What did in the Cleveland Browns' defense at New England?
Penalties and Tom Brady.
That’s what defensive coordinator Ray Horton said.
Horton did his best not to complain about the officiating, but he did say that Brady audibled three times on the last two drives to take advantage of the Browns' coverage.
“He put them in the right play for what we had,” Horton said. “That’s the dilemma -- how do you protect against a guy who changes the play? You hope you stand up.”
Horton said Brady’s hand signals were as simple as a nod and a two-thumbs-up signal.
“You don’t have time after two-thumbs-up to get it across the formation,” he said.
In some instances, Brady would wave a receiver lined up wide to move inside to a stack formation. That was when Brady saw man coverage. In that formation, teams run “rub” routes, where they cross and effectively rub out the defender. The Pats scored the game-winning touchdown to Danny Amendola on a rub route.
These pass routes are effective against man, not as effective against zone. Horton went into no detail about the coverages, but the pass interference penalty on Leon McFadden and the touchdown to Amendola both looked to come against man coverage.
The Browns could combat the offense with a change of their own, but as Horton said, changing the entire coverage would be tough given the time limitations after the audible. About the only things the defense can do is have the ability to change quickly from man to a predetermined zone, or cover better.
Horton tried not to criticize the officials, saying the game is fast and he’s sure they do their best. But pressed on the Jordan Poyer hit he said the Browns teach their players never to launch (leave their feet) or hit a receiver in the head. He admitted neither happened with Poyer.
As for the pass interference and the team’s anger at the call after the game, he talked more generally. But in doing so he said a lot.
“There were 45, 44 yards of penalties on two plays, I think, within 30 seconds,” Horton said. “That’s a lot of yardage in penalties for a team that has a pretty good quarterback.”