Cleveland held a lead longer than they have in any other game this season in London against Minnesota. They held a one-point lead close to the end of the first quarter, and then one third of the way into the fourth quarter, they were losing by two touchdowns. Such is life for a Browns fan in 2017, as the Browns dropped to 0-8 in a 33-16 loss to the Vikings.
The Browns got off to a fantastic start in their first ever regular season game in London. The Vikings received the ball first, and on a 3rd-and-8, QB Case Keenum’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage by DL Carl Nassib and intercepted by MLB Joe Schobert.
On offense, the Browns scored on their opening drive for the first time all season: one tight end screen pass to TE David Njoku, and then a 26-yard touchdown run up the middle by RB Isaiah Crowell. K Zane Gonzalez missed the extra point, keeping it a 6-0 game.
That prompted this hilarious response from LT Joe Thomas, missing a game for the first time in his 10-year NFL career:
Go Browns!! They’re better without me!!— Joe Thomas (@joethomas73) October 29, 2017
The special teams miscues continued shortly after that. Cleveland’s defense forced another stop, but WR Bryce Treggs muffed the punt and Minnesota recovered in field goal range at the 35 yard line. Cleveland’s defense held Minnesota to a 35-yard field goal, making it a 6-3 game.
Into the second quarter, the Vikings converted several straight third-and-long situations to get into Browns territory. A breakup by OLB Christian Kirksey just beyond the edge of field goal range forced Minnesota to punt. But after Cleveland went three-and-out, Minnesota had their best drive of the game, capping it off with an 18-yard touchdown pass in which WR Adam Thielen was wide open. DE Emmanuel Ogbah blocked the extra point, so the Vikings only led 9-6.
Things looked gloomy in the Browns’ two-minute drill, facing a 3rd-and-12 deep in their own territory. Then, DeShone Kizer hit WR Ricardo Louis for a 38-yard strike down the left sideline.
A few plays later, Kizer improvised and flipped a pass to Crowell, who was wide open and rumbled for 38 yards. On 3rd-and-goal from the 1 yard line, Kizer kept it himself for the touchdown, giving the Browns a 13-9 lead!
But taking some early timeouts on that previous touchdown series left Minnesota with 0:40 and all three timeouts. They were able to quickly march downfield to attempt a 34-yard field goal, which Kai Forbath made to cut the Browns’ lead to 13-12.
Cleveland got the ball to begin the second half. On their first play of the half, Crowell had a hole, but was stripped by a defender and Minnesota recovered. Cleveland’s defense forced a three-and-out, but Forbath still hit from 43 yards out to give the Vikings a 15-13 lead.
The wild nature of the second half continued with a 71-yard kickoff return by RB Matthew Dayes, followed by a 13-yard carry by Crowell to get them in the red zone.
The drive stalled, though, and then Gonzalez came on and missed a 35-yard field goal. Cleveland forced a three-and-out on defense again and had decent starting field position after the punt. The utilized the running game to get into the red zone again, but failed to convert through the air and one pass was even almost intercepted if not for a breakup by TE David Njoku. This time, Gonzalez made a 23-yard field goal to give Cleveland a 16-15 lead mid-way through the third quarter.
The Vikings marched downfield in a hurry on their ensuing drive, and a rather bogus pass interference penalty was called on CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun in the end zone to put the ball at the 1 yard line. A 1-yard touchdown to RB Jarick McKinnon, followed by a two-point conversion by him, gave Minnesota a 23-16 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth, the Vikings got downfield again with a big pass interference penalty, this time on CB Jamar Taylor. On 3rd-and-goal, Boddy-Calhoun was then flagged for a hold, giving Minnesota a fresh set of downs again. Keenum got TE Kyle Rudolph on a 4-yard touchdown, giving Minnesota a 30-16 lead with just over ten minutes to play.
That’s pretty much how the game stayed the rest of the way, as Cleveland’s offense sputtered with drops in the second half and the defense looked worn out after being dominated in time of possession and already down four players to injury. The Vikings tacked on a 51-yard field goal with about a minute to go to finish it off at 33-16.
Quick Hitters & Stats
- QB DeShone Kizer: 18-of-34 for 179 yards. 5 rushes, 18 yards, 1 TD.
- RB Isaiah Crowell: 11 carries, 64 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble. 4 catches, 54 yards (6 targets).
- RB Duke Johnson: 6 carries, 33 yards. 4 catches, 10 yards (5 targets).
- TE David Njoku: 2 catches, 19 yards (7 targets).
- DE Carl Nassib: 1 sack, and also 2 passes defended, one of which led to an INT.
- K Zane Gonzalez: 1-of-2 (missed a 35 yard field goal and an extra point).