11 degrees / winds 3mph
Key Decision #1: (CLE trails 14-0 / 1st & 10 CLE 26 / 13:19 Q2)
- This was a key offensive possession for the Browns, as they simply couldn’t give the ball back to the Steelers, on the road, for an opportunity to go up three possessions in the first half. In a harsh weather game like this, it would have been difficult for the Browns to make the game competitive into the 4thquarter.
- But Cleveland mounted a successful TD drive to close to 14-7. The drive was highlighted by a 54-yard pass from QB DeShone Kizer to WR Josh Gordon; Pittsburgh had given up a lot of chunk plays this year with vulnerability on their back end, and Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson successfully exploited it.
- If the Browns are going to learn to be competitive, they have to learn to respond on series where they prevent the opposing team from having a chance to take a three-possession lead. They did so here.
Key Decision #2: (CLE tie game 21-21, prepare to kickoff / 10:54 Q3)
- At this juncture in the game, the young Browns have successfully prevented the Steelers from having the opportunity to take three-possession leads on two separate occasions; the Cleveland offense responded with TDs down 14-0 and 21-7 to close to within one TD, and now they have tied the game.
- With adrenaline high, the Browns kicked off, but unfortunately, their coverage team suffered a lapse in concentration. Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster took the kickoff back for a TD and a 28-21 lead.
- One issue we see come up from time to time with certain head coaches is how well they monitor and regulate their team’s emotional energy. We feel the most successful coaches never let their team get too high or too low. It appeared to us that when the Browns tied the game at 21, their sideline naturally was invigorated, but perhaps to the point where coverage responsibilities were neglected.
- This game was well managed by Hue Jackson. He put his team into position to win the game, while on the road, in harsh weather conditions. Yes, he confronted a backup QB in Landry Jones and other backup players, but that is not within his control. He managed the clock well enough so that his team had a chance in the end.
- We felt Cleveland appeared more polished in this game compared to past games. For example, on defense, they appeared more sound, particularly pre-snap.
- The Browns, in our view, had enough talent, and enough veteran coaches, to have won 3-4 games this year. Game management, however, was not as good as it could have been. There were numerous instances where too much discretion was given to a rookie QB, who not only was a rookie, but also was young by age (21).