The Cleveland Browns still had a shot at the playoffs heading into the day, but that ended with another letdown performance as the Arizona Cardinals defeated them by a score of 38-24.
The Cardinals received the ball first and had no issues getting to the edge on Cleveland’s defense, between quick screen passes to backs and receivers and runs by RB Kenyan Drake. A third-down catch by WR Larry Fitzgerald extended the drive, and then once they got to the red zone, QB Kyler Murray executed the read-option as Drake found the end zone easily. The six-yard touchdown gave Arizona an early 7-0 lead.
Made ya look pic.twitter.com/oFXXxDttiY— Arizona Cardinals ⋈ (@AZCardinals) December 15, 2019
The Browns drove the ball downfield on their first drive, but after getting to the 20 yard line on a first down play, it ended via a self-inflicted wound. QB Baker Mayfield dropped back and fired the ball to the end zone for WR Odell Beckham, but it was several feet high and into the arms of CB Patrick Peterson for the interception and a touchback.
Our ball.— Arizona Cardinals ⋈ (@AZCardinals) December 15, 2019
The Browns’ defense allowed a 28-yard end around on the first play to WR Christian Kirk, giving Arizona the edge in field position. The drive didn’t go much further after that, forcing a punt to give the ball back to Cleveland near the end of the first quarter. Cleveland’s drive started with a sack, as DE Chandler Jones hit Mayfield for a loss of six off the blindside. On third down, Mayfield reacted to no pressure and basically threw the ball away.
After Cleveland punted, the playcall to end the first quarter was for Murray to keep the ball and run, and he did so easily, weaving through the Browns’ defense for 35 yards before finally being brought down. To start the second quarter, it looked like the Browns might be able to tighten up — but instead, Murray had time to throw and found his receiver for a first down. A few plays later, Murray handed off to Drake for a 1-yard touchdown to make it a 14-0 game.
The next drive became the Nick Chubb drive. After getting to midfield, Chubb had carries of 17, 3, and 33 yards, the later of which was on a creative formation and then Chubb making defenders miss on the way to a touchdown to make it a 14-7 game mid-way through the second quarter.
.@NickChubb21 cannot be stopped #CLEvsAZ pic.twitter.com/Gxbn4h4Y90— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 15, 2019
On the Cardinals’ next drive, the defense finally made a big play as LB Mack Wilson jumped a route that was softly thrown by Murray to intercept it into field goal range. After two runs, the Browns faced a 3rd-and-2 at the 20 yard line. The playcall was a unique pitch forward to WR Jarvis Landry — a call that had potential, but Arizona’s line got push that forced a loss (including a whacky throw back to Mayfield, but never mind that). K Austin Seibert’s 44-yard field goal made it a 14-10 game.
PICKED!@5mackwilson1 with his first NFL INT! pic.twitter.com/Nbh2vIupr5— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 15, 2019
On Arizona’s next drive, a first down completion turned into a lot more when LB Joe Schobert missed a tackle, leading to a 51-yard gain. Once they got to field goal range, the Cardinals had a 4th-and-1 situation at the 26 yard line. Arizona decided to go for it, and got it easily with a run up the middle at the two-minute warning. Facing goal-to-go at the end of the half, Murray found third-string TE Dan Arnold in the back of the end zone, as S Sheldrick Redwine got lost in coverage. That made it a 21-10 game at the half.
Hey Arnold! pic.twitter.com/M41NbisFPb— Arizona Cardinals ⋈ (@AZCardinals) December 15, 2019
The Browns began the second half with a drive centered on Chubb running some more, and it paid dividends. The key play was a 29-yard run in which he used his blocks to perfection to get the ball in a goal-to-go situation.
2️⃣4️⃣ breaks free for 2️⃣9️⃣!#CLEvsAZ pic.twitter.com/vfeRHoDeQ2— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 15, 2019
On 2nd-and-goal from the 3 yard line, Mayfield found TE Ricky Seals-Jones uncovered on a crossing route for the touchdown to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 21-17.
.@bakermayfield to @RickySealsJones for 6️⃣!#CLEvsAZ pic.twitter.com/Tp1w0sXAxr— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 15, 2019
Cleveland’s defense actually forced a relatively quick stop on the next drive, giving the offense their first chance of the day to take a lead. Instead, the offense went three-and-out, including a weird third down play where the pocket was rolled to the right, but Landry didn’t seem to fight very much for the pass that fell incomplete to the sideline. On replay, you could see that Beckham was actually wide open at the second level. A short punt by P Jamie Gillan set the Cardinals up at Arizona’s 39 yard line to begin their next series.
Arizona quickly moved into field goal range on their next series. On a 3rd-and-3 at the 22 yard line, Murray threw a flag to the end zone, with FS Damarious Randall in coverage. There was some contact, but Randall spun his head around in time to help force the incompletion. The Cardinals challenged pass interference and got it, moving the ball to the one yard line and a 1st-and-goal. Drake punched it in to make it a 28-17 game with 1:40 to go in the third quarter.
Cleveland got the ball to midfield at the end of the third quarter, thanks to a couple of passes to Chubb and Hunt. At the start of the fourth quarter, Cleveland moved the ball into long field goal range, but couldn’t pick up the first down on a quick pass to Landry. Down 11 points, head coach Freddie Kitchens sent Seibert out for a 48-yard field goal, and he missed it with 12:05 left in the game.
The Cardinals put together another drive in which they moved it with ease via Drake on the ground. Drake capped it off with a wide open 17-yard touchdown run, his fourth of the game, to put the game out of reach at 35-17 with 7:25 to go in the game.
When three touchdowns just isn't enough... pic.twitter.com/i3vlUdzAso— Arizona Cardinals ⋈ (@AZCardinals) December 15, 2019
On the Browns’ first play of their next drive, Mayfield hit Seals-Jones for a gain to midfield, but then the ball popped out after he hit the ground. The ruling on the field was a fumble, and despite reviews not really showing the ball coming out, the call on the field stood. After another big run by Drake, Arizona had a goal-to-go situation. This time, they were held to a field goal, making it 38-17.
The Browns were able to tack on a touchdown pass to Seals-Jones, but it was on a lengthy 19-play drive that ate up some clock. The score made it a 38-24 game with 1:21 to go and the Browns having two timeouts. Cleveland went for an onside kick, but Fitzgerald recovered it. I know the chances were slim to come back at that point, but Kitchens inexplicably kept both timeouts in his pocket and let the Cardinals kneel it out. So much stupidity.
- QB Baker Mayfield: 30-of-43 for 247 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT.
- RB Nick Chubb: 17 carries, 127 yards (7.47 YPC), 1 TD. 3 catches, 21 yards (3 targets).
- RB Kareem Hunt: 4 carries, 14 yards (3.5 YPC). 8 catches, 62 yards (9 targets).
- WR Odell Beckham: 8 catches, 66 yards (13 targets).
- WR Jarvis Landry: 5 catches, 23 yards (8 targets).
- TE Ricky Seals-Jones: 3 catches, 29 yards (4 targets). 2 TD, 1 fumble.