Browns defense a tale of two halves
There is going to be a lot of criticism of the playoff the Browns defense and in the first half, it appeared to be deserved. Players were not making plays and Ray Horton appeared to be getting out-schemed initially by Andy Reid and the Chiefs coaching staff. After giving up 20 points in the first half in part because the offense was unable to do anything, the defense came up and gave a really strong effort in the second half and held the Chiefs to just three points, making a number of big plays and giving the offense opportunities to score points and win.
The Browns got barnstormed a little bit in the first half. Their soft zone and blitz concepts kept getting picked up by the Chiefs offensive line and quarterback Alex Smith was able to find receivers on underneath throws including backs out of the backfield to move the offense along with the running game of the Chiefs. The Chiefs were not making big plays and really killed the Browns with tiny cuts, but they added up and the Browns defense looked poor early and could not make plays they needed.
There were a lot of missed tackles and bad angles combined with some smart playcalling by the Chiefs and a good game plan to put their players in position to succeed. The good news for the Browns is that while the Chiefs were able to gain yardage and drive into scoring position, they were not able to get touchdowns on their first two drives. The Chiefs dominated the first quarter and the Browns were still in the game. They kicked field goals on each of their first two drives.
They finally got into the end zone when Smith was able to hit Anthony Sherman in the flat and he was able to take advantage of some blocks and get into the end zone. That put the Browns down 13-0 and it looked as though the Browns were going to be dominated thoroughly, but their offense responded and got a score that made the game 13-7. The Chiefs offense came right back out and took just three plays to get back into the end zone on a defensive breakdown and went up 20-7. The Browns got a field goal and went into the half down 20-10.
When the Browns came out in the second half, the game changed. The defense that was unable to stop drives in the first half shut down the Chiefs in the second. After not being able to force the Chiefs to punt in the entire first half, the defense forced the Chiefs to punt five times in the second half. The Chiefs had 19 first downs in the first half and just one in the second. The Chiefs gained just 31 total yards in the second half after 296 in the first half. The points they gave up were by virtue of the offense being unable to convert a fourth down on their end of the field, the defense stopping them in three plays and the Chiefs kicking a field goal.
The Browns were able to get more pressure on the Chiefs and cash in on more opportunities. The Browns let Smith get away a few times in the first half that should have been sacks. Desmond Bryant was in position to make sacks at three different times and was just unable to close the deal. Barkevious Mingo had a great sack when the Chiefs tried their own flea flicker but missed some plays. The others with sacks included Craig Robertson, T.J. Ward, D’Qwell Jackson, Paul Kruger and Phil Taylor, who had a big game overall. He really had a lot of success controlling the middle of the field. In total, the Browns had 9 hits on Smith as well, which seemed to have a growing effect as the game progressed.
The Browns missed opportunities. Joe Haden dropped an interception in his hands and the Browns were unable to cause a turnover throughout the game, which made it more difficult for them to get off the field. Ultimately, they lost the turnover battle as Davone Bess had the only turnover of the entire game, which flipped the field in the second half.
On the whole, the Browns defense played pretty well. They held Jamaal Charles in check with just 74 yards on the day, though Smith was another quarterback who got over on the Browns in the form of 40 yards rushing on 6 attempts including a 23 yard run and the overall rushing numbers are not where this team would expect. 29 total carries for 136 yards at a 4.7 yard clip is not a good number for them. They fared much better against the pass just giving up 225 yards, but both touchdowns the Chiefs had were in the air and the Browns had trouble dealing with underneath routes and ancillary players.
This game was definitely a tale of two halves and the Browns struggled in the first half on defense and then came out and dominated the Chiefs. The defense gave up 20 points in the first half and three in the second and the three they gave up were not on them. There will definitely be those critical of the first half, but overall the Browns need to be able to score more than 20 points if they want to win games in the NFL. There are certainly things for the defense to fix and improve, but that is a point total the Browns should be happy to see and have an offense who can match or beat it.