The Cleveland Browns fell to 0-3 after losing to the Buffalo Bills at home this past Sunday. After an improved performance in Week 2, Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden struggled again this week throwing two interceptions and being sacked four times.
Considering that the Browns are widely regarded as one of the worst, if not the worst, teams in the NFL, one must wonder how much can be put on the inexperienced signal-caller’s early struggles.
Weeden doesn’t have the best of receivers and the running game hasn’t impressed early either. However, as a quarterback in this league, never are you afforded the luxury of using excuses to mask your play. Weeden must be scrutinized like the 31 other starting quarterbacks in the NFL, so let’s dive right in.
Weeden’s first sack:
The Browns use Trent Richardson’s threat as a runner to draw in the Bills’ linebackers with play action. The Bills bite hard as there is a large gap created between the secondary and the front seven for Mohammed Massaquoi to run into from the top of the screen.
Weeden looks directly at Massaquoi once he reaches the top of his dropback, but is intimidated by the safety circled in red. The safety is moving forward onto the football and Weeden either doesn’t think quickly enough to throw the ball to Massaquoi’s back shoulder, or doesn’t trust his arm strength to deliver the football in time.
This was Weeden’s first read and the ball should have been thrown at that point. He had an excellent pocket to throw from and it wasn’t a difficult throw for an NFL quarterback.
Weeden’s second read was a more difficult throw, but one he should be confident of making regardless. Weeden actually pumps the ball in that direction, but appears to change his mind at the last second before releasing the football. Whether it was the incoming defender, which would show fear on his part, or his lack of ability to anticipate his receiver coming free on the edge, Weeden didn’t attempt the pass.
At fault for the Sack—Brandon Weeden.
Weeden’s second Sack:
In the second quarter, the Browns had just entered the redzone and were lined up in a run inclined formation. There was very little to take away from the formations, because the play was shut down almost instantly after the snap.
At fault for the Sack—Browns Offensive Line
Weeden’s third Sack:
Weeden hadn’t thrown an interception entering the fourth quarter and had only been sacked twice. However he got off to a poor start in the fourth.
Trent Richardson was the only player initially open, but he wasn’t looking Weeden’s way. The other receivers were all covered and any attempted pass was more likely to be intercepted than completed because of the Bills’ cover two defense(two safeties deep allowing the players underneath to be more aggressive).
The Bills’ outside pressure was quick to get downfield and push the pocket. The Browns’ offensive tackles did a good enough job to push them downfield, but Weeden didn’t step up into the pocket as he should have to evade the sack.
Instead he dropped back into the waiting arms of Mark Anderson. Weeden’s lack of pocket presence cost him any chance at completing a pass down the field while his inability to recognize a cover two defense and change the play. It may have been third and 12, but throwing underneath or running the ball would have been a better option against that defense.
At fault for the Sack—Brandon Weeden.
Weeden’s fourth Sack:
On first and 10, at the start of the drive with under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Browns opened with an off-set eye in the backfield and three receivers. Just outside the 40, the Browns were in need of a touchdown losing by 10 points.
Much like one of the previous sacks in the game, the Bills were in cover two with aggressive underneath coverage. The Browns ran a similar play off of play action. When Weeden reached the top of his drop, each of his receivers was covered and Richardson wasn’t in position to see the ball.
The Browns’ play-action did nothing to affect the Bills’ pass rush or coverage. At that point of the game there was no reason to worry about the run because the Browns needed two scores in a short time period.
Play-action only served to draw out the play for both the quarterback and the receivers. It also opened a huge cap in the middle of the offensive line that the Bills took advantage off with a stunt to the right hand side. Mitchell Schwartz and Shaun Lauvao were unable to handle the stunt from Marcell Dareus and Mario Williams.
The Browns’ coaching staff has to take responsibility for this sack for not properly managing the situation.
At fault for the Sack—Browns’ coaching staff.
Weeden’s first Interception:
Travis Benjamin motioned across the formation to give Weeden three receivers to the right side, with one tight end to the left and a singleback behind him. Despite it being second and long in a situation where there was no reason to believe the Browns would run the ball, the play called for play-action again.
Because Weeden couldn’t throw the perfect pass required to hit his intended receiver, his only other option was to roll out to the left as defenders came through the middle. If Weeden had slid to his left and shown better pocket-presence, he would have significantly extended the play and given his receivers the opportunity to come free from coverage.
At fault for the Interception—Brandon Weeden.
Weeden’s second Interception:
At this point, the game was over as the Bills were ahead by 10 with under two minutes to go in the game.
The Bills consistent pressure upfront forced the Browns to bring in reinforcements in the backfield to help keep Weeden upright. That meant that the Bills’ three receivers were outnumbered by the Bills’ seven players in coverage, but Weeden would at least expect to have time to throw.
Despite showing max protection, the Browns actually sent both players in the backfield on passing routes. With two receivers streaking down the field and others attacking underneath, the Browns’ offensive line was expected to hold off the Bills’ defensive line.
The Browns fail on multiple levels on this play. Weeden feels too much pressure from his offensive line that can’t give him time to throw the ball. That causes Weeden to throw the ball underneath opposed to trying to hit either outside receiver stretching the field.
At fault for the Interception—Everyone!!!
Brandon Weeden has endured some major struggles early in his Cleveland Browns’ career. While he does still have a huge amount to learn, he is definitely not being helped by his teammates and coaching staff to excel.
Weeden needs to do a better job at playing the quarterback position, while the Browns need to do a better job of putting him in the best position to exceed.
Cian Fahey writes for Irishcentral and the Guardian. You can follow him on twitter @Cianaf