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Nail in the Coffin: Week 8 vs. Cleveland Browns

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This game did not get better with age. We take a look at some of the most important points that led to an embarrassing loss in Cleveland.

Matt Sullivan

We have a couple short and sweet failures for you this week. Let's get to it.

Key Play #1: 2nd and 4 at CLE 48, 7-6 Browns, 9:00 4th Quarter.

Winning Probability Before Play: 59%

R.Mathews left tackle to SD 47 for -5 yards (J.Parker).

The important thing to remember while watching this play is that it's 2nd and 4. When Mathews receives the handoff he has a hole in front of him created by the fullback picking up the linebacker and the left guard moving forward to the second level. At this point, Mathews has 2 good options: (1) Follow the play design through the hole and take the 1 free linebacker head-on, or (2) Since his weight is on his left foot, cut back to his right against the momentum of the d-line. It should also be noted if option 2 is chosen, there is only 1 cornerback remaining on the outside (out of frame). Mathews also has 1 bad option, which is to bounce the play outside to his left (moving parallel to the LOS) and try to get around Gaither.

Remember the down and distance? Ok, good! So, with just 4 yards to gain for a first down and the Chargers down by 1 point midway through the 4th quarter, what would you like to see Mathews do here? Personally, I'd like to see option 1 since the worst case results in about a 2-3 yard gain setting up a manageable 3rd and short. I could see the argument for option 2 as well since it would essentially be Mathews vs. a corner with tons of open space.

However, Mathews chooses option 3. Gaither gets beat (which tends to happen when you're slow and lose the pad-level battle) and Mathews goes down for a loss of 5. 2nd and 4 turns into 3rd and 9. On the next play, Gaither is so worried about getting beat again that he starts falsely, 3rd and 14. Facepalm.

Winning Probability after Play (including false start): 45%

Key Play #2: 3rd and 6 at CLE 7, 7-6 Browns, 6:48 4th Quarter.

Winning Probability Before Play: 52%

B.Weeden pass short right to T.Richardson to CLV 19 for 12 yards (E.Weddle).

Trent Richardson is the Browns' most dangerous player. Trent Richardson heads to the flat. There is no Charger player remotely near the flat. There is no Chargers player remotely near the Browns' most dangerous player. Eric Weddle does track him down from about 25 yards away though. So there's that. The GIF file size limit doesn't let me show you his tackle, but I suspect Charger fans know what an Eric Weddle play-saving tackle looks like. <3

Winning Probability After Play: 38%

Key Play #3: 2nd and 6 at CLE 37, 7-6 Browns, 5:13 4th Quarter.

Winning Probability Before Play: 34%

T.Richardson right guard to 50 for 13 yards (D.Butler; M.Gilchrist).

Watch Atari Bigby in the upper-right corner of the screen. Ok now do it again. It's comical how little he wants to do with this play. Anyways, as Bigby two-steps his way out of the NFL, Vaughn Martin crashes middle (or gets dominated by the right tackle, your pick) which opens up a giant hole for Bigby and/or Spikes to fill. However, Bigby's lack of desire to participate results, instead, with the hole being filled by the pulling guard to properly blow up Spikes. Too easy for Richardson. I wish there was more I could say about this play.

Winning Probability After Play: 23%

As bad as the 2012 San Diego Chargers were, a lot of different things had to go wrong to lose to the Browns even in Cleveland. The only thing remotely cathartic about this particular exercise is that so many of the players in that last play are gone.