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Negative Defensive Plays – Titans vs. Browns (Week 7)

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Welcome to another article on Anatomy of Titans, as we look at the negative defensive plays from the Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns during week 7 of the 2017 NFL season.  Yes, it does take a bit of effort to say the same thing at the start of each article by changing around the arrangements of the words, if you were wondering.  As usual, please share on social media and to your loved ones. 

Negative Defensive Plays:



This is an excellent example of bad communication on the Titans’ part.  The Titans start out in a single high safety look, with the second safety mirroring the tight end.  Once the tight end goes in motion, the safety follows him, but also audibles with his hand to the second safety, which presumably tells him to take the other side of the field.  In theory, he’s audibling from single high safety to two safety alignment, which is a fine audible, if he thinks this is going to a pass.  You can’t fault him for switching because he has to make a guess based on the look.  However, he fails to communicate this to the linebacker, or the linebacker fails to notice this audible.  When the second safety comes across the line, the linebacker is assuming the safety is now protecting the edge, and responsible for funneling the runner back towards the inside defenders.  Instead of going outside, the linebacker shoots up the B gap, because he’s protecting against a cut back route from the running back, most likely expecting the safety to take care of the edge.  The defensive end is double teamed, so there needs to be a player on the outside that can come around the edge to deter the running back.  Unfortunately, the safety drops back into coverage pre-maturely, and his teammates don’t realize that he’s back in coverage.  They do a good job of containing this play to a six-yard gain, but this is a major lapse in communication.  The Browns aren’t good enough to take advantage of these mistakes on a consistent basis, but teams such as the Patriots or Steelers are built to capitalize on miscommunication.  



This is not an ideal play for the negative article, because the Titans entice Kizer to make the wrong throw, and they are in great position for a possible interception.  The defense brings a slot corner blitz, with linebackers dropping back into coverage in this zone look.  The slot receiver is open for an easy pass, and this should have been Kizer’s read as well.  However, the rookie is fixated on his tight end, Seth DeValve, from the start and stares him down.  Kizer makes a great throw to the tight end in tight coverage for the first down, but this is an awful read because he’s well covered.  It’s a low percentage throw with a rookie that is baited by the defense.  This play shows up in the negative section because the Titans did leave a slot receiver open for the first down, and the Browns did convert to a new set of downs.  However, this play was extremely close to an interception because one of the biggest drawbacks on Kizer coming out of college was his inability to read the field at a fast pace, even though he has great tools.  



The defense relies heavily on the corner blitz on this play, and it backfires when it’s picked up.  The Browns are in zone coverage, and they seemed to be hoping that Kizer would go to a hot read before the cornerback sacks him.  Note how the linebackers are dropping back into passing lanes for quick passes, with the assumed timing of the cornerback closing in on the quarterback.  However, the Browns pick up the blitz and it’s all downhill for the Titans after that.  Kizer has multiple receivers open on this play for major gains, but runs for eleven yards since the linebackers have fallen back in coverage.  The defense took a risk against a rookie quarterback, trying to get him to make a quick throw and it did not work in this case. 



The defense is caught in a bad alignment for this play, almost as if they were expecting a deep pass after the offense had turned the ball over.  They have four rushers against five linemen, and there is no one covering the running back out of the backfield.  The middle linebacker is positioned to the right of the formation and he’s the read for Kizer on this play.  If the middle linebacker plays closer to the middle, Kizer has to throw to the slot receiver, who is wide open.  If the linebacker is stationed to the outside, as is the case, then Kizer throws the safe pass to the running back.  The linebacker seems out of place, because there is another linebacker giving underneath coverage to the slot receiver, with safety help over the top.  The middle linebacker should have stayed near the running back, instead of providing an easy outlet pass. 



