This one was hard to stomach. It is hard to dive too much more into it than that. Mike Shanahan once again proved that he is an expert at making second half adjustments and catering his game plan to his team’s strengths. Pat Shurmur on the other hand… not so much. The team came out with a halftime lead and made mistakes right away, and those offensive mis-steps caused the Browns defense grief as they were given a short field to defend and spent far too much time on the field.
What we saw on Sunday with the 2nd half falling apart was that Shurmur was unwilling or unable to adjust the team’s focus in the second half. Rather than trying to protect a lead they came out trying to force the ball downfield. While I understand trying to push it and score, rather than just be content to have a lead, it was done the wrong way as soon as the second half started. Weeden’s interception at the beginning of the half was the beginning of the end on Sunday. The telling stat, even as the Browns were up and then only down 1 score, was that Trent Richardson got 2 carries in the 2nd half. 11 on the game. Now, it could be that the Browns are working around a Trent Richardson injury that we just don’t really know about, but then again, there have been several weeks that the Browns play calling has been un-necassarily pass heavy.
The defense, certainly a strong point the last 5 weeks or so, did not exactly play well. But with the bad offense the deck was stacked against them as usual. The game plan was obviously to sell out and stop Alfred Morris and put the game in the hands of Kirk Cousins. They did just that as they kept Morris under 100 yards, he did get two touchdowns, but they bottled him up for the most part. However, where we see the failings in the coaching, is that the Browns did not adjust once they saw that Cousins was the one beating them. They bit hard on the play fake bootlegs every single time and Cousins had time to get to ball to a receiver. It kept happening time after time. Cousins was making plays agains the Browns zone defense, and they wouldn’t back off of that defensive strategy.
Shurmur’s play calling while they were still in the game was terrible once again, the 2 failed 4th down attempts were the usual we see. The defense, whether that was up to Shurmur or not, was rigid and didn’t change their approach. The Shanahan brain trust was far more ready for this game and when they went into the half trailing they came back out with a slightly altered approach that exploited what the Browns were giving them. It is also clear to see, with Cousins as they have all season with RGIII, they played to the strengths of their young QB. Using Cousins surprising athleticism and good arm the Redskins set him up by committing to the run despite the fact that the Browns main goal was stopping the run. They knew that Morris was such a threat that even if the Browns bottled him up for 2 or 3 yards a carry that it would open things up for the passing game. They took a few shots, sometimes hopeless, down the field to keep the zone defense honest and keep them from jumping any routes. These simple things are aspects of any basic game plan in the NFL and they were lacking yet again from Shurmur’s offense. How can you have a running back with with 9 td’s coming into the game and close to 900 yards and only feed him the ball 11 times. Morris’ number was called 27 times, several of those rushes were later in the game with the lead, but they established him early. There were several drives, if you look at the drive log of the game, that with the lead the Browns passed on 1st, 2nd and 3rd down, then punted. No drives, even while they were down early, did the Redskins not hand the ball at least once to Alfred Morris. The Browns last rushing attempt was at the 6 minute mark of the 3rd quarter. Let that sink in. The Browns were down 10, with more than a quarter left. Plenty of time to at least attempt to keep the run established and keep the defense honest.
Bad coaching begets bad football. Shurmur’s tenure as Browns coach was likely over at the end of this season, but coming off a 3 game win streak and putting up that stinker against Washington sealed his fate. Haslam and Banner need to start that coach search soon.