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Brownies and Frownies: Cleveland lost to NFL’s worst team 33-23

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Last game of the year lacked intensity and competitiveness.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 NFL season is finally over for the Browns. In their final game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the only thing either club was playing for was the “Paul Brown Cup”, if there was such a thing. Maybe there should be.

The Bengals will have the number one pick in the draft whereas the Browns were just trying to, well, close out the year with a lesser losing record? Supposedly 7-9-0 was better than 6-10-0? Maybe in the drafting order next spring.

To say this season was a disappointment is saying that Lake Michigan is a really big pond. Cleveland was supposed to be in the playoffs this year, and yet they ended with their 12th losing season in a row.

The only questions left is whether head coach Freddie Kitchens will get the ax on Black Monday tomorrow.

So, how did the Browns do in the finale? The one-win Bengals doubled their tally in the win column with the 33-23 victory. The 2019 season has been the worst-case scenario to the roster who was predicted to be in the playoffs this year, but instead finish 6-10-0 and losing four of their final five games.

Brownies

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry – One of the bright spots for the Browns all year, and he did not disappoint. Despite only two catches all game, he had 82 yards and caught a magnificent touchdown that is highlight reel material. The head-scratcher is why he was only targeted six times on the league’s 23rd worst passing defense.

Third down Defense – The Bengals only converted on five of 11 third-down attempts, and one of those was from a Greedy Williams pass interference call.

Secondary Players – Against the Bengals, several players had their moments such as wide receiver Damon Ratley and tight end Stephen Carlson with his blocking skills. Ratley had the game’s first touchdown, one of only two balls he caught for 64 yards. DT Larry Ojunjobi had a sack, two tackles for loss and six total tackles.

Defensive end Bryan Cox, Jr. – The four total tackles do not tell this man’s story in the game. Cox had constant pressure in the pass rush and was a menace with run support. He saved a touchdown when Bengals’ tight end Tyler Eifert broke two missed tackles and headed up the middle of the field with only hash marks left to cover. Cox’s pursuit and leg tackling saved a score. He also nailed Eifert for a seven-yard loss early in the third quarter.

Punter Jamie Gillan – His 62-yard punt was downed at the four after some debate. Gillan finished with two kicks inside the 20 and a 51.8 average. The current NFL leader has a 44.4 average.

Frownies

Offensive Tackles – Both right tackle Greg Robinson and left tackle Chris Hubbard brought out new lows for the cornermen. Neither could contain linebacker Jordan Evans (#50), Carl Lawson (#58) nor defensive end Carlos Dunlap (#96) and made them all appear to be Pro Bowlers. Dunlap had 2.5 sacks and was a constant in the backfield all game.

Head coach Freddie Kitchens/Offensive play calling – The game began with an incredibly quick drive that the entire stadium thought were signs to come with the long Ratley touchdown catch. Then, nothing happened. How can Jarvis Landry and OBJ has five catches between them for the entire game? The Bengals are dead last in rushing defense, yet despite having the league’s best running back, they had nine yards rushing in the first quarter and 74 for the entire contest.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield – Three interceptions is a hell of a lot when Cincinnati was ranked 28th in interceptions for the year. When flushed from the pocket, he needs to just tuck and run instead of still looking downfield. He is weak on throwing on the run without setting his feet. His first interception intended for Landry wasn’t even close to his receiver and set the Bengals up inside the five-yard line. Dunlap had another pressure, and Mayfield threw into double-coverage. Only 12 completed passes against a bottom-third pass defense. QB rating of 79.6 and just a horrible performance.

Pass Blocking – To Mayfield’s defense, his offensive line did him few favors. When dropping back to pass, most often it was jailbreak with Bengal defenders everywhere especially coming off both corners. Six sacks is unacceptable protection. A first-and-goal quickly became a fourth-and-20 with 7:55 left in the game. Could see three new linemen next year.

Safety Sheldrick Redwine – Horrible game and worse tackling skills. Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon simply plowed the field with Redwine and would have scored if Cox had not been in pursuit.

Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks – Three times the Bengals were in the Red Zone, three times that 4-2-5 defense remained and three times the opposing club scored touchdowns. Several long drives became scores. The third week in a row the opponent scored in excess of 30 points. The Browns’ DC had no answer for running back Joe Mixon as he gained 162 yards and scored twice. Coming into the game the Bengals were ranked 28th in rushing, yet found that Cleveland could bring those numbers up considerably. A single sack all game against one of the league’s worst offensive lines.

Playing Down To bad teams – The 2019 Cleveland Browns defeated the league’s best teams in the Baltimore Ravens, playoff-bound Buffalo Bills and Wild Card finalist in the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns should have beaten the 11-win Seattle Seahawks and spotted the 12-win New England Patriots two turnovers that led to two touchdowns and then lost by 14 points. And yet, the Browns could not defeat the three-win Arizona Cardinals, the equally bad Denver Broncos nor the one-win Bengals.

Milk Bones – sweet and sour

Defensive Backfield - Safety Damarious Randall had a half-sack but was weak in coverage. Denzel Ward had blanket coverage on Bengals’ receiver John Ross, III which led to the interception.

Special Teams – Kicker Austin Seibert nailed a 42-yard field goal and then missed an extra point, his fourth miss of the year. Great kick coverage by KhaDarel Hodge, Terrance Mitchell and Tae Davis. T.J. Carrie’s holding call on a Browns’ kickoff return in the second stanza really put the offense in a hole. Kickoff returner Taywan Taylor had a nice 19-yard return near the end of the game while D’Ernest Johnson netted 47-yards on the game’s opening play.

Running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt – Was a sad sight to see neither star backs utilized. The league’s worst rushing defense apparently was not a viable option for the league’s number one rusher.