Week 4 Ravens Game: 5 Impactful Plays and Players Film Review

October 5, 2023

Tony Camino

5 Plays to figure out what went wrong in Week Four versus the Ravens

After a week without seeing QB1 throw in practice at all, the Browns found themselves in a very tough position on Sunday. Coming off the great progress made against the Titans, they attempted to build on that momentum even without Deshaun Watson. Unfortunately, the offensive line’s performance was subpar, and Dorian Thompson-Robinson was not quite ready to step in, as expected. His ability to read the defenses struggled at times, and he was reluctant to take the easy check-downs that were available all day. All in all, the entire offense faced challenges, while the defense received a valuable lesson in dealing with an offense as complex as the Ravens’. Here, we will analyze five plays to gain a better understanding of what went wrong on Sunday.

Offensive Line blocking two-on-one

Early in this game, the run game displayed some promise when running the wide zone scheme, but it’s evident that they need to introduce more variety to confuse opposing defenses. To illustrate, this play serves as an excellent example of the frequent illegal shift penalties that plagued the Browns throughout the entire game. Because Dorian Thompson-Robinson is in motion with Elijah Moore before everyone is properly set, notably David Njoku, it results in a penalty flag. This infraction occurred repeatedly during the game. While it’s not surprising for a rookie fifth-rounder like DTR to make such a mistake, it consistently put the Browns at a disadvantage on their offensive drives.

On this play, the Browns ran a counter GY run, with the right guard, Wyatt Teller, and the backside tight end, Harrison Bryant, pulling around the end of the offensive line to shift gaps and create confusion for the defense. In this specific situation, with Jadeveon Clowney attacking the gap to Njoku’s right, Njoku’s primary responsibility is to seal Clowney inside and prevent him from getting outside. Ideally, the two pullers, Teller and Bryant, then come around the edge and engage with the first two defenders they encounter.

However, in this instance, Teller ends up blocking Clowney along with Njoku, even though Clowney is already contained inside. This pattern became increasingly noticeable throughout the game, with the Browns often having two blockers to a single defender, preventing potential big plays.

Nevertheless, there was still an opportunity for a substantial gain on this play if Bryant had effectively handled number six, Patrick Queen. In an ideal scenario, Teller would have blocked Queen on the edge, and Bryant would have advanced to engage with safety number 26. This adjustment could have given the play a genuine chance for a significant gain. Unfortunately, Jerome Ford was tackled at the point of attack, resulting in a blown-up play.

This highlights a recurring theme in the game where the offensive line was consistently just one block away from creating a big play. Moving forward, they must improve in these situations if the Browns aim to establish a potent running game this season. While Nick Chubb’s abilities can help mask some of these blocking issues, the line didn’t perform as poorly when he was in the backfield.

Browns’ defenders take the bait

The Ravens were the first team to use a combination of motion and pullers in the run game, aiming to disrupt the Browns’ defenders’ reads. In this particular play, the Ravens executed a QB power run following a long interception return, coupled with a motion from the number two receiver to the field, Zay Flowers. As a response to this motion, Grant Delpit dropped back into the deep zone, while Juan Thornhill rotated down, suggesting that the Browns were likely in man coverage. If the Browns were in man coverage, it appears that Sione Takitaki’s alignment wasn’t wide enough, leaving a potential gap in coverage for the tight end in a pass-play scenario.

Takitaki’s lack of width in his alignment made it challenging for him to recover. Additionally, all three players in the box shifted too far to their left, taking them out of their proper run-fit positions. The larger issue in this play was that the Browns were completely misaligned. Even if Takitaki had been positioned correctly in his gap, the Browns would still have been one man short in their defensive formation. This left a significant amount of open field in front of Lamar Jackson, with just a safety as the last line of defense. The linemen easily blocked the freed-up linebackers, and the misalignment by the linebackers caused them to collide, further hindering their ability to make a play.

Sunday’s game provided a valuable learning experience for the Browns’ defense, as they faced a team like the Ravens that excels in creating confusion for defenders. Lamar Jackson’s exceptional talent, combined with the ample space to run, is never a recipe for defensive success. However, the Browns made effective adjustments in the second half, essentially shutting down the Ravens’ run game. This game demonstrated the defense’s adaptability and should better prepare them for similar challenges against other teams in the future.

Fake Sneak

After seeing Harrison Bryant’s role in short-yardage situations, where he motioned in and took the snaps, it became evident that the Browns were looking to introduce variations to keep defenses guessing. In this game, they unveiled their first wrinkle, resulting in the most significant offensive play for the Browns, aside from the late-game Pierre Strong run.

