A Tale of Two Halves: Cleveland Browns Second Half Struggles are Troubling

Updated: October 17, 2013

Despite a 3-3 record, it can be said that the Cleveland Browns have been frustrating to watch so far this season, even in victory. You can point to a lot of little things that contribute to these frustrations in every game – interceptions, dropped passes, lack of a running game, poor blocking–the list can go on and on. Looking at it in a bigger picture however the answer is simple – the Browns are a terrible second half team.

For starters, the Browns have gone into halftime in each of their six games this year with a lead. Despite this, they are only a .500 team.

Good teams put games away in the second half and while inexperience no doubt plays a part in this team’s third and fourth quarter struggles, at some point it can no longer be an excuse, especially with veterans at every level both on and off the field. Cleveland has outscored their opponents 78-43 in the first half so far this year. It hasn’t always been pretty, but this team has been able to take the lead (despite the opposition scoring first in four of six games) and carry into the half.

That’s where the good news stops.

For the season, Cleveland has only been able to score 33 second half points in six games. What’s worse, the offense’s first drive of the second half has yielded these results: punt, punt, interception, punt, punt and punt. In these six possessions the offense has ran 27 plays and amassed 105 total yards.Take away a six play 68-yard drive against Minnesota (resulting in a Brian Hoyer interception) and that gives you 21 plays, 37 total yards, six giveaways and no points.

The Browns have gone three and out in three of these six possessions. To follow that up, in four of their six games, Cleveland’s offense has punted on their second possession of the third quarter (the other two possessions resulting in a field goal and a touchdown). Of all the Browns third quarter possessions this year (22 in total), only four have resulted in a scoring drive (three field goals, one touchdown). This is how the Browns offense opens the second half with a lead.

Don’t blame it all of the offense though, the defense has been equally as bad.

While the Browns have held the opposition to 43 points in the first half, six teams have combined to score 82 points in the second half against Cleveland this year. Opposing teams have scored nine times against Cleveland in the third quarter (two field goals, seven touchdowns). Three of these nine third quarter scoring drives have come on the opposition’s first drive of the second half (all three of these resulting in touchdowns). The Browns defense has allowed 13 third down conversions on 23 attempts in the third quarter so far this year. They’ve also allowed one 4th down conversion and have been penalized once on third down, resulting in a first down, in the third quarter this season.

This doesn’t all fall on the players either. These numbers show the coaching staff has failed to make any meaningful and impactful second half adjustments. The way Norv Turner and Rob Chudzinski have abandoned the running game in the second half is puzzling and Ray Horton has got to figure out a way to get his defense off the field.

Somebody needs tell this team there are two halves to a football game.

Cleveland has been outscored by their opponents this year by a score of 125-111 (-14). While outscoring the opponent in the first half 78-43 (+35) is good, it means absolutely nothing if you’re going to squander leads and get outscored 82-33 (-49) in the second half. Looking at these numbers, it’s amazing the Browns are 3-3. With games against high scoring offenses remaining on the schedule this team is going to have to score points in both halves as well as play solid defense with a lead – assuming they have one. If the lopsided second halves continue, the Browns will probably find themselves Top 10 in something, the NFL Draft.

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