Category Archives: 2018

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 12-30-18: In-game report

The Steelers squeaked past the Bengals but it wasn’t enough to qualify for the playoffs.  Despite a 16-13 victory, a number of midseason disappointments allowed the Baltimore Ravens to walk away with the AFC North division title. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:

Steelers spread attack

The Steelers employed the spread attack as its primary offensive set during the regular season and this included the season finale against the Bengals.  It allowed them to get their playmakers out in space but it did leave quarterback Ben Roethlisberger susceptible to increased pressure from four-man fronts.  Cincinnati only sacked Big Ben once, but they were able to get him off his throwing spot without blitzing while still keeping two safeties high.  With Antonio Brown out, Roethlisberger started the game by throwing seven completions to five different receivers.  A majority of these passes were wide receiver screens and slants.  As was my concern early in the season, Roethlisberger did fall back into a pattern of turning the football over, not only against the Bengals but all season long. For the game, Roethlisberger finished with one passing touchdown, one interception and 287 passing yards on 68-percent passing.  James Conner led the team with 64 rushing yards on 14 carries. As the Steelers assess their 2018 season offensively, look for them to carry over their spread principles into next year while also finding ways to cut down on the turnovers. 

Turnover differential 

Pittsburgh ranked sixth in scoring offense and were in the top ten in passing yards and rushing yards allowed.  The offensive and defensive stats tell a story of a successful season but turnovers doomed the Steelers and almost cost them their game against the Bengals.  In 2018, Pittsburgh finished with a -11 turnover differential, which ranked 28th in the NFL.  The other four teams with a worst differential than the Steelers were Arizona, Jacksonville, San Francisco and Tampa Bay, all teams who finished with losing records.  Against Cincinnati, Roethlisberger threw a pick- six to Shawn Williams, which represented the Bengals’ only touchdown for the game.  Defensively, Pittsburgh was not able to force the Bengals, who were missing wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton, into any mistakes. 

Cincinnati playmakers 

Cincinnati All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green caught 46 passes for 694 yards and six touchdowns despite appearing in just nine games in 2018.

With A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and Tyler Eifert out, it was evident that the Bengals just didn’t have the firepower to get players open against the Steelers.  Alex Erickson caught all six of his targets for 63 yards and was able to work over the middle but his longest catch was for just 13 yards.  The Bengals next most productive reviewer was Auden Tate, who caught one pass for 15 yards. Joe Mixon ran for 105 yards and finished with 1,168 yards on the season. The 22- year-old running back should be able to be relied upon for the long- term, but look for the Bengals to continue to try and develop their young playmakers like John Ross, a former Top 10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions, 12-23-18: In-game report

The Vikings used an old formula to stay in the NFC playoff picture and defeat the Lions on the road.  Minnesota relied on a turnover- free game and a solid defensive effort to beat Detroit, 27-9. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:

Lions receiving weapons

In 2014, the Lions featured two 1,000-yard receivers in former wideouts Golden Tate III and Calvin Johnson.

The Lions traded away Golden Tate and now lack proven weapons on the outside.  Detroit tried to mask its deficiencies with conservative third down play calling that often featured runs and screens on 3rd and long, but those weren’t effective against a stout Vikings defense.  Kenny Golladay has become a contributor, catching 70 passes for 1,063 yards and five touchdowns on the season.  However, the Vikings began to key in on him and roll coverage his way as he posted just six catches for 58 yards on 15 targets.  Detroit has had its issues with drafting receivers in the past, but the team is in desperate need for playmakers on the outside. 

Vikings offensive gameplan

The formula against the Bears on Sunday will be simple for the Vikings: run the ball and don’t turn it over.  Despite his 29:10 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Cousins has struggled against teams with winning records in his career and this year has been no different.  Last week, the Vikings fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo before his first season as coordinator could even come to an end.  Quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski has taken over and he’s been with the team since the mid-2000s, which means he knows traditionally the Vikings bread has been buttered with its run game. Against the Lions, Dalvin Cook carried the ball 16 times for 73 yards and was the go-to man on 3rd and shorts.   Cook and Latavius Murray should both see 10-to-15 carries apiece and Stefanski will probably opt to play a conservative field position game against the stingy Bears defensive front seven.

Minnesota defense 

The Chicago Bears have dominated headlines in the NFC North but the Vikings still have a defense that can be counted upon. Their problem has been at times they have been forced to play perfect football where as in Chicago there’s a little bit more margin for error.  On the season, the Vikings rank in the top ten in passing yards allowed per game, points against and total yards allowed per game.  They also rank 11th in rushing yards allowed per game.  Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Sheldon Richardson and Tom Johnson have combined to form their own Purple People Eaters group, totaling 29 sacks.  The front end and back end complement each other well in Minnesota and this defense is still a unit to be reckoned with week-to-week. 

