Bellaire, Ohio – For the first three quarters of the game, the Cleveland Browns’ defense was one of the best in the NFL.
But in the 4th quarter, Cleveland’s defense was probably the worst.
Despite playing one of the easiest schedules in the league to date, the biggest reason the Browns are just 2-2 is their defensive fourth quarter collapse.
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With five of the top 10 teams in ESPN’s power rankings now on the slate by December, Cleveland’s season could quickly reach a breaking point if its late-game defensive issues aren’t fixed. There is a nature.
“Obviously you’re trying to play a quarter of football. … Unfortunately, we had some issues in the fourth quarter, which led to points,” said coach Kevin Stefanski. said. “Unfortunately we [have given up] Up a big play that really can’t and shouldn’t happen. I think we’ve come a long way in working on this kind of thing. We have to keep playing healthy football, be first, defend and execute.”
Cleveland has yet to face a top-18 offense, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
In the first three quarters, their opponents’ offense averaged 4.93 yards per play, which is seventh best in the league.
But in the fourth quarter, the Browns gave up a whopping 7.83 yards per play. It ranks last by a large margin. No other defense gives him more than 6.61 yards per play.
The Browns also gave up more points in the fourth quarter (12.5 points per game) than in the first three quarters combined (11.25 points). They also gave up more points in the fourth quarter than any team in the league.
Only the Seattle Seahawks (-14.94) and Detroit Lions (-15.46) have worse defensive EPA (Expectation Points) than the Browns (-13.26).
“We just have to play football for 60 minutes. We have to tighten up in the fourth quarter,” said safety Grant Delpitt. “Q4 is pretty bad right now. That’s not what great teams do.”
Coverage defensive errors were the main culprit, but not the only one.
In Sunday’s loss, Cleveland locked the Atlanta Falcons inside their own 10-yard line to tie the game 20-20 with three minutes remaining.
But away from play action, slot receiver Olamide Zaccheaus found a gaping hole in Cleveland’s Cover 3 coverage. Drake London swept cornerback Denzel Ward and safety Jon Johnson III with a goal route. Also, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, Cleveland’s linebackers aren’t playing deep enough, allowing Zachous to space him out 9.9 yards. A 42-yard completion combined with Ward’s 15-yard facemask penalty set up Atlanta’s game-winning field goal.
“It was a long play,” Johnson said.
Losing the opponent’s receiver at the wrong moment was not the only problem.
Cleveland linebackers were attacking Atlanta’s line of scrimmage as the Falcons ran the ball at will in the fourth quarter.
“What happens when you run the ball over and over and think ‘run, run, run’, you think the same thing happens, but you have to read the key and take responsibility. We weren’t. Clean on that play and that’s how we got hit,” Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods said.
The Browns gave up 7.5 yards per rush in the 4th quarter at Atlanta. And on his drive for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Falcons handed off the ball for his 10th straight and marched 75 yards to score.
The Browns were missing three defensive starters along Atlanta’s line, including star pass rusher Myles Garrett. However, the Falcons did not stand out for running back Cordarrelle Patterson, who was sitting in the second half with a knee injury. Instead, a running back committee of Caleb Huntley, Tyler Allgaier and Avery Williams hurt the Browns.
“They got their stuff. It’ll happen, but it’s always a combination of things,” Stefanski said of the run defense collapsing in the second half. “There’s always one man here.” , there’s one guy, and you always ask, “Could we have put them in a better position on the play call?” all of them. There is no single answer. “
The difficulty gets tougher as the Browns search for answers.
In the next seven games, the Browns will play six of the top 11-ranked offenses starting Sunday with the Chargers (1 p.m. ET, CBS) who scored 47 points in Cleveland last season, according to FPI. do.
A streak that scored 26 points in the 4th quarter alone.
“At every play, we have to be trapped or we’re going to burst into flames,” Johnson said. “They came [it] Everyone, let’s go back to last year. Best effort required. “