Nearly every Sunday—or Monday, or Thursday—this year, the scene has been much of the same: The Cleveland Browns offense plays well, serviceably or even quite good, but it matters not because the defense cannot handle its business. That was again the case in Week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks.
The Browns fell, 30-13, in Seattle on Sunday. It was the ninth time this year Cleveland's defense had given up more than 30 points to an opponent and the sixth time in its last seven games. Not only that, but the Seahawks' 423 yards of total offense marked the fifth time this season the Browns had allowed over 400 yards; it was also the 10th time that an offense rushed for over 100 yards against Cleveland.
With defensive performances like these, Cleveland's offense has no chance. For this team to be anything but 3-11 at this point would have required the Browns to have the most productive offense in recent NFL history; not even the Peyton Manning-led 2013 Denver Broncos could have overcome carrying a defense this poor.
|Seattle Offense vs. Cleveland Defense, Week 15|
It was the same story as always, as missed tackles led to major Seahawks' gains. While the defense did hit Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson 11 times and sacked him twice, that didn't prevent Wilson from completing 21 of his 30 passing attempts for 249 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Because Joe Haden is on injured reserve, fellow cornerbacks K'Waun Williams and Justin Gilbert were inactive with injuries and Pierre Desir appears to have fallen out of his coaches' favor, Johnson Bademosi and Charles Gaines had to handle the bulk of the team's cornerback duties. And, as has so often been the case this year, it didn't work.
Bademosi was in coverage on two of Wilson's touchdown passes, the first thrown to receiver Doug Baldwin and the second to wideout Tyler Lockett. Gaines, meanwhile, was the lone defender in coverage on Baldwin's first touchdown catch of the game. And neither Lockett nor Baldwin ended the day as Seattle's leading receiver; that was Jermaine Kearse, who earned 110 yards on seven catches.
And when Wilson wasn't dominating Cleveland's defense in the air, the Seattle run game took a committee approach that led to 182 rushing yards. Running back Christine Michael, re-signed by the Seahawks earlier this week, led the team with 84 yards on 16 carries. Wilson had a good day running the ball too, with 46 yards, and back Bryce Brown had an additional 43 yards on his nine carries.
All told, the Seahawks had 28 first downs in the game compared to 15 for the Browns. They converted nine of their 12 third downs and came away with touchdowns on two of their four red-zone trips. Cleveland's offense did a few important things correctly, but without taking advantage of its three red-zone appearances as the defense again had a wholesale collapse, the Browns had no chance.
The performance served as a further indictment of head coach Mike Pettine's and close friend and defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil's defense. That this defense completely manhandled the San Francisco 49ers just a week ago says less about Cleveland's scheme and game-planning than it does about the Niners' level of talent.
The Browns knew that playing the Seahawks in Seattle would be a tough task. But the defense wasn't simply just a victim of Seattle's offensive prowess. It was yet another example of just how poorly this defense has played all season long. The talent level of the Browns' individual defenders does not matter if they cannot work together to execute on the field as a unit. Cleveland will never be a contender when playing defense as it did on Sunday.