Freddie Kitchens' lack of offensive balance cause for Cleveland Browns lulls

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PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 01: Head coach Freddie Kitchens of the Cleveland Browns look on against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game on December 1, 2019 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns have been known to fall into offensive lulls this season, and a main cause for those lulls is because of Freddie Kitchens' adjustments.

During the Cleveland Browns Week 12 victory over the Miami Dolphins, FOX's color commentator Daryl Johnston mentioned multiple times throughout the broadcast how the Browns will fall victim to a lull during a game, causing the opponent to get back in the game.

Despite getting out a 28-3 halftime lead against the Dolphins, the Browns had a lull in the second half. Whatever adjustments the Dolphins made at halftime created issues for Freddie Kitchens and the Browns. Cleveland eventually were able to get out of the lull and pull away from Miami.

But halftime adjustments reared their ugly head for the Browns once again during their 20-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. And it wasn't on just one side of the ball, as both the Browns offense and defense struggled during the second half.

After starting off hot and picking apart the Pittsburgh defense in the first half - or just the first quarter - Kitchens could not keep up with the adjustments being made by Mike Tomlin and the Steelers. Steelers players credited Tomlin's adjustments for Sunday's win.

As the Steelers were able to make adjustments at halftime that "saved the game" for them, Kitchens' adjustments in the second half ruined Cleveland's chances. After gaining 183 yards in the first half, the Browns only could muster 96 yards in the second half. A chief cause of that is Kitchens' refusal to keep running the football and have a balanced offense.

The Browns had nearly a perfect balance in the first half, as Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt rushed a combined 18 times, while the Browns threw the ball 19 times. The run game was gaining chunks of yardage and making easier down and distances for the Browns passing attack. This allowed the Browns to take some shots downfield, while also giving them an easier time to convert if the shot plays were not converted.

Running the football also would stall the Steelers pass rush, which became a big story in this game. The Steelers edge rushers prefer to get upfield, and running the football will cause them to pause so they do not lose contain in case of cutbacks.

But after maintaining a good balance in the first half, Kitchens practically abandoned the run game in the second half. Without running the football, the Browns passing attack could not take the same approach of picking apart the defense with short and intermediate throws because they were no longer operating in shorter down and distances.

The Browns only ran the ball six times in the second half, despite only being down one or two possessions. The lack of a running game allowed the Steelers to generate more pressure on Mayfield, especially off the edge. With less time in the pocket, Cleveland's passing game sputtered and could not get down the field.

It has been a common theme for Kitchens to abandon the run in the second half, no matter the situation. If the Browns want to prevent the offensive lulls they encounter every week, they cannot abandon Chubb and Hunt.

Next: Where do the Cleveland Browns go from here?

Had the Browns relied on the run game in the second half, perhaps the offense could have mustered up more than 96 yards and three points after halftime. With how well the rushing attack has operated this season, Kitchens refusing to rely on it is surprising.