The Red Zone Exposes Browns Offensive Limitations

Pete Smith

The Cleveland Browns immense struggles on the goal line against the Buffalo Bills highlighted the issues on offense, exposing all of their limitations. Some of the attention will go to play calling and decisions Freddie Kitchens made and there are legitimate questions there, but the sheer number of plays they ran allowed them to try just about everything from a condensed formation to no avail.

As good as the Browns can be running the ball with Nick Chubb between the twenties, when they need to just fight for a yard or two, it's a struggle bordering on the impossible. The Bills defense simply dominated them, able to get into the backfield at will giving Chubb nowhere to go. They tried to go to Odell Beckham three different times, two of which were penalties on the defense and the last was simply a great play by Tre'Davious White.

The Browns desperately miss David Njoku, who has been on injured reserve since week two. Whether he lined up out wide for goal line fades or in the middle of the formation, defenses had to account for him, sometimes with multiple defenders. That helped create uncertainty on defense which resulted in running lanes to get in the end zone. The difference in red zone efficiency from last year to this year is difficult to ignore and Njoku is the missing piece.

The Browns probably should've spread their offense out earlier in the game. As much as everyone would prefer to be able to put everyone in the box and power their way into the end zone, the Browns proved without a doubt they couldn't do it, so it was logical to just go ahead and force the defense to spread out, emptying out the box and giving the offense more options.

Fortunately, that's what the Browns did for their final trip in the red zone and were able to produce the game winning touchdown. They were able to isolate Rashard Higgins on the right side of the field. He easily beat the defender, enabling Baker Mayfield to find him for the score.

The Browns will have Njoku back reasonably soon, but the offensive line largely is what it is. Hopefully Wyatt Teller can improve and maybe they insert Drew Forbes into the lineup, but it's difficult to imagine a scenario where Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard get better this season. For all of the struggles the Browns have had that were unexpected, this one was completely foreseeable and it's held the Browns back in the red zone all season.

The Browns have improved in the last few weeks when it comes to turnovers and penalties, but the red zone continues to be a nightmare. Not turning over the ball kept them in this game, giving them the opportunity to win it, but the red zone struggles almost cost the Browns this game. That is a major focus the rest of the season as well as the upcoming offseason.


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