BEREA—The Browns plan for this season was pretty simple.
Play great defense by stopping the run and being able to control the ball on offense by running the ball.
The Browns did neither in the 27-20 loss to the Raiders on Sunday. The defense gave up 469 yards to the Raiders, including 155 yards rushing. It was the third-straight game the defense has given up over 150 yards rushing. They also gave up 27 points and allowed the Raiders to build a 20-3 lead before the Browns were able to start putting it together offensively.
Mike Pettine was asked if it’s time to reconsider the Browns philosophy.
“No, we’re capable of executing that plan,” he said. “We’re not going to deviate from it or panic. We need to play better. We need to execute. If you want to look at the biggest reasons why we lost two of three games, it’s exactly what you said. We didn’t run the ball well enough, and we didn’t defend the run well enough.”
The Browns had a season low of rushing of just 39 yards on just 14 carries for a paltry average of just 2.8 yards per rush. Isaiah Crowell had 10 carries for 36 yards (3.6 avg.), while Duke Johnson had just three yards on four carries (0.8 avg.).
Pettine said he thinks correcting the rushing game is fixable.
“It’s a lot of little things.”
Joe Thomas elaborated a little bit more on what the breakdowns were.
“Tough question. it’s the bailout “execution” answer,” Thomas said. “When the play is called everybody has to do their job on both sides of the ball and it’s matter of all 11 guys doing their job on the play. In offensive football, if you have one guy that doesn’t do their job it’s a non-successful play. Defense can get a way with it because one guy can make a sack or a tackle for loss or interception, but it’s not that way on offense. Everybody has to do their job on each play.”
Thomas said for the Browns to get too far behind on Sunday is the reason they couldn’t be effective rushing the ball.
“I think sometimes your situation dictates what you can and can’t do,” Thomas said. “The way they go up on us early necessitated us to throw the ball to get back in the game. It’s unfortunate because we feel, especially with the schemes we run in the second half, you’re going to wear teams down and that’s where you get the majority of your running yardage when you have a defense tired and you’re going on a longer drive. you start popping a couple longer runs and that’s when you are going to get those yardage totals in the run game up.”
Last year, the Browns averaged over 140 yards rushing per game in the first five games of the season before Alex Mack broke his leg. With the unit back intact, the Browns running backs have only went over 100 yards once against the Titans when Crowell had 72 yards and Johnson had 43.
Thomas was asked if the Browns were still using the wide zone scheme in their running game.
“We used it a lot against Tennessee,” he said. “You saw it work really effectively. This week, we just didn’t have a lot of carries. I don’t know how many normal down-and-distance runs we had, but it may have been in the single digits. I think we had 14 total runs in the game, which is really low as it is. A couple of them were on the goal line. Your normal down-and-distance stuff is where you are going to naturally see a lot of that wide-zone stuff. We just didn’t have a lot of opportunities.
“In addition, they had two outstanding guys on the edge that make it tough to run wide-zone when you have Aldon Smith and Khalil Mack. When you are running the wide-zone, you are putting your tight ends one-on-one usually on their defensive end, outside backer types.”
Josh McCown agreed with Thomas
“Yeah, probably so,” he said. “Their front did a good job. They did a really good job on the edges with Mack and Aldon Smith and their big guys inside. That is something we have said here from the beginning, that we are going to be able to run the ball. We have to do a better job of getting that going. Some of it is a function of how the game went. All of a sudden, you are down a couple scores. The throw count gets up, but it is certainly something we want to focus on and get done. That is what we said, how this team is built and that is what we want to do, for sure.”
The ineffectiveness of the rushing game was glaring when Crowell couldn’t score twice from the one-yard line and the Browns had to settle for a field goal in the second quarter.
“When you’re on the one-yard line, you have to score a touchdown,” Thomas said. “That’s the bottom line in the business is about touchdown percentage when you’re in the red zone and the closer you are the more you have to score a touchdown.”
Pettine indicated that Crowell didn’t hit the proper hole on the play.
