving the ball, picking up first downs when they needed to and generally having their way with our front seven.



The Ugly


That manhandling continued in to the passing game, where we could not get any pressure at all on Schaub - I'm not sure we even hit him, let alone sacked him. This on a guy who has a reputation for throwing picks (and delivered), making bad decisions and generally being a bad QB. Sure, they started out with some quick hitters on three step drops or from the shotgun to get him comfortable, but after the first quarter or so, he still had all day to throw. When we did get close, he simply stepped up and ran for a first down.
The Very Ugly


Our running game was possibly the single most frustrating thing to watch. Understand this - I'm English, I didn't grow up playing the sport, and I'm able to call when we're going to run it with pretty good accuracy. If I can do that, how do we expect opposition DCs not to pick it up? Do we think we're running against, well, ourselves?


It's like it happens in slow motion - we get in to a jumbo formation, McCown's in the shotgun, Crowell starts jogging when the ball is snapped, we give the DL a second or two to shed the blocks before Crowell even has the ball, and he gets stuffed for a gain somewhere in the region of -2 to +2 yards. Now we're in 2nd-and-9 or 3rd-and-7 and McCown has to hope Barnidge is free over the middle for 15 yards, or Benjamin is free over the top for 40 yards. Not a high percentage game plan.


Duke Johnson fairs little better, but at least he has the speed to get a yard or two before contact, and picks up a yard or two by falling forward.


The elephant man


Watching "Who the Buck" Allen run all over us, it became painfully clear, at least in my eyes, what the problem is. It isn't scheme, there always seems to be someone in position, except on the occasional screen or blown coverage - that happens in every game to every team. No, the problem is one of confidence. When a player is in position to make the tackle, he has no faith in himself to deliver a big hit and stop the run, or he has no confidence that if he misses there'll be someone behind him to pick up the pieces.


As a result, our players seem to be already falling backwards when making the tackle, trying to just wrap themselves around the ball carrier and hope the extra weight will bring them down. That's not working against no-name backs, and it sure as hell won't work against big power backs (yay, Lynch is out, oh no, we get to give another no-name backup his breakout game).


It's the same thing wherever you look. The scheme is fine. It's not the scheme, either on O or on D. It's individual players making fundamental mistakes - like both our ILBs whiffing on Allen's receiving TD (a little annoying I have to differentiate between a scrub's TDs against us); it's players not believing in themselves and their teammates.


All that brings me to a simple, if wholly infuriating and frustrating conclusion. If this doesn't change, if we can't get some confidence in to our players, if we can't cut out the mistakes, by the end of the season, if we can't get a reason to believe things will be better going forward in to next season, if we can't believe that whichever highly touted rookie we draft next April will develop in to a stud under the current staff - Mike Pettine has to go. Jim O'Neil has to go with him. Wilbert Montgomery (RB coach) has to go with him. People have been willing to give Flip a chance, given the relative competence of the passing game, but in order for him to stay we need to bring in someone with serious running game chops to help even out our offense.


It's frustrating, it's infuriating, because for most of last year, and some of this year, I and many others genuinely believed that Mike Pettine was the guy to turn things around here, but he seems lost and incapable of turning anything around - Manziel/Gilbert's attitude, run stopping problems, pass rush problems, rush attack problems.


His faith in the system is unwavering, and I admire that, as I said, the system is not the problem. The problem is, there's much more to being a HC than just the system.

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We ran a "jumbo shotgun"??? ;)


Reasonable stuff... a couple thoughts.


1. Folks talking about firing Pet and keeping Flip aren't being realistic. Any decent outside HC hire will more than likely want his own coordinators.


2. In general RBs will approach the LOS more slowly behind the ZBS since the location of the hole is not predetermined. However, our worst run of the nite was not a ZBS play; it was a power trap. Bad call made worse by sticking with it in the face of a packed box.


3. Pressure, or lack of it, was a key. Only in their last possession did we manage to move Schaub off his mark consistently.


4. Your system comments are refreshing, but I am not seeing the consistency between them and your conclusion about Pettine. Execution particularly of fundamentals is on position coaches. This off-season I give Pet the chance to upgrade his D-staff.



In my mind there are side by side images of plays from our MNF game and the SNF Pats/Broncos' game.

- Both are swing passes to the right flat to RBs (the Ravens' Allen and the Broncos' Hilliard).

- Both are closed upon by LBs (our Orchard and the Pats' Hightower).

- In our game Nate never sets, gets juked and virtually whiffs as the RB runs for a 1st down.

- In the Pats' game, Hightower breaks down, awaits the RB's move and makes an ankle tackle far short of the line to gain.

The main difference is position coaching.

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"Your system comments are refreshing, but I am not seeing the consistency between them and your conclusion about Pettine"


My thinking is this: designing and installing a gameplan is great, and if the system gets the right people in the right places, then that's great, but honestly, who comes up with the game plan is irrelevant. It could be Pettine, could be O'Neil, Jimmy, you, me, or a homeless guy; the next part is making sure that the people in the position to make the play actually make the play. Everyone seems either incapable of making the play consistently (see your Orchard vs Hightower example), or makes the 'safe' play by giving up an extra few yards because they don't trust themselves or their team mates.


It's confidence in themselves, the scheme and teammates that's lacking, as well as some execution. Position coaches, sure, but these guys were position coaches with him elsewhere and they didn't have that problem. I'd get rid of a few, though *cough* RB *cough* and actually hire an OL coach, since we've got a hole there. Maybe JT can coach on his rest day?!


I agree on Flip - he hasn't cost us any games with the play calling, though have been some questionable ones as you'd expect from a rookie. Think he'll just be a casualty of a house-cleaning.

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