Going into this game, the Seattle Seahawks were some sort of a roller coaster. They had defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals; whose collective records were 2-12-1. Then against some of the NFL elite the ‘Hawks lost to the New Orleans Saints 33-27, a very good team who has been predicted to play in the Super Bowl this year, and then defeated last year’s NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams 30-29.
So going into the game against yet another AFC North opponent with the Browns, the question was what type of team were the Seahawks?
On offense, they were ranked seventh with quarterback Russell Wilson having a fine season and ranked as the eighth best in the league. The Seahawks defense was number 14. Every good club has admirable rankings, and Seattle was proving to be inserted into that elite category - although most of their numbers were against the bottom tier teams.
So, how did the Browns do against one of the NFL’s best clubs? After stinking on Monday Night Football, did Cleveland show any improvement? The defense has been steady all season long, and this aspect did not change against the Seahawks. The Browns’ offense was up-and-down all game and in the end was a 32-28 Seattle victory in a contest that the Browns could have won and at one point led 20-6.
One fumble, a blocked punt, three interceptions, and countless penalties all contributed to Cleveland’s downfall. The Browns now have lost two of their last three games. But teams cannot win games if you turn the ball over and have endless untimely penalties.
Running back Nick Chubb – This dude is having a Pro Bowl season. One can only hope when Kareem Hunt comes off the suspension list that Chubb’s carries will not decrease. Rarely does he go down on the first hit and has the ability to continue to drive his legs even when engaged. His best gains were between left guard Joel Bitonio and center J.C. Tretter. Yes, Chubb had a fumble - take his cell phone away for one week and he will be good. Finished the game with 122 yards, two touchdowns and a tidy 6.1 average per carry.
Overall Defensive effort – This game was certainly a battle. Two touchdown passes were wide open players plus the Wilson run was uncontested, but the Seahawks were refuted many times over. After the blocked punt that put Seattle in business at the Browns’ 20-yard line, their offense had a first-and-goal from the eight, and then only gained six yards which resulted in a field goal. The Browns very next possession ended in an interception, yet produced zero points for the visitors. In all, the defense netted three sacks and six tackles for loss.
Defensive end Myles Garrett – The star defensive end had a solid outing and was a constant in the pass rush. He ended up with five tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks and almost a third.
Pass Blocking – The pocket held up for the majority of offensive plays. Only a few times was quarterback Baker Mayfield flushed to where he had to gain positive yardage, and once he scored from 10 yards out. Mayfield was not sacked a single time all game, something that should be in every game plan going forward.
Left guard Joel Bitonio and center J.C. Tretter – These two were consistent all game with pass blocking and positive yardage on key running plays. The game’s first touchdown was through the hole from these linemen which Chubb converted from seven yards out. The pocket was steady all game and at times textbook.
Phantom Calls – Take your pick. All of the following either stopped a good drive or gave the Seahawks a first down. Coaches teach wide receivers how to block, and then Jarvis Landry is hit with a blindside block when Seattle free safety Marquise Blair squared up and lowered his head at Landry. On Mayfield’s hopeless interception to cornerback Tre Flowers in the second quarter, OBJ approached Flowers after the pick but purposely did not touch him. Once Flowers got to his feet, Beckham swatted the ball away and recovered the apparent fumble – which instead was ruled Flowers “giving himself up.”
Who made sense of the Seahawks having 12-men on the field on the fourth-and-goal from the one? The officials ruled it dead, which was incorrect. The play should have ran, and then the penalty could be assessed if the offense chose to take it or take the play instead. Finally, Morgan Burnett’s bogus pass inference call. Really?
Right tackle Chris Hubbard – Any run to the rightside did not produce much all game. Then Hubbard had two costly penalties in the second half which negated good gains. Finally, on the fourth-and-goal stuff it was his man who made the tackle, defensive end Poona Ford.
Middle of the Defense – Wilson’s touchdown was straight up the middle unchallenged. Several big gains were to an empty defensive center. The fourth quarter one-yard touchdown run by the Seahawks’ Chris Carson went right up the gut without any problem. Both linebackers Mack Wilson and Joe Schobert were lined up pre-snap between the guards and tackles. DT Larry Ogunjobi was immediately taken to the ground while DT Sheldon Richardson was shoved to the side. This left nobody in the center and Carson wasn’t touched until two yards into the end zone while four defensive backs stood outside the ends helpless. Ogunjobi had his moments along with middle linebacker Schobert, but the Nile opened up way too many times for large gains.
Penalties and Turnovers – Yes, several of these were head-scratchers, but nine penalties for the league’s second most penalized club? The turnovers killed several drives. Chubb’s fumble was just a good play by the defense, and the Mayfield interception off of Hilliard’s hands was not his fault but went through Hilliard’s hands. But the interception in the second quarter was to nobody without much of pass rush pressure. And with a very good drive down the field just before half with points on the line, Mayfield threw into very tight coverage which resulted in a tipped pass for another turnover. The end result of that was Seattle drove down the field and scored a touchdown, which became the difference in the game. That one pick resulted in a 10 or 14 point swing. The Browns lost by four.
