5 Impactful Plays and Players Game Film Review: Week 16 Browns/Texans Game

December 27, 2023

Tony Camino

Best Plays From Browns’ Win Over Texans In Week 16

The Browns have now won six of their last eight games overall and are positioned perfectly to secure a playoff spot. With a win on Thursday, they will officially lock up the fifth seed and stay alive for the AFC North crown. Joe Flacco continued his resurgence tour and had his third-straight 300-yard game, thanks partly to the inability to run the ball. The defense was dominant, as they shut the Texan’s offense out until the game was out of hand and the starters were pulled. The Browns are putting it all together as of late and are playing inspired football. Here are five of the best plays from the win over the Texans in Week 16.

Jerome Ford Touchdown

The Browns were moving early in this one, with a solid kickoff return from Pierre Strong followed by a bomb to Amari Cooper. The Browns were set up inside the 10-yard line and went back to an action they have had success with this year. Flacco motioned out and put Jerome Ford in the shotgun behind the center to take the direct snap. The Browns are running a pin/pull concept and Flacco is running behind Ford at the snap to act like he’s getting the ball back from him like we’ve seen recently.

Cedric Tillman starts this play off with a perfect pin block which allows the play to have any life for Ford to get outside. The action from Flacco is a great tendency breaker and holds the eyes of number one just enough so he has to pursue the ball and lose his leverage against Ford. With James Hudson out in front and the other defender already out-leveraged, Ford has an easy walk-in touchdown to set the tone for the day for the Browns.

The Browns have often opted for this wildcat package to try and get creative running the ball, and it has resulted in a lot of success so far. Using Flacco to draw the eyes of the defenders along with using the defender’s leverage against them made this a very good play call that just needed a couple of key blocks to have life. With Flacco, the opening drives have been nearly flawless and the Browns are back to the usual offensive starts in the Stefanski era.

Blitz Design

On third-and-nine, the Browns are showing a double-mug front with seven defenders walked up at the line of scrimmage. They overload the left side of the offensive line, but drop Myles Garrett and Sione Takitaki in underneath zones to throw off the offensive line communication and the hot read of the quarterback. The rest of the Browns’ defensive backs are in man coverage to match the four routes.

By overloading the left side, Keenum thinks there should be a void to throw directly from the blitz side. The only hot option on that side is the running back’s route, and Takitaki does a great job covering ground to force the throw to go more upfield towards the deep defender. The Browns get a free rusher off the edge Shelby Harris wins his rush inside and Keenum has to deliver this football in a heartbeat. The Browns cover it up very well, and the pressure in his face forces an incompletion to get the Browns off the field.

This is an example of a great blitz call to mess with the quarterback and offensive line by showing one thing and running another. If Keenum could somehow get to his hot route on the other side, the receiver was wide open and likely get the first. Jim Schwartz knows Keenum would want to throw from the overload side, and by selling out to shut that concept down, the Browns get a nice pressure and incompletion. The scheme and play calling combined with elite talent is exactly why this defense is having so much success.

Great Route From Amari Cooper

Amari Cooper had some sort of day on Sunday, setting the record for yards in a game by a Browns receiver and becoming the first Brown to ever have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Plays like this are exactly why he can achieve both those feats, as he’s elite at creating separation and making contested catches.

The Browns have an interesting route combination over the middle of the field that looks wrong, but they have Amari Cooper running a double move on the outside against a deep-third cover corner. Cooper releases inside and stems like he’s running a dig route, only to break outside and run a sail to the sideline. The defender gets his hips and feet committed to the in-breaking route, and it’s all over at that point. Cooper gets plenty of separation, but the ball was a little late and high. He makes a great leaping catch and hauls it in for a nice chunk to move the chains.

Cooper might have cemented himself as the best Browns’ receiver ever on Sunday, and the talent is unreal from the veteran. He continued to create insane separation anytime they left him isolated, and he even made plenty of plays even when he was covered well. The star receiver has had another tremendous season and is a huge catalyst for the Browns’ passing attack. If he and Flacco can continue building on this connection, the passing game should be enough to carry this unit.

David Njoku Touchdown

David Njoku has been great for the majority of the season and continues to answer the call when the Browns ask him to make plays. On second-and-long, the Browns are running a stick-and-nod tendency breaker route off the common stick concept they frequently run to get into more manageable third-down situations. Njoku starts to run a stick route where he can carry it towards the sideline or sit in the zone, but then break vertically upfield after selling a short route.

The Texans are in cover two, which is the perfect coverage to call this route against. Both safeties are in deep halves and leave a massive void in the middle of the field for this route. Once Njoku starts to run a stick, the safeties expand and create an even bigger void in between them. Njoku gets behind the second-level defender, but the safety makes a great break on the ball to contest the catch. Flacco puts this ball right on the money with beautiful accuracy, and Njoku hauls in a tough catch for a touchdown.

Aside from the Cooper-Flacco connection, Njoku stepped up and carried the load when other key offensive contributors went down. Along with being a vocal and emotional leader, his consistently great play this year has taken his leadership to the next level as a guy this team can truly count on. They will need him to keep playing at this level to help get this team where they want to go.

Great Stop By Cameron Mitchell

The Browns have had a great track record with drafting defensive backs, and Cameron Mitchell seems to be right in line as the next one. After a great, game-saving tackle to help the comeback win over the Bears, he was right back to making plays in Week 16. On second and short, the Texans are under center running a flood concept off a play-action boot fake. The receiver in the slot, covered by Mitchell, is sneaking behind the flow of the play and getting to the flat as the first level in the flood concept.

In man coverage, Mitchell has to navigate all of the defenders playing the run unscathed to stay stride-for-stride with the receiver and prevent the first down. After not getting picked by the linebackers respecting the run, Mitchell breaks on the throw and makes a great tackle behind the first down marker to put the Texans in a third-and-short situation. The Browns ended up getting off the field two plays later and getting a turnover on downs that essentially ended the game, marking two straight games with a game-changing tackle from the rookie.

Mitchell appears very well-equipped to take over as a slot corner on this team shortly. His instincts, coverage skills, and ability to make tackles in space make him the ideal nickel cornerback in any scheme in the league. The rookie fifth-round pick is set to see a huge role on this team in the coming years, as another stud DB finds from Andrew Berry.

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