Category Archives: Football

Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 12-9-18: In-game report

In a matchup between mentor and mentee, the mentor bested his understudy.  Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs defeated John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens, 27-24, to remain in first place in the AFC.  DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in- game report:

Travis Kelce

When Kelce is rolling, the Kansas City Chiefs offense is rolling. Teams that have defeated the Chiefs have not been able to completely stop Kelce but have been able to limit his productivity or force him and his team to use more targets to get his catches.  The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Chiefs and even though Kelce had 10 catches for 127 yards, it took him 15 targets to post those numbers.  The Patriots were the Chiefs only other loss this season, they double teamed and chipped Kelce all night and held him to five catches on nine targets for 61 yards.  Against the Ravens, Kelce caught two passes on the first possession of the game and forced a holding call on cornerback Marlon Humphrey that resulted in a touchdown.  For the game, he caught seven passes on nine targets for 77 yards and one touchdown. The Chiefs second-ranked scoring offense and No. 3 ranked passing game are a direct reflection of Kelce’s productivity.  If a team hopes to stop the Chiefs offense, then they must prioritize defending Kelce. 

Ravens defense

Despite giving up catches to Kelce early, Baltimore held the Chiefs to 27 points, tied for their lowest output of the season.  The Ravens forced Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to drive the length of the field and kept everything in front of them by always keeping a safety deep.  Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale also switched up blitz schemes which kept Mahomes off balance and resulted in three sacks.  The Chiefs still managed 92 rushing yards and 347 passing yards but the chunk plays were minimal. The fourth down 48-yard heave across the field from Mahomes to Tyreek Hill was a back breaker for the Ravens. However, besides that play and a screen pass to Spencer Ware, the Ravens didn’t give up a play of more than 25 yards defensively.  Look for the Chiefs division rival, the Los Angeles Chargers, to try and replicate the Ravens defensive game plan when the two teams meet on Thursday.  

Lamar Jackson

The former Louisville quarterback has struggled with turnovers and accuracy issues (58 percent completion percentage, three interceptions and eight fumbles) since he has been under center. However, Jackson has given the Ravens offense a spark because of his running ability and quick passing ability.  Baltimore has went to a more run-pass option attack and one-read passing concepts with Jackson.  Against the Chiefs, the Ravens used their tight end as a motion man to get involved as the lead blocker in power running plays and as a safety option for Jackson in the short passing game. Jackson completed 13-of-24 passes for two touchdowns and ran for 71 yards.  As he gets more comfortable, look for the playbook to expand, but for now Jackson has been productive and has put the Ravens in positions to win.

Washington Redskins vs Philadelphia Eagles, 12-3-18: In-game report

Washington was not able to overcome another lost at quarterback while Philadelphia relied on their passing game to improve their playoff positioning. Philadelphia topped Washington, 28-13, on Monday Night Football in a pivotal division matchup. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in game report:

Redskins quarterback position

Washington thought Colt McCoy, who has been with the Redskins since 2014, could stabilize the offense after Alex Smith went down two weeks ago.  However, McCoy fractured his fibula against the Eagles, which leaves the Redskins with Mark Sanchez at quarterback.  Sanchez’s command of the offense was limited because of his inexperience with head coach Jay Gruden's attack. Sanchez completed 13-of-21 passes for 100 yards and an interception.  But as was evident on a wide receiver toss gone wrong, where Sanchez frantically pitched it to wide receiver Jamison Crowder, the Washington Redskins new starting quarterback has a long way to go before he is ready to run the offense.

“We tried to get him comfortable,” Gruden said during the postgame press conference. 

It will be a short week for the Redskins, who will play against the Giants on Sunday.  Look for them to bring in a backup quarterback who has been with Gruden before, like Josh Johnson. 

Zach Ertz

Philadelphia tight end Zach Ertz should be mentioned with some of the best tight ends in the game.  The former Stanford product has 93 receptions for 978 yards and six touchdowns on the season.  The 93 catches are an Eagles franchise record.

“To set the record at home is obviously very special,”  Ertz said after the game against the Redskins.  “At the same time, the most important thing for me tonight was getting the win.”

Against Washington, Ertz caught nine passes on 10 targets for 83 yards.  As he has done all season, Ertz proved to be too fast for the Redskins inside linebackers, who tried to matchup with him and against smaller cornerbacks and safeties, he was able to use his 6’5 250 frame to box out and out leverage defensive backs. 