Houston Texans vs. New York Jets, 12-15-18: In-game report

The Houston Texans have a chance to clinch a first round bye in the AFC playoffs if they can finish the regular season with two wins after defeating the Jets on Saturday. The Texans, as they have done all season, relied on solid quarterback play, an elite receiver and a ferocious pass rush to defeat the Jets, 29-22.  DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:

DeAndre Hopkins

Football is a simple game when wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is on your team.  Deshaun Watson and the Texans don’t have to overthink or scheme Hopkins open, as the former Clemson Tiger can go over, around and run past defensive backs.  Hopkins (6’1, 215) has elite timing and jumping ability, which allows him to make catches while draped by cornerbacks, resembling a gymnast more than a football player.  Hopkins has 94 receptions for 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season.  Even more impressive, 67 of those catches have gone for first downs.  When the league’s best receivers are being discussed, Hopkins name should be at the forefront.  Defensively, anything short of double coverage won’t suffice and at times -as he showed on Saturday- that may not be enough.

Sam Darnold

DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson highlighted Sam Darnold in the preseason against the Redskins and was impressed with his command of the offense.  15 weeks into his rookie season and the same holds true.  Darnold has a good feel for the game for a rookie quarterback, he isn’t afraid to run when nothing is there and did his best work during the two-minute drill before halftime.  The former USC Trojan will have to work on his feet when surrounded by the rush.   If enough pressure gets around him, he exhibited the tendency to float the ball and not get his lower body involved.  This lack of torque in his throws led to balls with less velocity and forced receivers to work back to the ball from their routes (see his two third down throws on the second possession of the game). These tweaks should be correctable.   Along with Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Darnold has showed promise in his first season under center.  Like his fellow draft mates, Darnold must cut down on the turnovers (14 passing touchdowns-to- 15 interceptions on the season.)

Robby Anderson

Robby Anderson (6’3 190) has a similar lanky build as Hopkins but is more of a vertical threat than he is an acrobatic catcher. 

“They’ve got a receiver that probably runs as fast as anybody we’ve played in Anderson,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said before the matchup. 

As he has gotten comfortable with a rookie quarterback, Anderson has caught 38 passes for 588 yards and five touchdowns. The 25- year old receiver is playing his best football as the season comes to a close, notching 11 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns over the last two weeks.  He hasn’t had the luxury of steady quarterback play early on in his career but the skills are in place.  As the former Temple Owl grows with Darnold, look for the duo to establish more of a connection in the seasons to come. 

Los Angeles Rams vs. Chicago Bears, 12-9-18: In-game report

Chicago used a physical defense and excellent special teams play to defeat the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football.  The Bears topped the Rams, 15-6, and are on the doorstep of winning the NFC North.  DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in- game report:

Tarik Cohen

The Sunday night showdown was largely about the defensive efforts of the respective teams but running back Tarik Cohen left his mark on the contest. Head coach Matt Nagy is as creative a playcaller as there is in the NFL, he follows his mentor, Andy Reid’s philosophy of getting your best players the ball in space.  Cohen can make plays in the passing game, the running game and through his return ability. Cohen (5’6 179) is one of the smaller players in the league but he is built well and has very strong legs. The back isn’t afraid to lower his shoulders and run behind his pads and between tackles. Coupled with his acceleration, Cohen is a hard cover. His running back mate, Jordan Howard, runs most of the power running plays between the tackles but Cohen can run the same concepts but at a lower rate. The former North Carolina A&T running back makes his money on the outside and in space.  The Bears running back finished with 111 all-purpose yards, and the team as a whole put up 336. 

Bears defense 

A mark of a good defense is the ability to make the opposing offense uncomfortable and force them to find new ways to score. Chicago forced Rams quarterback Jared Goff to throw four interceptions and held Los Angeles to 214 yards of total offense. The pocket was rarely clean for Goff, who was sacked three times and when it was clean, he rushed throws and made errant reads.  Chicago didn’t do much better than the Rams offensively (294 total yards) but the Bears have the type of defense that can carry its football team. Khalil Mack stirs the drink but the Bears possess playmakers at all three levels of the defense. 

Rams play calling 

The Rams rank in the top five in scoring per game, passing yards per game and rushing yards per game but looked ordinary against the Bears.  Sean McVay is a Coach of the Year candidate and the honor is warranted but his play calling was suspect on Sunday night.   The Rams best player offensively, Todd Gurley, carried the ball just 11 times and he finished with just three receptions despite being targeted seven times in the passing game. The passing numbers aside, Gurley should’ve seen more touches in the running game.  On 2nd and 15 to start the third quarter, McVay opted for a shotgun set when his team was on its own five-yard line.  Bears defensive lineman Eddie Goldman capitalized and sacked Goff for a safety. 

“Really, consistently over and over I continue to put our players in bad spots,” McVay said during the postgame press conference. “Certainly a humbling night, but it’s one you get a chance to look at yourself critically, find a way to get better and move forward accordingly and that’s exactly what we’re going to do and that’s all I know how to do.  And I have to be better for our football team.  This loss is on me.  I didn’t do a nearly good enough job for us today.  I trust we will respond the right way.” 

The Rams coach accepted blame for the loss. Look for Los Angeles to establish the running game early in their next game against the Eagles. 

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.

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.”

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. 

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.