5 Impactful Plays and Players Game Film Review: Week 17 Browns/Jets Game

January 4, 2024

Tony Camino

Best Plays From Browns Clinching Week 17 Win

With a week to spare, the Browns have officially locked up the fifth seed in the AFC playoff picture following an electric 37-20 win over the Jets on Thursday Night Football. Joe Flacco and the offense came out swinging and even finally found consistent success on the ground. David Njoku was dominant in the absence of Amari Cooper, and defensive adjustments after the first drive put this game away quickly. Flacco became the first quarterback to throw for 300 yards against the Jets in over 700 days (Tom Brady was the last), and he nearly did it in one half. The Browns’ starters will take Week 18 off, but here are five of the best plays from a great clinching win over the Jets in Week 17.

Big Completion to David Njoku

The first-time Pro Bowler has been maybe the best tight end in the entire NFL over the last few weeks, and he delivered on Thursday when his team needed him most with Cooper out. On the first drive of the game, Njoku came through with a massive catch and run on third-and-long, putting the Browns on the move. Two plays later, the Browns were in a second-and-long situation, running a scissors-like concept over the middle of the field. Elijah Moore ran an outside release runoff, and Flacco was looking for the crosser with the most room after clearing the backer.

The route from David Bell looked bracketed by the safety and corner, but there seemed to be a window to Njoku when Flacco decided to throw it as the one safety was too far back to make a play. The ball barely went over the middle linebacker’s head and was placed behind Njoku to shield him from the other defender. Njoku made a tremendous adjustment mid-air to snag the ball behind him and reel in another big conversion.

Njoku’s year-after-year development has been really impressive, and this year he has truly become one of the biggest leaders and best players on the team. With so many other key contributors going down, he has been crucial in making big plays to keep this offense going. His development in all phases of the game has turned him into one of the league’s best, and we’re lucky to have him representing our city.

Rocket Pick-6

Ronnie Hickman seems to find himself on this film breakdown every week, and the most noteworthy play of his career came in Week 17. Right after a missed fourth down near the goal line, the Jets’ offense was backed up in their territory. The Browns got very creative with their disguise here, making it look a lot like cover three pre-snap because of the off corners and the middle of the field closed look. On the snap, Hickman sat between the two deep halves from the corners, turning it into an inverted cover two coverage.

Because Siemian thought the Browns were running some form of cover three here, the basic route over the middle of the field to Garrett Wilson should be open if he threw with anticipation off the play fake. Instead, he turned his back and didn’t recognize the Browns were actually in cover two. Hickman was right where the route went, jumping it to intercept the pass and return it for a massive touchdown.

This disguise by the Browns’ defense has been their latest evolution over the last few weeks that can take the defense to another dominant level. They are so good at running their coverages just lining up in them, but when they can disguise things and run different coverages off unusual looks, it can cause confusion for the quarterback and lead to throws like this. Against veteran quarterback/play caller combinations in the playoffs, the Browns will have to execute their coverages off different looks to avoid being too predictable.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah Tackle For Loss

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is having an All-Pro type of season regardless of what the Pro Bowl voters think, and he had another really special game in Week 17. The Jets wanted to get creative on this play, running a pin/pull run play with Garrett Wilson taking the snap in Wildcat. The Browns have often been beaten by these concepts this year because they take advantage of the aggressiveness of our defensive line. Myles Garrett started this play by getting so far into the backfield that it forced Wilson to widen his path and go backward instead of getting vertical.

JOK had to take on multiple blockers on this play, swiping the hands of each to get by them and putting himself in a position to make a play. He then played at a good pace to not get clogged by the other pulling offensive lineman, and his elite closing speed and instincts did the rest to bring Wilson down for another big tackle for loss.

Without a doubt, JOK is one of the most impactful players on this defense. Because the defensive line is taught to play so upfield and aggressive, the defense can be vulnerable against plays that get to the outside like this if you don’t have elite athletes at linebacker to flow over and make these plays. Luckily for the Browns, JOK somehow fell to the second round and has made every scout regret their draft day evaluation so far, as he’s an instrumental piece of this elite defense.

Run Action Fake

With Flacco under center, the Browns have thrived in the run-and-play action fake game despite not having a massive threat of a run game. Because the veteran is so sound in his fakes along with the rest of the team perfecting how to sell the run, the Browns have found ways to get wide-open receivers without even beating a defender. The Browns are running a run action here, different from play action because more than just the quarterback and running back are selling the run. The entire team is selling runs at first, creating a huge opening in the defense.

The Browns are faking a counter-run play, where the backside guard pulls and sets the edge for the back. Flacco’s footwork is perfect, and his sleight of hand with the ball deceives the entire defense. Look at all the eyes of the defenders in the box; all of them are keyed into the run and trying to make sure they don’t get beat on the ground. Instead of running a route from the other side where the defender is not in the run fit, the Browns leak out Jordan Akins from the core to the sideline on a corner route. His defender completely bites on the run, and Akins gets separated easily for a massive catch and run.

The renewed success using play fakes has been a pivotal part of why the offense with Flacco has been better than many expected. Everyone on the team has improved in this regard, and they can now execute a game plan that Kevin Stefanski is more comfortable calling. If they can add in any sort of consistent success in the run game, the offense will be one of the most dangerous in the league at the perfect time for a playoff run.

Elijah Moore Touchdown

Elijah Moore was another skill player who needed to step up without Cooper being active, and he did just that before exiting the game with a concussion. In his time in this game, he consistently created separation and made great plays on the ball to give the offense life. On this play in the low red zone, the Browns motioned Njoku to stack, and Sauce Gardner followed him, indicating a man coverage look. Njoku ran a whip route, cutting out and spinning back inside, which the Browns do so often, while Moore ran a sail route to the sideline.

Moore instantly had leverage over his defender, and Flacco knew that’s where he wanted to go with the ball. He put a nice move on at the top of the route to create some separation, and Flacco threw the ball to the front pylon, creating even more separation since the defenders’ hips were pointing toward the back pylon. Flacco put this ball right at the front pylon, and Moore adjusted his route with the ball in the air to make this an easy completion for a touchdown.

Moore suffered a scary injury in this game, but the good news is he seems to be progressing well as he’s already back at practice. While he hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers this year, Moore’s ability to create separation on the outside as a route runner is essential in this offense alongside Cooper and Njoku, and it’s tough to see how they can make a real run without him. Considering he’s already back at practice, it seems likely that he will be able to suit up for the playoff game. It was great to see him get a revenge touchdown against him and Flacco’s former team, and they will need more of these to make a big run.

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