In this particular play, Bryant assumes the role of the quarterback, taking the snap and pitching it to DTR as if it were a toss run play. DTR initially fakes a run before setting his feet to survey the downfield options. David Njoku runs a post-corner route, starting with a post route at around ten yards and then cutting back out to a flat corner route ten yards further. Amari Cooper, positioned at the bottom of the screen, executes an over route, stretching deep to the opposite side.

The play works in the backend, with Cooper finding himself wide open, likely in a position to score a touchdown if DTR can step up and set his feet. Unfortunately, the Browns’ offensive line falters once again. When Bryant lines up under center, the Ravens anticipate a sneak, prompting Patrick Queen to rush directly over the center. This leaves Ethan Pocic responsible for dealing with two defenders, and Joel Bitonio ideally should have taken the lineman who was penetrating the backfield. Consequently, DTR is unable to set his feet properly and make a strong throw, resulting in an underthrown pass. Fortunately, Cooper draws a defensive pass interference call, allowing the Browns to move downfield and put points on the board.

This scenario is yet another example of the Browns being just one player away from success on Sunday. If they can effectively handle that interior lineman, the play likely results in a touchdown. I like the play call on third and one, as long as it doesn’t lead to a sack. The Browns were prepared to go for it on fourth down if they didn’t convert, but instead, they achieved a big play that moved them deep into Ravens territory. If the Browns can address the blocking issues up front, big plays like this have the potential to occur more frequently.

Rodney McLeod TFL

Despite this being a mainly negative film study, the Browns did manage to execute some impressive plays in this game, as shown here. The Ravens are running their basic toss sweep play, with Lamar Jackson tossing the ball to the running back in an attempt to break outside for a substantial gain. Rodney McLeod, the safety in the box, deserves credit for his excellent job in reading his run-pass cues and reacting immediately as soon as the snap begins. He observes that the offensive linemen are engaging in run blocking, signaling to him that it’s time to play downhill and disrupt the play.

McLeod does an excellent job of sliding under the block and easily beating his blocker. Even if his contribution to the play ended there, his disruptive action against the blockers allowed the rest of his teammates to get in on the play. What’s even more impressive is that McLeod maintains his balance and records the tackle for loss single-handedly, setting the Ravens up for third-and-long.

The depth at every position on the Browns’ defense is impressive, and their aggressive, downhill playstyle continues to shine week after week. With halftime adjustments and an overall solid performance, this unit consistently demonstrates its potential to be a top-10 defense. Containing Lamar Jackson is a formidable challenge, and it becomes even more difficult when the offense struggles to keep them off the field.

Ravens’ D-line twist causes O-line confusion

The Ravens frequently employed twists with the right side of their defensive line due to their success in generating pressure from that side. A twist is where an interior lineman moves between the guard and tackle, aiming to engage the guard. The objective is to divert the guard’s attention to the interior lineman, creating an opportunity for the defensive end to become a free runner at the quarterback.

The Ravens’ twist worked just as they planned it. Bitonio focused on the interior lineman, leaving Clowney with a free shot at DTR. While we can’t know for sure how they teach these things behind closed doors, it sure looks like Wills and Bitonio need to communicate better on the field. This way, Bitonio could hand off the interior lineman and handle Clowney’s rush inside. But twists like these kept causing problems in the game, including twice in three plays on this drive alone. When you’ve got a rookie QB like DTR, you can’t let free rushers mess with his ability to read the defense.

The play call was a good one, offering multiple open options downfield. The Ravens were in cover three, and Elijah Moore’s deep curl route was an excellent cover three beaters. Moore found himself wide open, providing an opportunity for a substantial gain, and Jerome Ford was also open as a check-down option that would have gotten very close to the first-down marker. However, due to the pressure, DTR was forced to roll right and opted for the short completion to the flat, resulting in a quick catch and tackle by the Ravens.

This play, like others, had the potential for a big gain, but it underscores the need for everyone to execute their assignments on every play. The struggles of the offensive line in handling twists and other defensive line maneuvers often indicate communication issues. Cleaning up the offensive line should be the top priority moving forward, as it has the potential to address many of the team’s challenges.


While Sunday’s game was undoubtedly disappointing, the Browns find themselves in a favorable position leading up to the bye week. They are among the roughly nine teams with a genuine shot at making the playoffs, and they appear to be better than many in that group. The timing of the bye week couldn’t be better, allowing both coaches and players enough time to address the issues with offensive line play and eliminate mental errors.

While winning the division is always the ultimate goal, the Browns can secure a playoff berth by finishing second or possibly even third in the AFC North. This suggests that the impact of this single game may not be as significant as some may think.

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