Safety Jermaine Whitehead – The Seahawks drove down the field just before halftime and scored a touchdown from Wilson to wide receiver Jaron Brown for 17 yards. Brown was wide open. On that drive, Whitehead was playing off C.J. Prosise for a 15-yard gain at midfield and a first down out-of-bounds which stopped the clock. On the very next play, Wilson scrambled and Whitehead completely forgot about his man Tyler Lockett to which he gained 22 yards to the Browns 17. The next play was the touchdown to Brown who was Whitehead’s man the entire time coming off the line. Brown simply made a prominent head bob to the center (which Whitehead took) and then darted out to the right corner of the end zone all alone. In the third quarter Whitehead allowed two 11-yard gains right in front of him which eventually the Seahawks scored on a six-yard pass that gave Seattle their first lead of the game 25-20.
Poor tackling Again – Hand grabbers and shoulder pad tacklers. This is the trend for the Browns, grab for a player with one hand or jump on the player at the opponent’s greatest width (shoulder pads) and then ride. Does anyone else see this? Forget tackling a player’s legs, just grab the other player somewhere and hope to pull him down? T.J. Carrie, Damarious Randall, Eric Murray, Jermaine Whitehead, and Morgan Burnett were all guilty of this at the worst times.
Milk Bones - some good and some with a bad taste
Special Teams – Running back Dontrell Hilliard had two very nice returns including the 74-yarder to start the game. Linebacker Adarius Taylor was stationed in the center of the blocking pattern on punts and slid over to his right to block which allowed Seattle’s David Moore to come unattended from the center of the rush on the blocked punt. Kicker Austin Seibert missed his second PAT of the year. It was Taylor’s bullrush that resulted in the horrible punt by Seahawks’ punter Michael Dickson at the back edge of his own end zone in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield – For all the good things Mayfield performed in this game, he also had three interceptions. One pick was while on the front door of scoring, another was deep in their own end of the field. He had many passes that were overthrown or simply not on target. This is what happened trying to hit OBJ in the second quarter and instead was a gift pick. The interception into the end zone should never have been thrown. At no time was Jarvis Landry open. Mayfield did a good job reading the defense and he stayed in the pocket which produced a good passing game. The few times he was forced to scramble he made positive yardage and even scored once. But he threw behind receivers all game. His final numbers were pedestrian with 22 completions from 37 attempts for 249 yards, but the three INTs were killers. He injured his hip yet remained in the game which shows courage and determination. He also had several key hookups with OBJ. The interception in end zone, however, changed the outcome of the game completely.
Cornerback T.J. Carrie – The absence of Ward meant Carrie had to play, and play well. He had several good pass breakups at critical times, but also whiffed on Metcalf which ended up a 30-yard gain and allowed several large gains in situations that required a stop. He was an important cog in the run game and finished with a game-high 10 tackles.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. – It was good to see OBJ involved in the offense once again. He made a spectacular grab with 4:55 to go in the first half for 41 yards, but the drive ended in an interception. He finished with 101 yards. He also had three drops, each full two-handers and potential drive enhancers.
Play Calling – Overall a good game plan. While the Browns wanted to establish the run game, the fact that Freddie Kitchens involved Odell Beckham, Jr. early and often paid dividends. The touchdown to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones was a drag route that was executed perfectly with the other receivers going left while Seals-Jones came across the field underneath.
What was entirely a farce was the Browns were down to the 10-yard line right before the half and had gotten great mileage out of Chubb. It was only second down, and Mayfield threw into tight coverage which resulted in the interception which then resulted in the Seahawks driving the length of the field for what would end up being the deciding points. Why didn’t they run Chubb on second and third downs? They had three points in their pocket and would have run a lot more time off the clock.
The Browns went for it on three fourth downs and converted two – while the third was highly contested from the Seahawks’ one yard line and overall was a crazy part of the game. The passing game also saw plenty of long throws which had been MIA recently in game plans. Running the exact same play on the fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line was a Do’h! moment.
Defensive end Olivier Vernon – The defensive end had a good first half and then forced a fumble near midfield in the Seahawks third possession of the third stanza which looked like it had promise. He finished with four tackles and had good presence in the Seahawks backfield which helped out on two of the Browns sacks.
Pass Coverage – With Pro Bowler Denzel Ward out plus promising rookie Greedy Williams, the defensive backfield had to rely on their second-teamers to fill the voids. The result was three Seattle touchdown passes and almost a 300-yard day for Wilson. With the Seahawks first possession, Wilson hit D.K. Metcalf for a four-yard completion to which Carrie arm grabbed and missed the tackle. Randall engaged Metcalf at the 22-yard line and does a double-arm grab and then falls. Carrie catches up and then bear hugs the receiver but after being dragged another five yards out-of-bounds. The result of the four-yard completion was a 30-yard play on third down. Other big passing plays were for 21, 35, 19, 15, 22, 17, and 15 yards. The Browns had no timeouts remaining and Seattle faced a third and seven with 2:32 left in the game. Wilson found Metcalf for eight yards which essentially ended the game.