BEREA: Grant Delpit realizes that all the positive numbers posted by the Browns defense are overshadowed by one fatal flaw.
The 12.5 points per game allowed by the Browns in the fourth quarter is last in the league, an environment also inhabited by the Los Angeles Rams (11.0) and Baltimore Ravens (10.8).
“Yeah, we’re pretty bad in the fourth quarter right now. That’s not what the big teams do,” Delpit said.
But the strong third-year safety thinks he has an answer, and it’s not just about solving communication and technical issues.
“Just staying locked up for 60 minutes and having that killer mindset,” Delpit said Wednesday. “We have a standard to uphold to be a No. 1 defense in the top half. We have to stick together and play four quarters”.
Going into a 2-2 matchup of teams in Sunday’s home game against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Browns’ defense ranks fourth in the league in yards allowed per game (326.0), fifth in passing yards (212.8). ), ninth in points (23.8) and 11th in rushing yards given up (113.3).
But mistakes by the Browns’ defense proved costly in both losses. They allowed 13 points, including a 5-yard TD by practice squad running back Caleb Huntley, in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 23-20 loss at Atlanta. A 42-yard completion from Marcus Mariota to Olamide Zaccheaus in what Browns coach Kevin Stefanski described as a technical error set up the Falcons’ game-winning field goal.
“I think it was like a Cover 3, everyone has a zone below,” Browns free safety John Johnson III said of the pass to Zaccheaus. “You just have to find eyes for your cover. It was like a two man route, so we have to find the missing guy. He snuck in behind the linebackers and we have to find him.”
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Asked if the Falcons’ emphasis on running the ball appealed to linebackers, Johnson said, “That could be a possibility.”
In a 31-30 collapse against the New York Jets, the Browns allowed 17 points in the fourth quarter, including two touchdowns in the final 1:22. The first, a 66-yard Joe Flacco pass to Corey Davis was followed by a successful onside kick and 15-yard touchdown throw to Garrett Wilson with 22 seconds remaining.
The problems began in the season opener at Carolina on Sept. 11, when the Browns survived 26-24 on Cade York’s 58-yard field goal. They also allowed 17 points in the fourth, including a 75-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield to Robbie Anderson.
“I think we’ve come a long way working on those kinds of things,” Stefanski said Wednesday. “We just have to keep playing solid football, line up, play defense and execute.”
Johnson didn’t have a good answer for the fourth-quarter misses.
“I really can’t put my finger on it,” he said. “You’re going to get the team’s best effort in the fourth quarter and we have to match that intensity, so I think we need to put an emphasis on that.”
It’s possible for the Browns to lose focus, especially when they get a lead.
“I can’t really talk about all that stuff about other people. I know I try to do my part for four quarters,” Delpit said. “I just have to have a heightened awareness for four trimesters. That’s when you’re going to win the game, so that’s what we have to do.”
Stefanski didn’t recognize that that was part of the problem.
“What we always try to do is let our team know that they have to make sure for 60 minutes,” he said. “It’s a prerequisite when you play NFL football because you just don’t know when that play is going to happen.”
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Browns cornerback Greedy Williams, activated from injured reserve Wednesday after missing four games, sounded as if he believed more pregame preparation is required.
“Everyone has to be timed and locked in and taking notes, going over their notes, going over their playbook,” Williams said of coverage breakdowns. “Let’s start there…”
Delpit said the Browns have the “killer mentality,” but they have to show it throughout the game.
“Every time we step onto the field we want to make a statement. We want to play the best we can,” she said. “Sometimes the plays don’t go our way, sometimes they do, but we have to stay locked in.”
Stefanski doesn’t care if it’s called the “killer mentality” or the “finisher mentality,” but he realizes its importance as the strength of the Browns’ schedule increases.
Williams agreed with the suggestion that Browns defenders should remind each other.
“Of course. That’s what I’ve been talking to you guys about,” Williams said. “Like, how do we finish the fourth quarter? We’re going to find our way and we need to find our way real soon.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.