Jason Kelce

The Eagles best weapon on offense might play center.  Jason Kelce (6’3, 295) is one of the smaller centers in the NFL but he is able to move like a tight end. The Eagles center is a terror on screens because he is able to get downfield in a hurry and pave the way for screens like he did twice against the Redskins. On a second quarter touchdown, Carson Wentz threw a screen to Darren Sproles, Kelce’s 15 yard block downfield against Redskins linebacker Mason Foster led to the score.

Texas Longhorns vs Oklahoma Sooners, 12-1-18: In-game report

The Oklahoma Sooners were able to get revenge for a loss against Texas earlier in the season by defeating their Red River foe in the Big 12 Championship Game.  Oklahoma used an efficient offense and an opportunistic defense to win 39-27 and clinched a spot in the College Football Playoff in the process.  DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:

33 Gary Johnson (6’0 230) Texas LB-Senior

Johnson literally jumps out of nowhere to make plays.  The senior linebacker is able to contort his body,  get really low and explode past offensive linemen to make plays in the backfield.  Johnson had a third and goal tackle for loss on the Sooners first possession after he blew past the Sooners linemen to stuff the play in the backfield. Johnson also impressed with his hustle to the football.  After Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb caught a curl route and took it 50 yards downfield, Johnson snuck up behind him and poked the ball loose, turning what would’ve been a massive play for Oklahoma into a turnover for Texas.  Johnson’s pursuit to the football will catch the eyes of scouts, but he will have to work on shedding blocks once he is engaged. 

2 Kris Boyd (6’0 195) Texas  CB-Senior 

Boyd is a technician at cornerback, his ability to mirror receivers and play off of their motions is NFL-quality.  The senior cornerback has had a pass deflection in all but two games this season.  Boyd had another pass deflection when he mirrored Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown on a fade route and then brought his hands through Brown’s hands to knock the ball away at the last second.  Boyd is also a willing tackler on the outside.  Look for a team, who is looking for man-to-man corners to target Boyd in this year's draft. 

2 CeeDee Lamb (6’2 189) Oklahoma WR-Sophomore

The Sooners star receiver is a fluid route runner, who also has excellent hands in traffic.  Regardless of his slight build, Lamb has shown the willingness to extend his body and leave himself susceptible to shots to his ribs.  The sophomore receiver can make big plays as a receiving option on screens or he can make plays for others as a lead blocker on bubble screens to other receivers like he did in the first half against Texas.  Lamb caught a touchdown over the middle to bring the Sooners within one point of the Longhorns in the second quarter.  Despite his fumble, Lamb was productive, finishing with six catches for 167 yards and a touchdown.

Miami Dolphins vs Indianapolis Colts, 11-25-18: In-game report

A furious fourth quarter comeback allowed the Colts to extend their winning streak to five games.  The return of Miami starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill was not enough as the Colts defeated the Dolphins, 27-24.  DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:

Colts passing game

The Colts passing game has powered their five-game winning streak. Despite not having injured starting center Ryan Kelly, Indianapolis kept on humming offensively.  Rookie guards Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith are athletic and nasty.  Smith could be seen paving the way on a bubble screen on third down for T.Y. Hilton 25 yards down the field. The front five cares about their quarterback, multiple linemen sprinted after the play to see if quarterback Andrew Luck was fine after a late hit from Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso.  Luck has benefited from the improved offensive line play, throwing for 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season.  He has also been sacked just 11 times, which is tied for a league low. 

Ryan Tannehill

After missing five weeks of action, Tannehill returned on Sunday and gave the Dolphins consistent play at quarterback against the Colts. It had been three games since the Dolphins had thrown a passing touchdown but Tannehill threw a pair of first half touchdowns to keep Miami tied at half.  For the game, Tannehill finished with two touchdowns and zero interceptions while completing 17-of-25 passes.  The former Texas A&M quarterback is an upgrade over Brock Osweiler, who started in his absence, but that may not be enough to keep his starting job going into next season.  As the Dolphinsn enter the final month of the season, look for the quarterback position to be closely evaluated. 

Eric Ebron 

Indianapolis tight end Jack Doyle will miss the rest of the year with a kidney injury.

