Cleveland Browns: shoulda, coulda, woulda

Kate Arhar
Cleveland Browns Reporter

By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8

Browns 14 – Chargers 38

Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit was one of my favorite movies. What does that have to do with football? Well, stay here with me just a moment…

There is a scene when Rita (Lauryn Hill) is talking to her mother (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and mom says “But there are a lot of talented people right down there on the streets singin’ their ‘shoulda-coulda-woulda’s.'”

Of all the lines in that movie, it’s one that really stuck with me. And after the blistering loss the Cleveland Browns took this week from the Los Angeles Chargers, it seems like the perfect theme to recap the game.

Browns Shoulda: Played Run Defense

Through the first five weeks of the season, the defense gave up 583 rushing yards, roughly 116 per game and 4.1 per rush on average.  The Chargers rushed for 246 yards and nearly 7 yards per attempt on average. It looked like the game plan was to rush quarterback Philip Rivers all day, keep him unsettled and disrupt the passing game. Well, it worked because he only completed 11 passes but I guess when you can run all over the field at will and control the clock, you don’t need any more passing attempts.

Browns Coulda:  Let Nick Chubb have more carries

The Browns were near the top of the league in rushing attempts and yards through five weeks. Shocking, I know.  This week running back Carlos Hyde had 14 carries for a whopping 34 yards. Where was rookie Nick Chubb you ask? He had three carries for 25 yards. That’s an average of 8.3 yards per carry.  WHY DIDN’T HE GET MORE TOUCHES? They really coulda used some of his big-play spark, especially in the 2nd half when they just couldn’t get anything going.

 

I woulda: Called more dink-and-dunk or screen plays for QB Baker Mayfield

In the second quarter, Mayfield went out-of-bounds on a rush and slid on the orange plastic first down marker. He limped a bit but stayed in the game. He also looked like he wasn’t 100% and seemed to have trouble with his mobility. If I was the offensive coordinator (you hear me, Todd Haley?), I would have called some bubble screens, a few 5-7 yard quick dumps to move up the field while getting the ball out of his hands and quickly as possible to avoid getting him hit and possibly more hurt.

The biggest problem Mayfield has had the past two weeks is “coverage sacks.” With five sacks each game, three or four were clearly because there were no receivers open downfield. He needs to learn when to dump that ball to the cute blonde three rows up in the stands. He can’t always get away from the rushers, avoid the sack and make the glorious game-winning throw. Sometimes you have to take the single instead of going for the home run.


Three dropped passes in the end zone really hurt him mentally in the first half. I believe he thinks he had to put this whole team on his back and drag them – kicking and screaming if necessary – to the winner’s circle. He needs to learn it’s ok to slowly move the chains, eat up the clock, and let your defense rest. But that’s part of how rookies learn and he’ll get there.

While some folks are taking the loss pretty hard, I understand that when you project your team to win six or seven games, that means you are gonna lose nine or ten games too, right? While the lack of effort in the second half and the poor play by quite a lot of guys is disheartening, it’s also part of the learning curve.

With adversity, you gain strength. Maybe getting beaten by so many points at home brings these guys back down to earth a bit and reminds them that without hard work, nothing will improve.  After all, this is Cleveland… Nothing Is Given; Everything Is Earned.

 

Talk Browns football with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8 

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