Browns Week 8 vs. Seahawks: Summary Report and Player Game Balls

November 1, 2023

Andy Billman Tony Camino

Browns Reflections: A Look Back at the Browns Loss to the Seahawks


1 – How much blame should go to the playcalling on 3rd and 3 for the loss?

Andy –

I am not surprised by the questioning of the call, as I would have run the ball as well instead of PJ Walker making a pass.  With the added layer of the turnover, it only adds to the stress of the play call and should be questioned as it was a critical play at the end of the game.

There also should be questioning of the defense on why they could not make a stop or at least hold the Seahawks to a field goal on the final drive.  To me, the defense deserves some blame as they hardly played in the second half as the Browns dominated time of possession on the day, so tiredness is not an excuse.

Sure, getting frustrated at the third down call is understandable, but scapegoating the play call as the reason for the loss is incorrect with what happened to the defense on the final drive.

Tony –

No matter what the play is and who the error is on, no single play can ever be entirely blamed for a loss. Whether it’s Cameron Mitchell making the pick-six, the defense getting a late stop, or the defense not allowing the Seahawks to drive down the field twice unscathed to start the game, these are all factors that can be blamed for losing this game. While it’s easy to point fingers after the fact, the reality is that not many coaches would even have the team in a position to win that game given the circumstances.

Personally, I would have preferred a run because my mindset is always to win the game when you have a chance with the ball. A run on third-and-short to gain two yards would have set up a fourth-and-short opportunity to win the game, which I would have gone for. However, the aggressiveness, with no Deshaun Watson or Nick Chubb, has been dialed back from what we normally see from Kevin Stefanski, and I doubt he viewed it as two plays to get the first down. A punt was likely coming regardless of the outcome on third down.

The Browns’ run game was the most consistent it’s been all year in this game, but the other six games this year didn’t inspire much confidence in picking up that yardage. The Seahawks did a great job defending that play and putting pressure on, forcing PJ Walker to throw to his first read. For those who would have preferred a run and a punt thereafter, a fumble is much more likely to happen than the ball bouncing straight up into the air like a lazy fly ball after hitting a helmet.

I would’ve run the ball and gone for it on fourth down, but it took insane bad luck for the pass to be intercepted and change the game as it did. I don’t believe the Browns would have gone for it on fourth, even if it’s fourth-and-short, so I don’t hate the call to throw for three yards on one play to win the game. Stefanski’s scheme and game plan were impeccable on Sunday, and one crazy bounce doesn’t warrant calling for his job.


2 – How do we feel about the defense after this loss?

Tony –

Expecting the defense to perform at a historic level for the entire season was unrealistic, and the anticipated regression has finally occurred. Even in another game where the defense didn’t perform anywhere near the level they are capable of, they still had a massive stretch in the middle of the game where they completely locked down the Seahawks’ offense.

However, the recurring issue with this unit has been big plays. They continue to get gashed on broken coverages and missed run fits. In addition, they need to adjust better to their opponents, as scripted drives to start games have been a recent challenge. While they have made good in-game adjustments to get back on track after the scripted plays, teams are getting off to hot starts, something this Browns team cannot afford.

I still have confidence in this unit, but they need to make some adjustments and communicate better in zone defense. While they will always rely heavily on man coverage, it can be relatively easy for coaches to scheme against obvious man coverage, making life very difficult for the defense. Improving zone defense, limiting big plays, and getting off to better starts against scripted plays will greatly benefit this defense going forward.

Andy –

The defense has lost some of its mojo, to be blunt.  Yes, they rank very high among statistics, and they are having a fantastic year from DE Myles Garrett, CB Denzel Ward, and S Grant Delpit.  The list can be much longer as well, with players having career years and, because of that, along with the new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the defense has swagger.

However, they are showing signs of needing to be better late in the game, as they have given up a game-winning drive to Seattle on Sunday. Two weeks back, they gave up a final drive to the 49ers that could have ended with a possible game-winning field goal that ended with a miss, giving the Browns a thrilling victory. 

As Tony mentioned above, they are also getting susceptible to the big plays by the opponent.  The mistakes are also showing up, and against Seattle, multiple missed tackles cost Cleveland as well, including the last drive of the game.

All to say, the defense is improved and outstanding, but they have to tighten up at the end of the game, stop giving up big yardage plays, and limit the missed tackles.


3 – Are the Browns officially an offense that is an actual run-first system?

Andy –

In 2023, and for the correct reasons, the Browns are becoming a run-first offense.  With the injuries to the quarterback and the defense improved along with strong special teams, this had to become a run-thinking offense. 

What is remarkable is they are doing it with an offensive line that is having injuries, including rookie RT Dawand Jones, who is having a great rookie season and hopefully will not be out for too long. And most importantly, they are running the ball without star RB Nick Chubb.

Even though head coach Kevin Stefanski drives me crazy at times, I have to give him credit for recognizing that he needs to run the ball more in 2023.  

Tony –

Under Stefanski, the Browns have built their entire offensive philosophy around the outside zone scheme with play-action boots off it. This style is tailor-made for Nick Chubb, and his excellence in this scheme is a significant reason why average quarterbacks have recently played at a much higher level than their actual abilities. The Browns, like most teams, aim to establish the run before focusing on passing.

Week 8 was a promising sign for the run game, as they showed consistency for the first time all year. While there were occasional big runs in the weeks prior, they couldn’t consistently gain yards and often fluctuated between a big run and little to no gain. They put it all together against a formidable Seahawks run defense, which is encouraging.

Ideally, the Browns would prefer to return to relying on the run game while Watson is out, but it’s premature to declare them a run-first team based on just one consistently strong running game. The other five games without Chubb tell a different story, and they will need to continue building on the run game to regain the emphasis on it as they have in the past.


4 – If Walker starts next week, can the Browns win with him as a starter?

Tony –

All signs point to the 1-7 Cardinals starting rookie Clayton Tune on Sunday against the Browns. Josh Dobbs’ play hasn’t been up to par, and Kyler Murray is still a couple of weeks away from returning from his torn ACL. The rookie fifth-rounder will make his debut against the tough Browns’ defense in likely poor conditions, making it possible for the Browns to secure another win with Walker.

While Walker continues to be turnover-prone and tends to lock onto receivers pre-snap, he held his ground on Sunday against the Seahawks and made some good throws. Ideally, Watson can return sooner rather than later, but this game offers a good chance for the Browns to win even with Walker at QB.

If Watson has to sit out for a few more weeks, I would prefer a switch back to Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who only got a chance on short notice against a tough Ravens team. Walker has performed significantly worse than most starters this year, according to advanced analytics, and it can’t seemingly go worse with DTR. Walker would be a reasonable option again this week, but focusing on ball security is essential to prevent giving opponents short fields to score.

Andy –

The short answer is yes because they are playing the Arizona Cardinals.  Beyond that, next week is a much different story.  The best-case scenario is Deshaun Watson plays this week to get some playing time before the Ravens game.  If Watson is not ready, it should be PJ Walker, not Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Walker has done a great job getting this team two victories under a hectic practice schedule, which should also be figured into this discussion.  That said, I’m not sure there‚Äôs much left to see with Walker, as the more he plays, the more possible losses loom.


Gameballs

Andy – Amari Cooper

Tony – None


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