“Crow missed some runs (Sunday),” Pettine said. “The most obvious one was at the goal line. If he just stays outside the fullback, he goes in standing up. That wast tough because we have to kick a field goal on that drive after we had the penalty on fourth down.”
McCown said the offense has to play like they did at the end of the game.
“Yeah, we were talking about that,” McCown said. “I had the 19 plays against the Jets, but since the third quarter of Tampa, it is. Like I said, we came out and had a good week of work last week, and we finally, a little too late in that game, got a little groove going and started moving the ball around. That is the one thing, offensively, we need to build on. We need to pick up where we left off in that sense in how well we were moving the ball and keep that going.”
Thomas has seen the ups and downs of in his nine seasons with the Browns—unfortunately most of them have been on the downside.
“Any time you lose, there is always an overreaction, and every time you win, there is an overreaction,” Thomas said. “That is just one of the truisms of the NFL. Obviously, I think we did some good things, but we didn’t do enough good things to win the game. We had a slow start offensively in the first half that put us behind the eight-ball going into the second half. Coming back in the NFL is a difficult thing to do when the other team has a significant lead. The margin for error is really small. We came close at the end of the game, but we put ourselves in too big of a whole early on to come back and get the win.
“No matter how we think we are playing, when you are 1-2, you have to play better. That is the story for the whole team.”
Defensive Breakdowns: Pettine was asked what the biggest problem for the defense was and he didn’t hesitate.
“Missed tackles,” Pettine said. there were 14 we charted yesterday. When you miss them, it’s hard to (overcome). If I was going to say one thing defensively, that would be it.”
Pettine re-iterated that the tackling has to be corrected or the Browns defense will not be successful.”
“Tackling has been the most troubling,” Pettine said. “It’s been the most disappointing aspect of our defense this year and it was last year and not much has changed and with all of the emphasis put on it, that is a source of frustration.”
Shelton Praised: Pettine was asked who played well in the loss to the Raiders.
“Danny Shelton continues to play at a very high level,” he said.
He also mentioned Tramon Williams, Duke Johnson, Malcolm Johnson, Gary Barnidge and Brian Hartline.
Bowe Still in the Plans: Pettine said that WR Dwayne Bowe was still in the team’s plans, despite being inactive for two of the first three games.
“He’s going to play,” Pettine said. “It’s a long year. The decision (to make him inactive) came down from a numbers standpoint with K’Waun being down.
“Dwayne will help us but he’s just not there yet. the setback he suffered during training camp, it’s just hard to make those up. We’re hoping he will be out there and play the way we expect him to.”
Pettine said that Bowe might still be bothered with the hamstring injury.
“(It’s) just as much physical as anything.”
Pettine was asked if there were any thoughts of releasing Bowe, despite his $9 million contract.
“No. its a long season,” Pettine said. “It hasn’t started the way he wanted.”
Robertson Out: LB Craig Robertson is the player that might be out for some extended time according to Pettine.
“He’s the only player we think will take some time with his ankle sprain,” Pettine said. “We’ll have a much better sense of how he responds on Wednesday.”
Pettine said DB Joe Haden (ribs) and DB Tashaun Gipson (groin) will be “day-to-day”.
“We’re hopeful they won’t miss significant time and K’Waun (Williams) is still in the concussion protocol.”
Pettine said that DL Desmond Bryant (shoulder) has a pretty good chance of returning this week. He also mentioned that LB Scott Solomon and RB Robert Turbin were getting closer to starting to practice.
“Desmond probably has a better chance than Scott (this week), but Turbin is on the horizon,” he said. “Des probably have best chance to go this week.”
McCown Injury: QB Josh McCown disclosed after the game that he had an injury to his hand to take a look at, but Pettine said it didn’t affect him in the game.
“I knew he got hit but it didn’t appear to have any significant impact,” Pettine said.
McCown’s right hand appeared to be slightly swollen but he said that it didn’t affect him throwing or gripping the ball and expects to be ready for practice Wednesday.
“It’s swollen,” he said. Monday. “It’ll be alright.”
McCown said it didn’t affect him in the game. “I don’t think so, because I made throws (after that),” he said. “Everything feels good.”