5 Impactful Plays and Players Game Film Review: Week 13 Browns/Rams Game

December 6, 2023

Tony Camino

Impactful Plays from Browns’ Game Against Rams in Week 13

On the road in Los Angeles, Joe Flacco made his Cleveland Browns debut, and the team stuck around for the most part. Ultimately, some poor fourth-quarter execution on both sides of the ball allowed the Rams to pull away, and the Browns fell to 7-5. Flacco looked very solid, but the run game failed to be consistent. Defensively, the Browns continue to get beat on the same types of plays and missed Denzel Ward. Here are five plays that stood out from Week 13.

Great Throw From Flacco

The veteran Flacco came out firing in this game and looked like he had plenty left in the tank. Early in the game, the Rams came out in a two-high shell, and the Browns were three-by-one with Amari Cooper isolated at the top of the screen. Cooper was running a five-step glance route, and the safety was rotating down to a different coverage than the pre-snap look.

Once the safety to Cooper’s side rotated down, Flacco knew there would be a void in the defense between safeties. His anticipation on this throw was ridiculous, as Cooper wasn’t remotely close to stemming his route when Flacco separated his hands. The ball was on time and target away from the deep zones and just over the head of the linebacker for a very nice early completion on third-and-long.

Seeing the veteran signal-caller still having plenty in the tank with his anticipation and ability to drive the football was inspiring and should give fans confidence if they decide to stick with him to finish the season. Flacco made a lot of really good throws and showed how effective the offense can be with him, but some of the decision-making needs to be cleaned up going forward.

Rams’ Pin/Pull

The Rams ran for 120 yards and 4.8 yards per carry on a day where they seemed to get whatever they wanted offensively. For the most part, the Rams killed the Browns on the same concept that stresses the way defenders are taught to play in Jim Schwartz’s system. Puka Nacua motions here, and Grant Delpit runs with him, indicating the Browns are likely in man coverage. The Rams receivers are going to pin the edge defender on the side and the defensive back covering the inline receiver while the play side tackle pulls for the first man off the edge.

Cooper Kupp gets just enough of Myles Garrett to take him out of the play since Browns’ defensive linemen focus so much on working downhill and getting in the backfield. Since the Browns are in man coverage, the defensive backs have to follow the receivers for at least a second to ensure they aren’t running routes. By doing that, Martin Emerson completely loses his leverage, and Kyren Williams gets a solid gain.

The Rams ran this exact pin-and-pull toss action all day against the Browns and took advantage of their man coverage and use of defensive ends playing in the backfield so aggressively. Teams have increasingly found ways to exploit the Browns’ playstyle to punish them for focusing on generating pressure so much. The Browns will have to adapt or teams will continue to run similar schemes against them.

Elijah Moore’s Big Catch

Elijah Moore had the most familiarity with Flacco from their time together in New York, and it showed in this game. Moore finished with four catches for a team-high 83 yards on a team-high 12 targets. In this play, the Browns are in maximum protection and are only running two routes. Cedric Tillman is releasing inside and running a deep curl, while Moore presses his defender outside and runs a double move past his defender.

The line gives Flacco a great pocket, and Moore loses his defender to create some separation. Flacco could have thrown this ball more upfield, and it could’ve had a chance for a touchdown, but Moore does a great job adjusting and bringing the ball down while staying in bounds for a huge completion to set up a scoring drive.

Flacco showed his arm strength was still there, and Moore was a huge beneficiary of the veteran quarterback. In his natural element as a route runner on the outside, Moore consistently won on routes and made huge plays for the Browns all game. The Browns could desperately use more of this on a routine basis from Moore as a true number two in the passing attack. With Cooper continuing to get beat up, his role might be even bigger, and we’ll need more of these performances.

Missed Assignment

Sean McVay used motions very often against the Browns because of how often it created confusion and open spaces in the Browns’ coverage. They also would give Stafford an idea of what coverage the Browns were in, and the Rams seemingly motioned every snap to create chaos. The Rams motion the tight end Tyler Higbee on the Miami Dolphins’ motion and run a wheel route combined with a curl from the other receiver on that side.

If the Browns were in man coverage, likely someone would have run with the tight end from the second he motioned. They appear to be in zone coverage and they bump the motion, but Martin Emerson doesn’t react to it whatsoever. He presses in on the curl route despite the linebacker being right in that window and nobody going over to the tight end. Either Emerson needed to run out and take it or Anthony Walker needed to run with it right on the snap.

Either way, the Browns need to improve at dealing with motions and how to adjust their defenses without getting distracted. The Ravens did it a lot in the first meeting and now the Rams ran motion on nearly every snap, which stressed the defense and created easy voids for yards. The return of Ward should alleviate some of the issues the motion creates in the secondary, but they still could improve in that regard going forward.

Jet Sweep

Another very elementary play that has been killing the Browns all year is jet sweeps. The Rams exposed that yet again in this game, using it multiple times for massive chunks. Puka Nacua goes in motion, and the Rams snap the ball right when Nacua is behind the quarterback. He turns and hands it off, and Nacua runs off the edge. The Browns are in man coverage, and the Rams can use runoff routes from the receivers to get the defensive backs out of the way.

Similarly to the issues the Browns have defending zone option quarterback runs, defensive ends are taught to play very aggressively uphill in the Schwartz system. They aim to cause havoc and create an immense amount of pressure on the passer, but you can get exposed in areas like this. Since the defender doesn’t account for Nacua at all and doesn’t even try to adjust his path, he can come off the edge with two blockers and two defenders ahead. Nacua can get vertically fast and runs for a 40-yard chunk here. Going forward, the Browns will either have to teach the edge to play that or have another second-level defender go in to clean it up.

The Browns have a few different concepts they struggle to defend that all exploit their defenders playing aggressively downhill. Whether it’s jet sweeps, motions, read options, or play-action boot plays, the Browns have to find ways to adjust to eliminate these easy concepts, killing them consistently. While the players didn’t make enough plays Sunday, the defense was completely schemed up by McVay.

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