Week 8 Seahawks Game: 5 Impactful Plays and Players Film Review

November 2, 2023

Tony Camino

Impactful Plays from Browns’ Tough Loss in Seattle in Week 8

After two closely contested victories that could have gone either way, the Browns suffered a close defeat they should have avoided. The running game showed its most consistent performance of the year, and the screen game was effective throughout the entire match. On the defensive side, the Browns continue to struggle with scripted plays at the start of games, run fits, and miscommunications that lead to big plays. PJ Walker had some impressive throws but also missed some easy ones, had difficulty recognizing blitzes, and often fixated on receivers. Here are five impactful plays from the Browns’ loss in Seattle during Week 8.

Njoku Touchdown Off The Screen Plays

Early in the game, the touchdown drive that brought the score to 14-7 in the first quarter was a masterful example of play design and screen execution, resulting in easy yards. Following a 12-yard Kareem Hunt screen and a 41-yard Pierre Strong screen, the Browns unveiled an unstoppable wrinkle. They found David Njoku wide open up the seam.

Elijah Moore executed an orbit motion, moving across the formation and circling behind the quarterback to fake a screen left. The left linemen were all selling the screen and moving away from the line to set up blocks. On the right, Strong meshed with Walker and faked a screen to the right, with the right guard, right tackle, and tight end releasing and selling a screen on that side. Each number one receiver ran their defender off, effectively eliminating almost every defender from the play.

The defense had their attention divided between left and right but had only one safety in the middle to handle any potential plays. The wrinkle worked to perfection as Njoku blocked and released up the middle where there was a ton of space. The only challenging part of the play was delivering the football, which Walker managed to do despite taking a hit. Njoku eluded one defender and broke through another for a big touchdown.

This drive showcased excellent play design and highlighted the Browns’ potential in screen plays. Covering 75 yards in just four plays, especially when three consecutive plays were screens or variations, was impressive. The Browns aim to maintain this momentum in the screen game to be a valuable asset on offense for the rest of the season.

Miscommunication in the Secondary

The Browns’ defense has been largely elite this year, but issues with run fits and blown coverages resulting in big plays have been their Achilles’ heel recently. In this instance, the Browns were in man coverage, and Denzel Ward’s assignment was in motion across the formation. Ward followed him, indicating the Browns’ man coverage.

At the snap, Jake Bobo moved across the formation into the flat, and Greg Newsome was supposed to cover him. It appears that Newsome attempted to switch coverage with Ward, but Ward was already committed to covering his man. Newsome stayed put, leaving a significant gap in the defense.

Bobo entered the flat wide open and gained an easy chunk of yardage, starting the drive without any resistance. While Sione Takitaki was beaten, and there was an opportunity for a deep pass, it’s a tougher throw to make with pressure in the quarterback’s face. Defensive backs need to improve their coverage-switching techniques and communication, especially in zone coverage, to reduce big plays in the future.

Maurice Hurst Interception

Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst had a standout performance, making numerous plays in the backfield. The interception in the second half was particularly impressive. The Browns executed a well-designed play call they had struggled with earlier. The Browns appeared to threaten pressure, potentially sending up to seven defenders. In reality, they only brought five, leaving six players in coverage. Earlier in the game, they used a similar play and dropped Myles Garrett into a hook zone, but the route developed too far away for him to make a play.

Here, Hurst and Takitaki engaged and dropped into zones, with Hurst having a better chance to disrupt the play than Garrett did earlier. He positioned himself in the path of the hot receiver, exactly where Geno Smith was looking after identifying the pressure. Hurst did an excellent job breaking up the play initially and displayed the awareness and ability to make the catch himself, securing a significant turnover for the Browns’ defense.

This play showcased the Browns’ ability to adjust to earlier shortcomings and refine their strategies for success later in the game. They made slight adjustments to the pressure, positioning Hurst in an ideal spot to create a turnover opportunity. Hurst’s performance has been impressive, and the hope is that he will continue to be a disruptive force on the field.

Split Zone Example

In the second half, the Browns’ running game gained momentum, primarily relying on the same running concept repeatedly, known as split zone. In this scheme, the linemen block as if it’s an inside zone play, utilizing a combination of double teams and zone blocking to create running lanes. The key difference from a typical inside zone play is the tight end’s movement across the formation at the snap, blocking the first defender off the edge on the opposite side from where he lined up.

Njoku executed this well, sealing off the edge defender, while Joel Bitonio and Jedrick Wills fulfilled their blocking assignments perfectly, creating a lane for a substantial gain on first down. Jerome Ford needed to elude one defender to potentially break away for a significant gain, but he was tripped up by Jamal Adams, limiting the gain to around 12 yards. These types of plays enable the Browns to face more manageable third-and-short situations.

The running game displayed its most consistent performance of the year, stringing together positive gains consistently instead of the boom-or-bust pattern seen in the previous six games. The coaching staff continues to incorporate more inside zone schemes, even though the Browns have typically been an outside zone team under Stefanski’s leadership. By effectively running both schemes, the Browns can maintain a strong running game, even without their star running back, Chubb.

PJ Walker Interception Late

Though this play has received a ton of attention, it’s impossible to discuss impactful plays without mentioning it. In a crucial third-and-three situation, the Browns had an opportunity to seal the game with a first down. They ran a slant route combined with an under route, relying on star receiver Amari Cooper to make a significant play on this critical down.

Jamal Adams blitzed from the right side, leaving the Seahawks a defender short in coverage. From a young age, quarterbacks are taught to look for their hot read in the direction of the blitz, which, in this case, was Cooper. It seems Walker was already looking in that direction, as he frequently fixated on Cooper throughout this game and neglected other available options.

The Seahawks were well aware of Walker’s intentions to target Cooper and anticipated he would definitely throw in that direction if Cooper became the hot read. Instead of vacating the area from which Adams blitzed, the Seahawks bracketed Cooper, eliminating an easy throw in that direction. The ball deflected off Adams’ helmet in an unfortunate manner, resulting in an interception that was a pop-fly for the Seahawks. Ideally, Walker should have pump-faked, reset in a relatively clean pocket, and delivered the ball to Ford as a checkdown. The Seahawks gambled on Walker not making that play, and it paid off for them.

Regardless of your perspective on the final decision, the game’s outcome hinged on an unfortunate bounce of the ball. Opting for a running play may have been the safer choice, but the decision to pass on third down, considering it was likely the one down to gain the yards, is understandable. Kevin Stefanski’s overall coaching performance was excellent and played a pivotal role in keeping the Browns competitive throughout the match. His creative play designs were evident throughout the game, and there were numerous opportunities to secure the win to avoid it coming down to this play

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