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Dawg Pound Journal: 14 Browns observations


1)      In the NFL, stopping the run and running the football is an attitude. It takes commitment on every single play.

2)      Heading into Week 17, the Browns can't consistently put together either of these two significant components of winning. Among a flurry of smaller reasons, the running game on both sides of the ball has become the largest issue that has plagued Cleveland down the stretch.

3)      Here are two charts pinpointing why these two areas have thrown a wet blanket on the most promising Browns season since 2007:

Running the Ball


Time Frame


Rushing Yards

Pre-Alex Mack injury vs. PIT, NO, BAL, TEN and PIT

Weeks 1 - 6



Middle of the season surge vs. JAC, OAK, TB and CIN

Weeks 7 - 10



Late season losses  vs. HOU, ATL, BUF, IND, CIN, CAR

Weeks 11 - 16



4)      In games where the Browns rushed for more than 100 yards this season, the team went 5-2 – wins against New Orleans, at Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and at Atlanta. The only two losses were last-second heartbreakers at Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.

5)      Every game in the NFL is tough, but the schedule-makers did the Browns some favors in the middle of the year. Tampa Bay and Oakland are both competing for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, as they respectively sit at 2-13 and 3-12. Even then, struggles on offense were masked thanks to an influx of turnovers the defense was producing.

6)      Offensive line issues aside, the Cleveland coaching staff understood there would be some growing pains with featuring two rookie running backs in Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. Crowell's yards per carry dipped every month, peaking at 5.2 in September and crashing at 3.4 now in December. West was active but did not see the field Sunday against Carolina.

7)      Coach Mike Pettine has said the offense shouldn't be reinventing the wheel, and that's why the Browns have stuck with the run even though it hasn't been as successful. Cleveland's averaged 21.3 carries the last six games, while also posting dramatically less players per game because of the lack of first downs. The two might have a correlation.

8)      An example to illustrate this point: On what would be their final possession Sunday, the Browns, who needed a touchdown to reclaim the lead, attempted runs on three of the first four plays. After a Crowell run for minus-four yards, Brian Hoyer was sacked and Cleveland eventually punted.

9)      While the Browns have thrown more than they ran the ball (474 passes to 448 carries) some of those numbers are skewed from when the Browns trailed in the second half of games down the stretch. 

Stopping the Run


Time Frame


Rushing yards allowed

Pre Bye Week vs. PIT, NO, BAL

Weeks 1 – 3



Middle of the season vs. TEN, PIT, JAC, OAK, TB, CIN

Weeks 5 – 10



Late season losses vs. HOU, ATL, BUF, IND, CIN, CAR

Weeks 11 – 16



10)   Unlike the running game on offense, yardage wise, the defense never really strung together a dominant stretch. Strong efforts like the Thursday-nighter at Cincinnati turned into 213 rushing yards the following week against Houston and backup running back Alfred Blue. Cleveland did a solid job of keeping offenses out of the end zone, but chunk yardage plays were a defining problem all year.

11)   In games where the Browns allowed less than 100 yards this season (Oakland, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay and Buffalo) the team went 3-1.

12)   Injuries on the defensive line aren't an excuse, but this unit was depleted for much of the year. Armonty Bryant, Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, Billy Winn and John Hughes all have missed significant time. Did the interchanging pieces make it hard for this group to cohesively gel together? In a next-man-up league, that might be enough of a justification for the Browns' dead last ranking in stopping the run. 

13)   They are a prideful group who won't pin blame on the offense, but the 25-24 loss to Indianapolis on Dec. 7 was the defeat that deflated the defense and eventually the team. Against an MVP candidate in Andrew Luck, the unit produced their best game of the year, even scoring two touchdowns of their own. The Browns defense was absolutely carrying the team. Luck delivered a dagger touchdown with 30 seconds left to stick a fork in Cleveland. A win against the Colts would've changed the whole narrative.

14)   The Browns still lead the league with 21 interceptions. But, as the Browns have shown in recent weeks, winning the turnover battle doesn't automatically mean success in the NFL.

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