Eric Ebron has been the biggest beneficiary of Andrew Luck’s comeback season.  The tight end has caught 44 passes for 508 yards and 11 touchdowns while splitting time with fellow tight end Jack Doyle.  Doyle will miss the rest of the season with a kidney injury, which means even more will be asked of the former Detroit Lion. Against the Dolphins, Ebron hauled in a pair of red zone touchdowns, in what was his third multi-touchdown game of the year.  Ebron is a red zone threat because of his size and athletic ability.   He is able to work the seams and catch in traffic as well as jump over smaller defensive backs.  However, his overall skill-set will be measured by how well he can fill in as a run blocking tight end for Doyle, who was one of the NFL’s best in that regard. 

Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers, 11-25-18: In-game report

The Carolina Panthers inability to convert on third down and score touchdowns in the red zone, doomed them in a key NFC matchup. The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Panthers, 30-27.  DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:

Christian McCaffrey

The term “all-purpose” may be thrown around a little too much. However, it certainly applies to McCaffrey, who finished with 125 rushing yards and 112 yards receiving  against the Seahawks. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner used McCaffrey every which way against the Seahawks:  swing passes, runs between the tackles, single back in the option game, split out wide and on screens.  The main cause for concern in Carolina is that the offense could be seen as too vanilla.  Besides McCaffrey and D.J. Moore, who caught eight passes for 91 yards, no other player tallied more than 50 yards. The Panthers looked predictable at times, especially on 3rd down (3-of-8 against the Seahawks) and in the red zone (3 touchdowns on 7 attempts).  In his first season as coordinator, Turner has showed the ability to put his playmakers in position to make plays, however, he needs more players to step up in both third down and Red Zone situations. 

"McCaffrey was awesome. Cam (Newton) was awesome. But when they got into the red zone, we stopped them. We had four big stops, and they were all crucial,” said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll during the postgame press conference. 

Middle linebackers duel

A game might not feature a better matchup of opposing middle linebackers than Sunday's contest,  Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly combined for 25 tackles and one tackle for loss.  Both players led their teams in tackles and are the best players on their respective defenses.  Wagner was able to stand Cam Newton up at the line of scrimmage on a critical 4th and 2, preventing the Panthers from scoring on their first drive. On the other side of the ball, Kuechly helped hold the Seahawks number one ranked rushing offense to just 75 yards. 

"Luke Kuechly (pictured left)  is one of the best linebackers in the game, so you know he's going to make a couple plays," Seahawks running back Chris Carson said during the postgame press conference.  "For the most part we did what we could do in the run game."

Tyler Lockett

You can tell a lot about the quarterback's trust factor by looking at who he throws to on third down.  By that measure, Tyler Lockett was Russell Wilson’s best friend against the Panthers. The Seahawks receiver caught five passes for 107 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, three of which came on third down including his touchdown in the third quarter. On the final drive of the game, Lockett caught a deep pass for 43 yards on 3rd down after Russell Wilson was able to buy some extra time in the pocket, ultimately setting up the Seawhawks game winning field goal. 

"When Russell (Wilson) keeps it alive, we understand how hard it is for defenders to try to guard somebody more than five seconds," Lockett said.  "If it is longer than four or five seconds, it puts us in a better position to get open."

Michigan vs. Ohio State, 11-24-18: In-game report

Michigan and Ohio State met on Saturday at the “Horseshoe” with a spot in the Big Ten Championship and possibly a spot in the College Football Playoff on the line. Ohio State capitalized on Michigan’s special teams errors in the second half and rode its offensive and defensive lines to a 62-39 victory.  DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in game report:

9 Donovan Peoples-Jones (6’2, 208) Michigan wide receiver-Sophomore 

Peoples-Jones made all types of grabs on Saturday and when his team needed plays on late down situations, he was the man targeted. The sophomore wide receiver finished with seven catches for 64 yards against the Buckeyes.  Peoples-Jones isn’t afraid to make catches over the middle but will be a problem at the next level on the outside because of his quick feet and his ability to accelerate and de-celerate to relieve himself of tight coverage.  For the season, the sophomore has caught 39 passes for 541 yards and seven touchdowns.   The sophomore is also a threat as a punt returner (two career punt return touchdowns and averages 9 yards a return). 

Ohio State offensive and defensive lines

Chase Young (No. 2 pictured) has 5.5 quarterback sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss for the Buckeyes entering the 2018 Big Ten Championship game.

