>> 11.17.2009

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Last night, I watched most of the Monday Night game between the Browns and Ravens.  I’d decided it'd be a good idea to take some notes, effectively TV scouting the Browns.

I’m going to be real for a second here, folks: if the Lions can't beat the Browns in Ford Field, they will not win another game this season.

The Browns' offense is the most anemic, pathetic, limpid, impotent unit in football.  They have absolutely zero confidence in their quarterback.  The Browns’ gameplan for victory last night was to completely remove Brady Quinn from the equation.  I didn’t actually chart the game, but I would venture to guess—without exaggeration—that over eighty percent of the Browns’ offensive snaps were either a run, a screen pass, a TE screen, a WR screen, a bubble screen, or a Wildcat play.

It’s difficult to imagine, but Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll appeared to be petrified by the prospect of Brady Quinn making a read and throwing the football.  On the  few occasions where Quinn dropped back and threw a real pass, he and his receivers almost never agreed on the route to be run.  Five yards ahead, behind, outside, inside; WRs not expecting the ball, WRs expecting the ball and not getting it . . . every conceivable misfire or miscommunication occurred.  I’m going to let the numbers speak for themselves:

13 of 31, 99 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions.

Folks, that is miserable.  13 of 31 is 41.3%--and again, he was throwing a large percentage of screen passes.  41.3% should not happen.  You know what else should not happen?  3.13 yards per attempt.  When Brady Quinn drops back to pass, you can expect an average of three yards gained . . . that would be anemic for a running game, but for a passing offense, it’s . . . apalling.

Daboll is trying like crazy, though, to disguise what he’s doing.  He’s using Martzian levels of pre-snap motion: TE from one side to the other, new strong-side slot WR to weak side split end, RB from tailback to offset FB; all on the same play!  However, once that’s all settled down, they’re either running up the middle or running a screen.  I am completely confident in the Lions’ ability to stop these guys.

The one thing that really stuck out to me was the explosive playmaking ability of Josh Cribbs.  They try to run the Wildcat with him, but the total lack of offensive threats around him stops it cold.  When Josh Cribbs fakes a handoff to undrafted free agent rookie James Harrison, is there a linebacker in the world who bites?  Even so, Cribbs often makes hay, even with insufficient daylight.  I’m neither joking nor exaggerating when I say that a full-time Cribbs “Wildcat" would be much more dangerous than their current base offense.

Of course, there is the other side of the ball, and I won't sugarcoat it: the Lions are going to struggle to run the ball against the Browns. Besides the OT-to-OT havoc we all know a motivated Shaun Rogers can wreak, and the constant penetration by former Spartan Robaire Smith, the Browns’ secondary is not afraid to get up and support the run.  CB Eric Wright is a tackling machine, and safety Abram Elam loves to lay the lumber across the middle.

In the end, though, we're talking about a team that simply can't beat anyone.  As I've mentioned in the past, there's a special quality about offense: it can beat itself.  If you can't run block, and can't complete a pass, it doesn't matter which defense is across from you.  Given the state of this Cleveland Browns offense, the Lions probably won’t need to score 10 points to win.


Mike,  November 17, 2009 at 3:17 PM  


I want nothing more than to be fired up to watch a Lions victory this sunday, but after the loss to the Rams, I can't help but have flashbacks to the pre-season game agains the Browns where Joshua Cribbs may have been the only player on the field during returns. Early in the season the lions looked like an offensive powerhouse, running the ball well and putting together long drives. But, the offense has grinded to a halt, the defense is sooooo beat up (and bad to begin with) and their special teams have been abhorrent all year long. I can't shake the feeling that this is going to be a loss, or a really close win.

Anonymous,  November 18, 2009 at 5:37 PM  

Yea, I scouted the Browns game too and what I saw was a defense that kept the Ravens off the board the first half. I saw a defense that kept Flacco and the Ravens so off balance that the Ravens used up their first half timeouts in the first 6.5 minutes. I saw a defense thats going to put the same pressure on Stafford as the Vikings did.

The Ravens won that game with the opening drive {actually a whiff by the CB on a Mason catch and run} of the second half, a situation all too familiar to Lions fans. Brady threw an interception on the ensuing Browns possession and the game was essentially over at that time.

Browns defense will be an advantage for Cleveland big time.

I'd be willing to say it was upwards of 90% Browns playcalling as you described, with the addition that perhaps 60% of those plays came from a no huddle offense, something surely the Browns will use vs the Lions and I'm not too sure the Lions will be able to cope with it that well.

I'd also add that the Ravens defense pressured Brady almost constantly, he had little or no time to throw. As you very well know, if the QB doesn't have time to throw, the offense will be limited, very limited, and I really don't think the Lions defense can hurry Brady the way the Ravens did, so I think we will see a vastly different game than we saw Monday night from the Browns.

As I said on MLive, this game is too close to call, its going to be a toss up decided by a turnover or special team breakdown ... however this game goes I think it will be a close one, far from a guarenteed win.


Anonymous,  November 18, 2009 at 5:39 PM  

Don't know why Brady was mentioned above. Quinn not Brady = duh.


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