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Monday, November 18, 2013
Breaking down the punt-team breakdowns

By Pat McManamon

Breakdowns by the Cleveland Browns and good plays by the Cincinnati Bengals led to the crucial special teams mistakes that contributed significantly to the Browns' 21-point loss.

“We had two major breakdowns there,” coach Rob Chudzinski said.

One tipped punt and one blocked punt gave the Bengals two touchdowns and helped turn the momentum toward Cincinnati.

The first rush came up the middle, as the Bengals drove a rusher into center Christian Yount and looped Shawn Williams up the middle. Williams was able to tip the ball, which was not considered a block because it went beyond the line of scrimmage.

But the nine-yard “punt” set up the Bengals' second touchdown.

Yount said he should have changed the protection before the play. He also said his snap drifted right, which took punter Spencer Lanning closer to Williams as he rushed.

The second was a block, by Jayson DiManche. He lined up on the left side of the Bengals' rush, and split the gap between linebacker Eric Martin and linebacker Barkevious Mingo. He also easily avoided fullback Chris Ogbonnaya to reach out with his left hand and block the punt.

Mingo lined up off Martin’s right shoulder, a couple yards off the line of scrimmage. When DiManche took an outside-in move, Martin went inside to help and Mingo basically whiffed. As did Ogbonnaya.

In the scramble for the ball, Lanning also had a chance to touch Tony Dye when he recovered the ball, but Lanning said he was trying to recover the ball.

Though Mingo took the blame, coach Rob Chudzinski said the scheme called for zone blocking, so both players were responsible. Chudzinski hinted the responsibility was more on Martin.

“There needs to be help from the inside guy, and he ultimately is responsible for that guy,” Chudzinski said.

Martin actually turned inside to help on a player a teammate was blocking.

The Browns have shuffled players on the punt team, in part because of an injury to special teams captain Quentin Groves.

Mingo had played in various spots on the punt protection, including that one, Chudzinski said.

“The effect of losing Quentin is having to move guys around,” Chudzinski said. “But that’s no excuse. There’s no excuse for getting punts blocked.”