Michigan came into Columbus with the nation's top-ranked defense and a huge reason why was because of their ability to pressure the quarterback with four men.  However, by games end, Ohio State’s offensive and defensive line had stolen the show. The Buckeyes didn’t give up a sack and sacked Michigan junior quarterback Shea Patterson (6’2, 205) three times.  In the fourth quarter on 3rd and 12, Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young (6’5, 265) flushed Patterson from the pocket and made him throw off-balance, which led to an interception by junior safety Jordan Fuller (6’2 204). Defensive linemen Robert Landers (6’1 283) and Jonathon Cooper (6’4 257) also contributed with sacks. Offensively, the Buckeyes rushed for 249 yards and passed for 318 yards.  

"They slowly devastated us throughout the game. Knowing all the yards they were putting up and how easily they were scoring, it was tough. It was very tough," Michigan senior defensive back Tyree Kinnel said in a post game press conference. "They completely beat us everywhere. Run game, pass game, everyone is to blame."

7 Dwayne Haskins (6’3, 220) Ohio State QB-Sophomore
Haskins has set Big Ten passing marks for passing yards (4.081) and touchdown passes (42) in 2018.

Haskins seems to be getting more and more comfortable as the season goes on. The Potomac, Maryland, native completed 19-of-30 passes for 318 yards and five touchdowns on Saturday.  Despite the big game atmosphere, Haskins never forced any throws against a stout Michigan defense.  Aided by a strong running game and a clean pocket, he picked the Wolverines apart.  Haskins has the arm to make all the throws and is big enough to shake defenders off.  If the sophomore can continue to play with the poise he showed on Saturday, look for him to continue to move up future NFL Draft boards.

39 Malik Harrison (6’3, 245) Ohio State LB-Junior 
Harrison has contributed 8.5 tackles for losses for the Buckeyes in 2018 (as of 11/27/18).

Harrison impressed with his form tackling ability against the Wolverines. The junior linebacker used his eyes well and was able to make tackles on Michigan senior running back Karan Higdon (5’10 202) by being patient and meeting Higdon in his running lanes. Harrison can also be used in blitz packages.   He sacked Patterson on the second play of the game when he came into the backfield untouched.  For a player his size, Harrison has excellent sideline-to- sideline ability  yet is strong enough to take on interior linemen in the running game.  Harrison projects best as a 4-3 outside linebacker. 

Gonzaga vs. Duke, 11-21-18: In-game report

A November contest between two Top 5 teams had the feel of a Final Four game in Hawaii.  Gonzaga defeated Duke, 89-87, to remain undefeated and handed the Blue Devils its first loss of the season. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in game report:

1 Zion Williamson (6’7 285) Duke forward-Freshman 

Williamson is a highlight reel waiting to happen. The freshman’s motor coupled with his athleticism stands out.  So far this season, Williamson has been able to separate himself with his work on the glass and his finishing ability in transition.  For the season, the Spartanburg, South Carolina, native is averaging 20 points per game and nine rebounds.  Williamson should be a top three pick in the upcoming draft.  As the season goes on, look for head coach Mike Krzyzewski to find creative ways to get Williamson involved without the ball. 

23 Zach Norvell, Jr. (6’5, 205) Gonzaga guard-Sophomore 

Norvell, Jr. is one of the best guards in the country at getting in the lane, slashing and finishing at the rim. The Chicago native used a crossover against Duke forward RJ Barrett and up-and-under finish to avoid Williamson from blocking the ball in the first half.  Norvell, Jr. can also run the fast break and initiate the half court offense with his ability to pass on the perimeter and into the post. The Gonzaga guard is shooting 42-percent from the field and 37-percent from beyond the arc.  Standing 6-foot-5, he will have to answer questions about which position he will defend at the next level but the combo guard skill-sets are evident in the sophomore. 

21 Rui Hachimura (6’8, 230) Gonzaga forward-Junior

Hachimura has doubled his point production from last season. Through six games he is averaging 22 points per game after averaging 11 points a year ago.  The junior forward was one of the more experienced players on the floor against Duke and it made a difference.  Hachimura showed his ability to be a threat in the screen and roll game by either rolling to the rim or fading to the three point line. The junior also impressed with his face-up game from the pinch post.  Like Norvell Jr., he is a bit undersized and will have to find a home defensively at the next level.  When switched onto quick forwards like RJ Barrett, Hachimura wasn’t quick enough to stay in front defensively.  Hachimura showed enough offensive skills to continue to intrigue NBA scouts.

