Week 9 Arizona Cardinals Game: 5 Impactful Plays and Players Film Review

November 9, 2023

Tony Camino

Impactful Plays from Browns’ Game Against Cardinals in Week 9

Browns’ 27-0 Win Over Cardinals

The 1-7 Arizona Cardinals came into town with a rookie quarterback starting, and the outcome went exactly as expected. After a slow offensive start, the Browns found their footing in the air attack late for some explosive plays. The defense was absolutely smothering, allowing just 58 total yards en route to the team’s first shutout since 2007.

Offensively, the scheme was very basic, likely to save some good wrinkles and tendency breakers for the Ravens game. On defense, the man-heavy Browns’ team opted to flip the script and run a ton of zone defense, specifically cover two and cover three. Against dynamic quarterbacks, man defense turns the defenders’ backs and exposes running lanes. The Browns needed to fine-tune their zone coverage for the upcoming clash with Baltimore. Here are five of the best plays from the dominant Week 9 win.

59-yard Gain To Amari Cooper

While the Browns allowed their defense and field position to give them a big lead, there were still early fireworks in the passing game. The Browns ran a lot of flood concept variations in this game, where all the routes flood one side of the field to stress cornerbacks and create easy high-low reads. On this play, Elijah Moore jet motions across to the flat, while David Njoku runs an inside release sail route at about 12 yards, and Amari Cooper releases vertically, stems inside, and runs a deep corner route.

All Deshaun Watson is doing here is reading the defender circled in blue. If he plays back and covers Cooper, the window to Njoku should be there. If he hangs by Njoku, the passing lane to Cooper should be wide open if he can lead him to the sideline. The corner presses down and takes away the sail from Njoku, leaving the corner by Cooper uncovered. Watson makes a perfect read and throws a ball with a lot on it to the sideline for the biggest play of the day.

The Browns wanted to show off how the shoulder is feeling early, and it’s great to have your quarterback back who can make these correct reads and deliver the football right where it has to be. This is a very simple route concept the Browns use a ton and repped a lot against Arizona, and it should continue to be a staple going forward.

Denzel Ward’s Lockdown Defense

Denzel Ward is off to an All-Pro start in the first half of the season. The former Buckeye is constantly asked to shadow the other team’s top receiver and is a huge reason why the Browns can run as much man defense as they do. The Cardinals come out three by one here, with number one to the field, Marquise Brown, extended wide. This creates a ton of space for their best playmaker, and he has a great chance to win one-on-one with no help.

Ward does a great job getting his hands on Brown early to stop his forward momentum. If he fails to get his hands on him and slow the receiver down, it makes it much more difficult to stay with the receiver on the break. Once he slows Brown down, he realizes the route that’s coming and does a great job winning his leverage on the slant. Ward essentially runs the route for Brown, and there’s no chance Tune can complete the pass.

Ward added an interception also in this game on a poorly thrown ball and continues to live up to the status of a Pro Bowl cornerback. The talent in that room, led by Ward, is the driving force behind the tight man coverage the Browns love to use to smother teams. While the defensive line changing the line of scrimmage is the engine of this defense, they need the lockdown corners in the secondary to put it all together.

Sione Takitaki’s Interception

The Browns’ defense continued the turnover trend in this game, forcing three, including this interception by Sione Takitaki. The number one receiver at the bottom is running Ward off, while the tight end runs a sail route combined with a flat from the running back. In zone coverage, Takitaki’s job is to keep depth to contest the sail route, while also being able to break down and make a tackle for a short gain on the running back.

While his back should be facing the sideline earlier, Takitaki does a good job flipping his hips and closing the space when Tune decides to throw. Tune probably wants this one back to throw to the running back for an easy chunk but decided to force his hand down a couple of scores. Takitaki makes a great interception showing off his athleticism to get the Browns the ball back.

The defense needed to rep their zone defense, and this was a very positive sign of things to come. Zone defenses will always have their weaknesses, but if you can be aware of what you’re allowing them to have, defenders can play more aggressively to try and make plays on throws downfield. Takitaki does a great job reading the quarterback and reacting to his decision-making to jump the route and force another turnover.

17-yard Gain To Cooper

The Watson-Cooper connection was on full display in this game, as Cooper finished the day with 139 receiving yards. The Browns are running a variation of a flood concept again in this play. Nick Harris is set as a fullback but is going to pass protect while Kareem Hunt fakes the run and slips to the flat. Cedric Tillman is running a vertical deep route to stretch the field, while Cooper runs a double move to create separation in the second level.

The Cardinals actually do a very good job covering the double move, and there’s hardly a window to fit this ball in. The timing and anticipation had to be nearly perfect along with great accuracy to complete this pass. Watson throws with great anticipation here, as Cooper looks covered as he releases it. He puts it in a great place on the money, and the Browns complete a nice chunk play despite good defense on the other side.

While the big plays are the most fun, being able to convert in situations like these when the defense plays the concept well is what creates an unstoppable passing attack. Watson and Cooper seem to be on the exact same page, as the Browns will definitely look to lean on that connection going forward.

Throw Of The Day

Offensively, all the biggest positives of the day came from the return of the quarterback. Unfortunately, the run game took a step back after their breakout performance at Seattle, but the pass game picked them up. After the game, Cooper and Stefanski talked about how this massive completion was drawn up by Watson and Cooper based on the looks they saw with this coverage all day. Watson quickly identifies the look, and you can see him audibling and getting everyone in the right place.

The Cardinals were constantly showing pressure with their safety in the box to Cooper’s side, but never blitzed him and instead bailed to bracket Cooper. However, Cooper noticed on one of the earlier routes that the two defenders were only trying to bracket him from an in or out-breaking route, and they wouldn’t react to him just going vertically through it. He knew there would be an opening if the ball was delivered perfectly, and Watson put it exactly where it needed to be for a very pretty completion.

This kind of trust between the receiver and quarterback, along with the IQ to even notice something like that, is why the Browns spent a lot of capital to get these two. This is a high-level adjustment we aren’t used to seeing in Cleveland, and this duo can be really special for the rest of the season if they can stay healthy. The passing attack had its hiccups, as expected, in Watson’s first game back, but there were so many positive signs that things were going in the right direction.

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