The Titans are caught in a bad defense this time, but it’s made worse by LeShaun Sims on this play.  The Titans only have a single high safety on this play, but Sims has the safety leaning toward his side.  Notice how Sims is lined up just a bit to the outside  of the receiver, thus indicating he wants outside leverage with safety help over the middle.  The receiver takes away this leverage by running right at Sims, which forces him to turn his hips further down the field.  Once the receiver sees that the hips are turned, he goes for the out route and Sims can’t do anything but watch because he has to do a 180 degree turn to face the same direction.   Sims needs to rely on the safety for inside protection and make sure the outside is covered on this play.  On the other side of the field, notice Jackson faces a very similar issue, but it’s much more understandable.  Jackson doesn’t have safety help to his side, and you can see him stand directly in line with the receiver, indicating man coverage.  Without safety help, Jackson has to protect the inside route, thus turns his hips away from the sidelines, and the receiver breaks an out route.  The receiver is open on this play, but Jackson has to make that sacrifice because he can’t risk the receiver getting inside position without safety help. 



The defense is caught off guard on this play, and end up with bad match ups.  The Titans are in zone coverage, with one cornerback facing two receivers.  The linebacker, to the left side of the formation, has to follow the tight end out into the flat to take away the easy throw, but the defender stays at home, leaving a wide-open receiver as an outlet option.  The linebacker has two options on this play.  One, drop back into coverage, which would cause the QB to throw the ball at a higher angle, thus slowing down the pass and allowing the safety or cornerback to make a play on the ball.  The second option would be to cover the receiver out wide so there aren’t any safety valves open to the QB.  In this case, the linebacker chose option C, which is to admire the throw.  



On this play, you should focus on Wesley Woodyard, and how the Browns spooked him.  At the onset, he’s protecting the A gap on this play.  Kessler calls an audible, which spooks Woodyard to move from protecting the A gap to mirroring the running back, while lining up behind his defensive tackle.  As the play forms, he abandons the cut back protection by following the running back, which allows for Duke Johnson to cut back and gain about ten yards.  Woodyard has assistance to the left side of the formation, so he should’ve been disciplined and made sure there were no cut back options for the running back.  By being overly aggressive because of an audible, he ends up creating a hole.  Sometimes during the game, you will see offenses call an audible, but the defense stays put instead of counter-acting.  Peyton Manning was famous for calling numerous audibles, but he was also known for calling audibles with guesses as to where the defense was going to adjust to.  In this case, when Kessler is calling the audible, Woodyard is protecting the A gap, which makes him erroneously assume the play might be going away from that look. 



This play is mainly in the negative section because of the result, which is a conversion on 4th down.  The Browns designed this play well, and it’s over once the linebacker moves too far outside.  The read on this play is simple for Kessler – he’s appraising the middle linebacker.  If the linebacker steps into the path of Duke Johnson, then the tight end will be open for the out route.  If the linebacker pursues the tight end, then Johnson is shifty enough to beat the outside linebacker to the middle of the field.  While this isn’t exactly a pick play, the route of the tight end does play a factor.  The straight route of the tight end hastens the need for the linebacker to get to the outside since, at that point, all he sees is the running back going toward the sideline.  Crossing over the linebacker moves him too far outside, allowing the running back to cut inside with space.  If we take out the tight end in this equation, then the linebacker probably would not have been as aggressive in getting outside, giving him a better shot at stopping the pass.  It’s an extremely well designed play, and they pulled it out at a desperate time with the game on the line.


The defense made it’s share of mistakes, although they did hold the Browns offense to single digit points.  It helps that both Kizer and Kessler are some of the worst options for QB around the league though.  Please feel free to share these articles on social media or among your circle of friends.  Check out the other articles from this week linked below.

Other Articles from Week 7:

LeLei Mariota (Positive Passing Plays) – Week 7 – (Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns)

Mata’utia Mariota (Negative Passing Plays) – Week 7 – (Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns)

Positive Running Plays – Week 7 – (Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns)

Negative Running Plays – Week 7 – (Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns)

Positive Defensive Plays – Week 7 – (Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns)

KW Kneel for the Win Play – Week 7 – (Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns)

Questions for Comments:

  1. What is your take on the Browns QB situation?




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