5 RJ Barrett (6’7, 202) Duke forward-Freshman

Barrett has the most polished, NBA-ready game of any of the players who saw the floor in Wednesday’s game. The freshman forward is quick enough to blow by taller guys and can also handle the ball in pick-and roll.  On the season, he is averaging 22 points per game, five rebounds and four assists. Barrett did struggle when forced to go right, missing two layups in the last minute of the game when driving in this direction.  Coach Krzyzewski runs a free-flowing offense and relies on his players making plays one-on-one.  More times than not, Barrett will make a better decision in crunch time but so far the freshman has impressed in limited action.

Denver Broncos vs Los Angeles Chargers, 11-18-18: In-game report

Offensive miscues and special teams errors doomed the Los Angeles Chargers against a division rival. The Denver Broncos ended the Chargers six-game win streak in a hard-fought 23-22 affair.  DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in game report:

Chargers offensive line

The Chargers offensive line stood out in pass protection against the Broncos, who rank in the top ten in sacks. While San Diego did give up three sacks, two of those were more of a reflection of quarterback Philip Rivers holding on to the ball too long rather than poor offensive line execution.  The Chargers out-gained the Broncos by 154 yards, which is a testament to how the offensive line played. The unit’s best work may have came on a screen pass to running back Melvin Gordon, where offensive lineman Dan Feeney and Michael Schofield III got out in front to pave the way for a 32-yard gain.  Holding a defense that features Von Miller and Bradley Chubb is no easy task, but the Los Angeles Chargers should be proud of the offensive line's performance on Sunday.

Chargers miscues 

Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers will shoulder a fair load of the blame after he threw two interceptions against the Broncos. Despite throwing for 401 yards, the interceptions not only cost the Chargers potential points but allowed Denver to score in both instances.  In addition to subpar quarterback play, the Chargers committed 10 penalties in the first half and settled for two field goals.

"Those are things we've stayed away from -- penalties and turnovers -- but they showed up today.  For whatever reason, I don't know. We'll figure it out, though," head coach Anthony Lynn said in the post game press conference. 

Receiver Keenan Allen was a little less diplomatic.

"I don't think they played well at all," Allen said after the game, via ESPN.com. "We dominated the game. Turnovers, we gave them some points and that's what happened. They suck."

To make matters worse, Mike Badgley missed an extra point in the third quarter. Denver no doubt earned their victory by driving the length of the field to get into field goal range as time expired but leading up to the final drive, Los Angeles certainly squandered plenty of its opportunities. 

Denver rookie playmakers 

Former Oregon running back Royce Freeman has rushed for 382 yards (4.2 YPC) and five touchdowns for the Broncos in 2018 (As of 11/27/18).

The Broncos have a talented trio of rookies to rely on offensively. Running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman complement each other well as Lindsay primarily serves as the third down motion back and Freeman the more traditional power back. On the outside at receiver, Courtland Sutton also showed his playmaking ability. Lindsay finished with 106 combined rushing and receiving yards while Freeman had 23 yards rushing and a touchdown.  Sutton caught three passes for 78 yards.  Lindsay, who was undrafted, has been the most productive out of the bunch, rushing for 670 yards and catching 24 passes for 187 yards on the season. If Denver can get more consistent production out of Sutton and Freeman, the Broncos could have a strong young nucleus on offense going forward. 

Cincinnati vs. UCF, 11-17-18: In-game report

A fast paced offense and some self-inflicted wounds aided UCF to its 23rd straight victory. The Knights defeated the  Cincinnati Bearcats, 38-13, and clinched a spot in the AAC championship in the process. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in game report:

UCF offense 

They aren’t called UCFast for nothing. The Knights play at one of the fastest paces in college football and have the players at the skill positions to make it work.  They currently average 43 points per game and scored 38 against Cincinnati, who hadn’t given up for more than 30 in the six games previous.  The list of contributors offensively is exhaustive.  Six different players caught at least one pass and five different players ran the ball at least once.  In his first season as head coach, Josh Heupel has carried over some of the spread principles that he used in Oklahoma under Bob Stoops. Junior quarterback McKenzie Milton (5’11, 185) isn’t the prospect that Sam Bradford was coming out of Oklahoma under Heupel’s tutelage, but the UCF quarterback is putting up reminiscent numbers.  The Knights will need a lot of help to get into the College Football Playoff but even if they don’t make it, their offense will pose a big problem to any Power 5 team because of the one-on-one matchups they can create week-to-week. 

