BEREA—Mike Pettine built his resume on the defensive side of the football. Yet, the Browns second year coach doesn’t think there’s any reason for him to immerse himself on that side of the ball after watching his team give up 438 yards against the injury-riddled San Diego Chargers. After Sunday’s game, the Browns slipped to the basement in team defense in the NFL, ranking 32nd, overall.
“I don’t,” Pettine said. “Because I’m involved and the one thing we’re not going to do is panic. We know what we need to do and we need to do it better. I have a lot of faith in (defensive coordinator) Jim O’Neil and the rest of the staff and we feel we’ve showed that we’re very capable of playing well. We just need to do it on a more consistent basis. It’s a challenge to everybody in that room. To get more involved, I’ll meet with Jimmy later today as our normal protocol and we’ll discuss the quarter pole, state of the union, what can we do going forward. But, one thing we’re not going to do is anything wholesale and push the panic button. We’re close, but there are things we have to do better.”
The defense is giving up an average of 406.3 yards a game through the first quarter of the season. In the 30-27 loss to the Chargers, the Browns were plagued by giving up the big plays throughout the game. The gave up a 68-yard pass to backup receiver Dontrelle Inman, a 61-yard pass to Danny Woodhead and multiple other plays of 20-yards or more.
“It gets frustrating when you’re doing so well, then you have a good play, good play, good play and then a (bad one),” Christian Kirksey said. “For one, it makes you stay on the field longer and number two, you give up so many yards.”
Kirksey was one of the bright spots on the defense with five tackles, one sack and a quarterback hurry.
“We know, like last week that we had to eliminate the missed tackles and think we did a pretty good job in that area this week,” he said. “We just have to make sure we play sound on all three downs. It’s not rocket science. It’s not something we have to search to find. We just have to make sure we execute.”
Pettine was asked if there is any one specific area that the defense is lacking.
“First of all is understand the ‘why’,” he said. “Why is it happening? Was it a technical error? Was it a scheme mistake? Was it personnel? As you build data over an entire game, you see a pattern.
“Some of it is focus,” Pettine said. “Guys, sometimes try to do too much and get caught up in the moment. We need to play better in those situations. We need to coach better in those situations.”
Pettine said the coaching staff combs through the data to try and come up with a pattern of what’s causing all the defensive breakdowns. When asked if there is a pattern, he said.
“There hasn’t (been),” Pettine said. “Football is a game of a million little things and right now, defensively, we’re not doing enough of those little things right and we have to get them crossed off the list and make sure they don’t come back to the list. We have to be that team that if a mistake is made, we learn from it and lock it away hose right now. we have to learn from the mistakes.”
Pettine said he thinks the defense is close to being the defense he expects.
“After watching the film, we’re close, but this is a bottom line business,” Pettine said. “We have to eliminate the big plays. That’s been our Achilles heel.”
Kirksey agrees with Pettine that the defense can be fixed.
“We have to limit the mistakes,” Kirksey said. “Guys have to be in the right place at the right time and everybody has to do their jobs and eliminate big plays.
“If you watch film, people just watching the game and seeing the stats might say, ‘Oh man, the Browns are doing bad’, but there’s a lot of good things on film we can learn from and build on.”
Duke a Bright Spot: RB Duke Johnson was bright spot that Pettine singled out for his performance on Sunday. Johnson averaged 3.9 yards per carry on eight carries for 31 yards, but really made his mark in the passing game. Johnson was the leading receiver with nine receptions for 85 yards (9.4 avg.), including a 34-yard touchdown.
“We all got a glimpse of what Duke can do,” Pettine said. “That was a missing part of our offense. We’re very pleased with that.”
Gipson, Hartline Hobbled: Pettine said there were no updates on DB Tashaun Gipson (ankle), WR Brian Hartline (thigh) and DB Joe Haden (broken finger). He did say that LB Scott Solomon (ankle) and RB Robert Turbin (ankle) are expected to take team reps this week. Gipson and Hartline left Sunday’s game and did not return.
Pettine said that Haden made the decision that it would be better to sit the Chargers game out. Pettine said that Haden worked out with coach Aaron Glenn before the game and made the decision to not play with the finger injury.
Farmer Back: Pettine said he and GM Ray Farmer met briefly upon Farmer’s return to Berea after serving his four-game suspension for improper texting.“I saw him briefly this morning as he was watching the tape,” Pettine said. “We had some positive interaction for a few minutes. Not to speak for him, but I know he’s thrilled to be back.”