The Cleveland Browns held a 10-point halftime lead over the Detroit Lions last Sunday. But the Lions scored 24 unanswered points and claimed a 31-17 victory over the Browns.
And when it comes to improving what needs to be fixed in order for the Browns to turn losses into victories, for defensive coordinator Ray Horton, the solution is simple. The Browns need to “finish games.”
“The model, the system, the players, it’s not broken,” Horton said Thursday. “We just need to fix a couple things. We need to fix finishing games. We start fantastic. We need to finish games. Every game, we’ve had the lead, and one of the things I hear our players say all the time: ‘If they don’t score, we win.’
“We just need to clean up, hone, sharpen coming out at halftime and continuing to do what we’ve been doing. We haven’t finished three games that have been close games. We’ve got a fantastic group of young men. We’ve got the right model, the right system, the right players. It’s a long season, but we’ve got the parts here in this building.”
Thus far this season, the Browns’ six opponents have converted 41 of 93 third-down attempts (44.1 percent). That is nearly 10 percentage points better than the Browns’ offense, which has converted 32 of 93 third downs (34.4 percent).
“There’s a number of things we do well, and if you look at the third down by half, we’re extremely good in the first half,” Horton said. “Its’ really the second half of games and what’s going on there.
“I’ve broken them down to see what I’m doing, what they’re doing. There’s a great balance of zone and pressure on every down. Typically, on third-and-one, you get more man in the NFL, just because you can’t allow them to catch a one-yard pass. The game plan’s pretty balanced in what we’re doing. There’s been a little more error in the second half than the first half.”
In breaking down the third-down plays, Horton found a “major area of concern” between third-and-four and third-and-nine, where he said the defense was “grossly deficient” at getting off the field.
“Why do we not win? The highest percentage is we’re doing something,” Horton said. “It’s us. It’s not the opponent. It’s not the other team. Nobody’s shocking us by coming out and running some revolutionary new offense. It really comes down to us, and that’s what we’re focusing on, us being more focused on our details.
“The major thing when I look at it is, we gave (the Lions) a couple plays by either busting something or we’re in the wrong coverage or a little too far off. That’s where my responsibility comes into how can I get them in a better situation? We’re working on a couple things. I know (the calls) aren’t wrong, but I have to get our guys to play faster and understand what’s going on.
“What I’m trying to do is replicate what we’re doing in the first half of games, and mix things up. I’ll continue to mix things up. We’re taking extra sessions in practice to work on third down, and obviously, it’s been a point of emphasis of mine since the Baltimore game. The last few years, I’ve been used to being the first or second team in third down and red zone. It is glaring for me, and we’ll continue to work on third down.”