UCF defensive ends 

Davis, pictured, has 15.5 tackles for loss for the Knights entering the team's AAC Championship Game.

Senior defensive end Titus Davis (6’3, 250) and junior defensive end Brendon Hayes (6’3, 293) are two premier pass rushers who feast on opposing quarterbacks once UCF takes big leads. The two tag- teamed for a turnover in the second quarter, when Davis met Cincinnati freshman quarterback Desmond Ridder (6’4, 212) in the backfield, forcing a fumble that Hayes recovered.  For the game, Davis finished with three sacks, bringing his season total to six. Hayes, the better edge-setter and run defender between the two, had five tackles and a pass deflection.

Cincinnati mistakes 

Before the Bearcats could settle down, they were already in a hole. In the first half alone, the Bearcats lost a fumble, missed a field goal, had a field goal blocked and missed an extra point. 

"We generated some momentum early in the game and gave it right back to them, whether it was a missed field goal or extra point or something like that," Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell said. "When you're playing the champs, when you're playing a team as good as they are, you can't have mishaps like that."

For the game, the Bearcats were comparable when it came to total yards and third down efficiency. But the early lopsided score made the Bearcats one-dimensional and turned what could have been a close game into a blowout. 

Atlanta Falcons vs Cleveland Browns, 11-11-18: In-game report

In his second game as Cleveland's head coach, Gregg Williams unleashed an aggressive defensive game plan that reminded people why he was a hot coaching commodity in the late 2000s.  The Browns defeated the Falcons, 28-16. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in game report:

Baker Mayfield 

Mayfield showed the Browns his potential in a near perfect game against the Falcons. The rookie out of Oklahoma completed 17-of-20 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns. 

"When I woke up this morning, I was feeling pretty dangerous," Mayfield said during the post game press conference. "I just woke up feeling really dangerous."

Former Oklahoma Sooners signal-caller Baker Mayfield was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon.

Offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens gave Mayfield his full trust and it was evident in his play calling.  After a successful goal line stand in the fourth quarter, Kitchens called a passing play for Mayfield despite being on the team's own one-yard line. Mayfield, like he did all game, didn’t disappoint as he fired a pass on a comeback route to Antonio Callaway for a first down.  The rookie signal-caller completed all types of passes on Sunday: comeback routes, crossing routes over the middle across his body, check downs, play actions, etc.   He completed his first 13 passes to start the game while showcasing the skills to back up his confidence.  After watching the film from Sunday, he should continually be given the full playbook to work with. 

Browns defense

Gregg Williams is known for his aggressive 4-3 defense. Against the Falcons, his plan of attack was to make the Falcons one-dimensional. Not only did the Browns shut down the Falcons running game (71 rushing yards on 19 carries),  but they stopped Atlanta’s other receivers not named Julio Jones.  Jones caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown but it took him 11 targets and he accounted for more than a third of the offense.  The Browns also forced two fumbles and had two sacks on Ryan.  The stats might not jump out at first glance, but the intensity was there for Cleveland’s defense, which routinely rallied to the football for gang tackles. 

Falcons inconsistency 

Atlanta is 4-5 for a reason.  In one week they’re playing well on both sides of the football and the next they can’t get anything going.  The Falcons had a three-game losing streak followed by a three-game winning streak and then went to Cleveland and laid an egg.  Dan Quinn is in his fourth season as the head coach but despite his experience at the helm, Cleveland looked like the more prepared and better coached team.  Defensively, the Falcons linebackers and safeties took bad angles to the football, which was apparent on Nick Chubb’s 92-yard touchdown run.  Offensively, the Falcons couldn’t run the football or pass to its second and third receivers. 

"I told the team I thought we took a step back," Quinn said during the postgame press conference.  "That's tough to see and tough to say. I also told them we must regroup. We're trying to fight for consistency, and we certainly made improvement over the last three weeks, and we didn't get the job done."

As the playoff picture takes shape, the Falcons will have to find better balance if they want to compete in the NFC.