The 2019 NFL season is winding down, and the playoff picture becomes clearer each week. The Browns will not be part of the post season activities yet again. They had a slight chance but had to win out. That didn’t happen in the first game that was a must win by succumbing to the lowly Arizona Cardinals 38-24.
Before kickoff, the Cardinals owned the NFL’s worst defense and ranked dead last in passing defense and 24th against the run. Cleveland’s forte is running the ball, sparked by the league’s number one rusher Nick Chubb and aided by Kareem Hunt.
So, how did the Browns do? They played pathetic against a team that had only won three games all season. The Cardinals only had pride to play for whereas the Browns were hoping to tilt the odds and make the playoffs.
Running back Nick Chubb – What a special talent. If the Browns only have a single representative in the Pro Bowl this year, it will be Chubb. The league’s leading rusher did not disappoint the Arizona home crowd as he finished with 127 yards on 17 carries. The odd part was that in the first quarter he was only used three times against the league’s worst rushing defense, but in the second half he was a monster and had several huge gains. His 33-yard touchdown run in the second quarter is highlight material.
Leftside Offensive line – The majority of Chubb’s success was attributed to holes opened on the leftside of the offensive line. Tackle Greg Robinson, guard Joel Bitonio and center J.C. Tretter had a tremendous game and could often be seen on the second level taking on a man.
Safety Damarious Randall – Randall had a decent job in coverage and was just about everywhere with a tackle. Finshed with eight total tackles and often was the only defender left. With 10:23 to go in the third quarter, Cardinals’ running back Kenyon Drake busted up the middle for a 12-yard gain and if not for the solid tackling skills by Randall he would have taken it to the house. Randall did have a fine game in run support.
2019 season – Before the first game, experts had picked the Browns to win 10, 11 or 12 games, clinch the division since both Pittsburgh and Baltimore had gotten rid of several key players while Cincinnati is always Cincinnati. With the additions of OBJ, Sheldon Richardson, Olivier Vernon, Greedy Williams and Kareem Hunt, on paper the roster appeared a can’t miss. Last year’s 7-9-0 squad finished with elevated expectations and high hopes. If this roster finishes the same or even goes 8-8-0, it will have the feel of a losing season.
Rush Defense – The Browns could not stop the Cardinals when they needed to the most and gave up 226 yards rushing for the game. If #41 Drake was on your fantasy team you had a great game, but the Browns did not have an answer to stop him. Another problem was Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray who had 53 rushing yards in the first quarter alone. Drake ended the game with 137 yards and scored four touchdowns. Basically, the Cardinals offensive line had their way with the Browns’ 26th ranked rushing defense.
Offensive Play calling – The Cardinals had the league’s worst rushing defense yet with over eight minutes to go before the first half Kareem Hunt had one carry for zero yards whereas Nick Chubb had three carries for seven yards in the first quarter and a total of six carries for 27 yards before he reeled off the 33-yard scamper for the Browns’ first touchdown. The 11-play drive to start the third stanza was a thing of beauty which featured hard running by Chubb and ended with a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, but the next three drives ended with a 35-yard Jamie Gillan punt, a missed Austin Seibert field goal and a Seals-Jones fumble. In each of those drives, the pass was preferred to the run game.
Pass Rush – No Olivier Vernon, no Myles Garrett, no pass rush every week. Cardinals’ signal caller Murray had all day to throw on just about every passing down. The pass rush of Larry Ojunjobi, Bryan Cox, Jr., Sheldon Richardson, Chad Thomas and Porter Gustin just was non-existent. The few times Murray was flushed from the pocket ended up with large rushing gains by the Cards quarterback.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield – Overthrown balls, underthrown balls, passes behind receivers, not getting rid of the ball when the pocket is in the process of collapse. Does that pretty much sum it up? The interception in the first half by Patrick Peterson cost the Browns valuable points at the end of a beautiful drive. With 4:54 left in the third quarter Mayfield almost had it picked by Peterson. Peterson almost had another interception with 1:53 left in the game on a pass to Jarvis Landry in the back corner of the end zone with double-coverage. Peterson had as many targets as four Cleveland receivers.
Defensive rightside Containment – All game long the Cardinals busted outside runs to the Browns rightside without any abled body to turn the runner back into the flow of play. Arizona runners had the corner every time they did a sweep, popped out to that side or especially Murray who chewed up Cleveland’s defense to that side on a scramble. Miss ya Myles!
Milk Bones – Meh and Yeah
Play to the Whistle – How many plays did you count that the Browns’ defensive players stood up and pointed towards the offensive line as if they had jumped offsides? What ended up happening on each of those plays was the defense was too busy pointing their fingers and were not ready when the ball was snapped which netted sizable gains for the Cardinals. When the whistle blows that is the time to get out of your stance - be focused instead.
Wide receiver Damion Ratley – The young receiver was given more snaps and had only two catches, but each proved its worth including a critical 21-yard gain and a 12-yard catch that led to Chubb’s touchdown in the second quarter. Ratley also had a crucial downfield block on Chubb’s long run for the score. What was puzzling was the fact that despite his key contributions he was only targeted those two catches.
Tight end Ricky Seals-Jones – Two touchdown catches and nifty blocking are his highlights. The 26-yard completion followed by the fumble basically eliminated any possibility of a comeback in this contest.
Kicker Austin Seibert – The missed field goal was a back breaker to the offense after an impressive 10 play drive that began at their own 22. The 45-yarder went wide left and would have put the Browns within eight points. He had good leg on the 44-yarder he made and was perfect on extra points. Most of his kickoffs are in the plus area which is assumed the way special teams coach Mike Priefer wants it.