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.