The Cleveland Browns played the defending NFC Champs Los Angeles Rams close all night and eventually lost 20-13 in the nationally televised Sunday Night Football game. There were some good plays, some of the same ole same ole, and many bad plays in a game that could have been tied and determined the winner in overtime.
Defensive tackles Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson - The interior of the defensive front did its job all night long as the Rams were never able to develop a running game. Running back Todd Gurley had a mere 43 yards rushing, but could not run up the middle. These two men were especially stout in the second half and combined for seven tackles.
Running back Nick Chubb - While Chubb did not display spectacular numbers, he was consistent and had several big rips for timely first downs. He rushed 23 times for 96 yards and added four pass receptions for 35 yards. Would be nice to see him more involved in the passing game rather than just short dump passes, but the offensive line must give Mayfield more time.
Cornerback T.J. Carrie - Playing in the nickel and dime packages, Carrie had a good game in the second half and was only thrown his way twice. On his interception in the third quarter, he jumped Rams’ wide receiver Brandin Cooks route and basically stole the pass with a spectacular diving snag just off the ground. With 6:40 left in the game and the Rams driving, his timely tip of a Jared Goff pass on third down stalled another excellent Los Angeles drive and forced a field goal instead.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield - The Browns quarterback did not have spectacular numbers going 18-36 for 195 yards, but he kept the offense on the field more times than expected. When he wasn’t running for his life, he was accurate and hit wide receiver Jarvis Landry on several key receptions. He was sacked three times, but that number could just as easily been doubled if not for his scrambling abilities and knowing when to throw the ball out-of-bounds and live another down.
Center J.C. Tretter - The Browns were able to run up the middle with Chubb when necessary usually off of Tretter and left guard Joel Bitonio. Tretter had to contend with Rams nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day who was basically a non-factor all night and concluded with a single tackle. Of the many times Mayfield was flushed from the pocket or sacked, none of these situations was Tretter’s man.
Kicker Austin Seibert - For the second week in a row, the rookie kicker nailed 3 of 3 field goals. His kickoffs are also consistently laying in the minus-one to minus-five in the end zone. Nice game rook.
Former linebacker Clay Matthews, Jr. - For his efforts as a Cleveland Brown, the franchise hoisted this man’s name into the stadium Ring of Honor, and it was about time. Number 57 played for several of the great teams mainly during the Marty Schottenheimer era, went to four Pro Bowls and finished his career with 1,595 tackles, 69.5 sacks and 16 interceptions.
Right guard Eric Kush and right tackle Justin McCray - Neither of these two men had any semblance of a good game especially in the passing attack. Both were beat constantly by Aaron Donald or Michael Brockers with an emphasis on McCray around the end. This forced Mayfield to flee the pocket on multiple occasions or was sacked. Kush’s false start penalty with 2:41 to go in the first half pushed the Browns back out of field goal range. With eight seconds to go in the half, it was Kush’s man who sacked Mayfield.
Missed offensive scoring opportunities - Where does this one begin? In the first half with 1:44 left, MLB Joe Schobert recovered a fumble after Myles Garrett slapped the ball out of Goff’s hand. This set the Browns up at the Rams 17 yard line with :18. After three incomplete passes, Cleveland settled for a 35-yard Austin Seibert field goal. Carrie’s interception placed the Browns at their own 49 yard line, only to punt after a three-and-out. Down by seven with 2:54 remaining in the game, Schobert tips a Goff pass to where safety Justin Burris intercepts and gave the Browns the ball at their own 43. After several key pass completions, two to Jarvis Landry, Cleveland was in business at the Rams’ four yard line. NBC Sports announcer Al Michaels asked out loud if the Browns would go for the two point conversion after they scored. Instead, the end result was three Mayfield incomplete passes followed by the game-ending interception. Most of these downs displayed Mayfield having to leave the pocket multiple times as the offensive line could not contain the Rams defensve front.
Lack of passing attack - At no time during this game was any of the Browns’ receivers a threat with the exception of Landry. OBJ was invisible for most of the contest, as was Damion Ratley and tight end Demetrius Harris. Baker’s 195 passing yards is very pedestrian numbers. This club will not win many games completing only 18 passes. The main problem with this stat is the inability of the offensive line to allow Mayfield the time to survey the field, and give the receivers time to finish their routes.
Safety Jermaine Whitehead - With one of his worst tackling efforts all night, Whitehead was consistently beaten or out of position on several key moments that could have changed the outcome of the game. On the Rams’ touchdown to wide receiver Cooper Kupp, Whitehead bumped Cupp at the line and then basically just let him go free. While every other defender was glued to their man, Cupp was wide open for the score. With 7:15 to go in the game, Goff took off on a quarterback keeper and then dove short of the first down marker. Meanwhile, Whitehead came in with a very late hit on Goff which resulted in a 15-yard penalty and a first down which gave the Rams the ball at Cleveland’s 43 yard line and eventually set up another field goal. Whitehead has been a backup until having to start this game, and his inexperience in crucial games came to light.
Phantom non-challenge of pass interference - Playing in the fourth quarter on a good drive with 9:14 left, the Browns failed to challenge an obvious pass interference call. The result of the play would be a five-yard illegal formation penalty, but with the successful call would have been a replay of the down. The yardage difference was inconsequential, however, the drive stalled and resulted in yet another punt. Would one more down have helped? We will never know.