Browns not scoring touchdowns at home
There’s a joke floating around Cleveland that goes: Why is
Browns Stadium a safe place to go during a tornado? Because there’s
never a touchdown there.
It’s not that funny, but it’s somewhat true.
Cleveland hasn’t scored a TD in two straight home games, a
131-minute drought dating to Oct. 2. Since Colt McCoy’s touchdown
pass to tight end Benjamin Watson during garbage time of a 31-13
loss to Tennessee, kicker Phil Dawson has accounted for all 18
points scored at home by the Browns, who have gone 25 consecutive
drives without taking the ball across the goal line.
”It’s frustrating,” McCoy said Wednesday. ”We spend a lot of
time working on the red zone. We dedicated a whole day to it, so
we’ve just got to find a way to get down there and punch it
The winless Indianapolis Colts are the only team with a longer
current drought (29 drives) than the Browns, who made four trips
inside St. Louis’ 20-yard line last week but came away with just
four field goals by Dawson. It’s almost as if someone has posted a
”Dead End” sign near the goal line.
It’s not like the Browns (3-6) have had many chances, either.
Cleveland has only had 18 possessions inside the ”red zone,” the
league’s second-lowest total. The worst figure belongs to the
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6), who will visit the Browns on Sunday in
what on paper is shaping up to be a colossal dud.
There are obvious reasons for the Browns’ scoring struggles. A
new offensive system, injuries, a young quarterback and few
dependable playmakers have contributed to Cleveland’s inability to
reach the end zone. There’s been a trickle-down effect they can’t
seem to stop or reverse.
”How do you bust free from the touchdown drought? Scoring
touchdowns,” said Watson, doing his best to explain the
deficiency. ”How do you score touchdowns? Execution in the red
zone. How do you execute in the red zone? Execution in practice.
How do you execute in practice? Pay attention in the meetings. It
goes all the way down.
”It’s not a one-trick thing that just happens and you don’t
just get lucky in the red zone. When you see teams score a lot of
points, it’s because they’re precise, it’s because they make plays,
it’s because stuff isn’t always open and they somehow manage a way
to get in there. It takes a total team effort. And a lot of times
it’s just that – effort.”
The Browns can’t score touchdowns early, late or often.
Amazingly, they have not scored a TD in the first or third quarters
of any game.
Cleveland’s offensive players are aware of the miserable scoring
stats, and would like to fix them. However, there’s not much they
can do but keep working at making things better.
”At some point, it’s important not to dwell on it,” Pro Bowl
tackle Joe Thomas said. ”Sometimes when you look at certain
statistics that are not going your way, coaches and players can
make it more than it is. Not that it’s not a big deal, but when you
think about it so much, it kind of becomes a mind block rather than
going out one play at a time and taking care of business.
”The natural response is to get tight and nervous once you get
down in the red zone, and that’s where you start missing throws or
you get penalties or you’re afraid to make a mistake. You can’t
play that way.”
With his offense stuck in a rut, Browns coach Pat Shurmur,
pulling double duty as Cleveland’s offensive coordinator and play
caller in his first season, expanded the playbook last week against
the Rams with mostly positive results. The Browns caught St. Louis
off guard with a wildcat formation, two handoffs to wide receivers
and a nifty, double-reverse pass for 21 yards from McCoy to backup
quarterback Seneca Wallace.
However, the trick play turned out to be illegal because of two
On the play, wide receiver Josh Cribbs was supposed to hand the
ball to Wallace, but he flipped it toward the line of scrimmage,
which would have been fine except another pass was thrown.
Shurmur said he knew the play was illegal as it happened. The
Browns were not penalized and the Rams did not challenge the
”The first exchange (Cribbs to Wallace) was practiced all week
as a handoff. Three times,” Shurmur said. ”In the game, it got
flipped. That kind of stuff happens all the time. I was well aware
what happened. And, I know the rules.”
Shurmur also knows his team needs to score to win, but he didn’t
have much of an answer when asked how the Browns can end their
”Score touchdowns,” Shurmur said, adding he isn’t worried
about the lack of scoring killing his team’s confidence. ”I don’t
worry about that. You just keep working to get better. These guys
don’t have a problem with confidence. We’ve just have to go out and
get it done.”
Last week, the Browns made four trips inside the red zone, but
only got as close as the 4-yard line. That’s when they lined up for
Dawson’s 22-yard field goal attempt he missed after a botched snap
threw off his timing and St. Louis defensive lineman James Hall
penetrated the middle to deflect it wide.
The Browns realize they can’t always count on the reliable
Dawson to save them every week, not with the wind and weather
turning November and December kicks into adventures. They need to
get into the end zone and score touchdowns, which seems simplistic
but has been anything but easy.
”I’m surprised,” Watson said. ”We play offense to score
points. We’re all disappointed with ourselves. We’re disappointed
we’re not putting points on the board to help our defense and to
win. It feels great to move the ball down field, but at the end of
the day, it’s about putting points on the board. Do we want to
change that? Yes.
”We all have questions why and we’re working on solutions, but
I don’t have them right now.”