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Brownies and Frownies: Browns edge Bills 19-16

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If Cleveland still has playoff dreams, it had to wake up against a very stingy Bills defense.

Buffalo Bills v Cleveland Browns Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills was basically the 2019 season for the Cleveland Browns. A loss would place Cleveland at 2-7 and basically end their year.

The 6-2 Bills are quite good this year. They feature the league’s third best rushing team, whereas the Browns don’t offer much as far as run defense. If Cleveland had any chance of making the postseason, it had to start with a victory over Buffalo.

Luckily, the Browns escaped with a 19-16 home win (their first home win of the season) with the help of two missed Steve Hauschka field goals.

Brownies

Running back Nick Chubb – If the Pro Bowl voting ended today, Chubb would represent the AFC. He is a beast. The 116 yards he gained doesn’t even scratch the surface of the kind of gutsy running he displayed against Buffalo. He is also a good blocker and was needed many times. Zero touchdowns, but he kept moving the chains.

Buffalo Bills v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The left side of the offensive line – A good day for the combination of left guard Joel Bitonio, left tackle Greg Robinson and center JC Tretter. Robinson did have issues with Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes on more than one occasion, but overall the holes that Chubb made the most yardage occurred through the left side. Tretter is quietly having a Pro Bowl year.

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry – By far, Landry is the number one receiver for the Browns. Rarely does he have any drops and his number is called upon when the offense needs six yards on a third-and-five. His 17-yard touchdown grab in the first quarter was simply timing his jump and grabbing the rock with two hands. The subsequent taunting penalty afterward cost the club the extra point with a 15-yard setback on the 48-yard attempt, but overall a strong game. Landry is also a very capable down field blocker, as evidenced on the 21-yard run by Chubb in the fourth quarter that set up the winning touchdown.

Defensive end Myles Garrett – The overall pass rush was weak for most of the game, but Garrett’s effort was not. He had a solid outing, including several quarterback pressures and hurries. Chad Thomas’ sack should have been a half-sack counted for Garrett.

Zero turnovers and few penalties – Finally a game that the Browns did not shoot themselves in the foot or hand the game over. Only one fumble by Dontrell Hilliard on a punt but was recovered. Just four penalties for a mere 70 yards. Sterling.

Linebacker Mack Wilson – Four total tackles and made several key plays at key moments. Is better in pass protection than assumed for a rookie.

Buffalo Bills v Cleveland Browns
Rashard Higgins
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Finishing – Finally, a great final drive to seal the win. After Buffalo went up 16-12 with 5:26 left in the game, the Browns began a 10-play drive that took 3:42 off the clock and culminated with a seven-yard Baker Mayfield to Rashard Higgins touchdown pass. Included in the drive was a critical third-and-seven for nine yards, plus Chubb reeled off an awesome 21-yard run while Landry snagged a key 24-yard pass that put the Browns in business. One thought though: with a three-point lead and Buffalo driving to what would become another missed field goal at the end of the game, it should be noted that for the second week in a row, head coach Freddie Kitchens refused to attempt a chip-shot three pointer earlier in the game. If made, the Bills would have been faced with a six-point deficit instead of only three when facing a fourth-and-four at Cleveland’s 35-yard line. An offense that struggles to score points should not shy away from getting easy points.

Frownies

The right side of the offensive line – All night long, Chubb would be stuffed trying to run to the right. Right tackle Chris Hubbard and right guard Wyatt Teller could not push defenders Trent Murphy or Ed Oliver out of harm’s way. Pass protection from each was adequate, but run blocking was horrible. During the eight plays the Browns ran from the one-yard line which resulted in zero points, the Browns ran Chubb five times; four of which were to the right side, which resulted in minus one, one yard, no gain, and minus-two for a turnover on downs.

Red Zone Offense – Although better than last week, the Browns are going to have to figure out a way to get more points out of these nice drives. On four trips they scored one touchdown and one field goal and refused to kick another field goal. Eight plays were run from inside the two-yard line with zero points scored in the second quarter. Twice the Browns had the ball first down on the one after two pass inference calls on Odell Beckham Jr.

Middle Run defense – One of the issues with running a 4-2-5 defense is that the center of the defense can often be had for large gains. This happened repeatedly all game. Bills quarterback Josh Allen rushed for two touchdowns both up the gut. On his first scamper in the first quarter on a second-and-eight from the Browns 10-yard line, Allen began in shotgun while Cleveland rushed four. It was a quarterback draw all the way with a tight end and three receivers - all spread wide. Tight end Tyler Kroft did a short out to the right side of the field and then got in the way of linebacker Joe Schobert who was covering him. While four Bills offensive linemen handled their man one-on-one, center Mitch Morse was free to move downfield in front of Allen. Both safeties were on the outer thirds, which meant nobody was home dead straight. Basically it was six pass defenders against four receivers and nobody guarding the middle. One would think the 4-3 in close proximity of the goal line would be warranted with more tacklers and less pass defenders.

Buffalo Bills v Cleveland Browns
Cole Beasley #10 of the Buffalo Bills looks for yards
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Pass Rush – Bills quarterback Josh Allen had all day to throw and time to pick his receivers. Receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley were consistently open, especially in the middle short portion, and continually killed Cleveland on key third-and-longs. The duo finished with 151 yards collectively.

Milk Bones – good and bad in the same biscuit

Safety Morgan Burnett – Often, Burnett was too far off his man or out of position. Buffalo’s Beasley and especially Brown made several nice catches without Burnett even in the picture yet. Burnett did have a fine game in run support and ended the game with eight tackles and swatted away two passes. But most of those tackles was after his man caught the ball. Burnett allowed pass completions of 12, 20, 7, 16, 21 and 21 yards. In both of the Bills scoring drives, there was a huge completion in front of Burnett.

Buffalo Bills v Cleveland Browns
Running back Kareem Hunt #27 blocks for running back Nick Chubb #24
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Running back Kareem Hunt – If Hunt had any rust, by the second quarter it had all fallen off. His excellent blocking skills were needed repeatedly. He showed he still has nice hands with seven receptions for 44 yards while finding plenty of space to run, especially to the left side as he gained 30 yards on four carries. His nine-yard reception on third-and-seven for a first down was a crucial moment in the final drive.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield – The first quarter touchdown pass was a thing of beauty and was placed where only Landry could reach it. Mayfield went 26-of-38 for 238 yards and two touchdowns. He also scrambled well when flushed from the pocket on occasion and still wanted to find a man downfield. Excellent final drive management although the assumed fumble to Hunt was a disaster that didn’t hurt them in the end. However, Mayfield never saw the safety blitz from his right on the safety as his eyes were fixated on his reads to the left side.

Special Teams – Kicker Austin Seibert was 2-2 on field goals, but missed an extra point which would have provided a four-point cushion instead of three at the end of the game. Punt returner Dontrell Hilliard muffed a punt on Buffalo’s second possession that almost set up the Bills at Cleveland’s 32. On the Bills missed field goal at the end of the game, the pass rush was incredibly fierce. Punter Jamie Gillan had three punts for a marvelous 48.6 average, plus nailed a 68 yarder after the safety. Kick returner Tavierre Thomas should have downed a kick one-yard in the end zone but instead ran it out and was tackled at the 18. Long snapper Charley Hughlett had an excellent day. Before Buffalo’s go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, a Gillan punt resulted in an Andre Roberts 22-yard return to Cleveland’s 48, which gave the Bills excellent starting position.