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Brownies & Frownies: Browns defeat the Colts 32-23 with passing game

Two teams with identical 3-1-0 records duke it out

Indianapolis Colts v Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Leading up to the Browns versus the Indianapolis Colts contest, it was difficult to gauge who Cleveland really was.

After getting killed by the Baltimore Ravens in the opener, the Browns reeled off three wins. However, all three of those teams have a combined record of 3-8-1 and are considered some of the worst teams in the league this year.

Nevertheless, a win is a win - and everyone takes the “W”.

Meanwhile, look at who the Colts had beaten: New York Jets (0-4-0), Minnesota Vikings (1-3-0) and gave the Chicago Bears (4-1-0) their only loss. The Colts lone loss was to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3-0), but basically gave the game away late. This means Indianapolis could actually be 4-0-0 prior to the Cleveland game.

Going into the contest, both teams had identical 3-1-0 records. Here is the most interesting stat: while both teams can score points with 124 total points (Browns) and the Colts’ 103 total points, look at what each defense had allowed - Cleveland 126 total points, Indy 56 total points.

As Myles Garrett put it prior to the game: “They’re a tough team, and we’re a tough team and we just have to duke it out and see who executes better.”

In the end, it was a pivotal win for the Browns and places Cleveland at 4-1-0 record. The last time the Browns were 4-1, Jennifer Aniston wasn’t Jennifer Aniston yet. Better yet, Cleveland beat a very good football team and has shown they can play with the big boys.

So who played well for the Browns? Who could have played better?


Brownies

Indianapolis Colts v Cleveland Browns
Cody Parkey
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

K Cody Parkey - The former Pro Bowl kicker was a perfect 3-3 on field goals including the dramatic 46-yarder with 2:29 left in the game to salt the game away and go up by two scores. Parkey was also 3-3 on extra points. The nine points he scored on field goals was the exact margin of victory.

Offensive line: pass blocking - Head coach Kevin Stefanski knew the Browns were not going to be able to run the ball, so short to intermediate passes and occasional screens were called. The offensive line gave QB Baker Mayfield ample time for most of the contest with only four pocket collaspes. Center J.C. Tretter, LG Joel Bitonio, RG Wyatt Teller and then Chris Hubbard, plus RT Jack Conklin and LT Jedrick Wills, Jr. had a banner day overall. One total sack for the NFL’s best defense plus three QB hits and a mere two tackles-for-loss. Well done boys.

DE Myles Garrett - The Colts have one of the best offensive lines in football - just not today. Garrett was constantly harassing Indy QB Phillip Rivers and either making the play or causing a disruption. His four total tackles did not tell his story; his sack and four QB hits did. At one point in the third quarter, Garrett had completely taken over the game with quarterback pressure. The safety was a result of him being in Rivers’ face to which the QB had to hurry his throw. With 11:35 to go in the game, it was Garrett who pushed his man into Rivers where S Sheldrick Redwine then captured the interception.

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens
Ronnie Harrison
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

SS Ronnie Harrison - Getting his first start of the year after being traded from Jacksonville, Harrison made the most of the opportunity and looked like the dominant safety he was projected to be. Two excellent batted down passes in the first half was capped off by the electric pick-six early in the third stanza that made every Browns’ viewing party leap to their feet as Cleveland went up 27-10. Later, he left for concussion protocol, and the Colts began to have some nice drives with soft coverage in the middle - where Harrison had been.

LG Joel Bitonio on Colts DT DeForest Buckner - All week long, all anyone talked about was how much of a beast Buckner was and his disruptive nature. Final game stats: five total tackles, and one QB hit. Tretter and Hubbard had Buckner lined up in front of them occasionally, but Bits was the main protector and held a dominant defender in check.

LB Malcolm Smith - The veteran had a very good game and showed promise to the LB corps. When he blitzed, he was close to at least three sacks and had a good coverage day. Five solo tackles and a key batted down pass early in the game.

Play of the Day - The Browns were up 29-20. The Colts had just driven down the field and were stopped on a key third down. They kicked the short field goal needing two scores. Now, it was 29-23. Cleveland’s next drive would either save or sink the game which began at their own 32-yard line. RB Kareem Hunt had the Browns longest run of the day with a 10-yard burst over right tackle Conklin. Then a one-yard gain. Meanwhile, Indy had used up two of their precious timeouts. Mayfield then short-armed it to TE Austin Hooper with an incompletion. Facing a third-and-nine, Mayfield settled in shotgun. RB D’Ernest Johnson burst off left tackle Wills with Higgins pulling from his right receiver slot position to lead block. RG Hubbard had pulled to his left while Hooper and Wills sealed off the edge. Leftside receiver Jarvis Landry pushed his defensive back into the center. Instead of pursuing the outside edge, Johnson found a small crease between Hooper and Wills and popped through. With Hubbard taking out the linebacker, Higgins was alone still leading downfield with Johnson hot on his heels. The only player left was Colts’ FS Julian Blackmon who dove and was able to knock Johnson down, but not until the running back had gained 28-yards and dashed any hope of an Indianapolis comeback.


Frownies

FS Andrew Sendejo - On the Colts’ first drive, with 7:32 left in the first quarter, LB B.J. Goodson released receiver Marcus Johnson to the deep zone. Sendejo failed to pick up Johnson and was over in double coverage of Indy wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. Meanwhile, Johnson was wide open and the result was a 36-yard gain. In the second quarter, receiver Ashton Dulin did a simple fly pattern to the center of the field and caught a circus catch for 34-yards. If the pass had not been overthrown slightly, the result would have been six. Sendejo was slow to react to the play and was yards away from Dulin. Indianapolis would kick a field goal to tie the game 10-10 as a result of the good field position. Sendejo had several missed tackles including one with 4:00 left in the game that would have set the stage for a third-and-long.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marcus Johnson (83) makes a catch as Cleveland Browns free safety Andrew Sendejo (23) defends
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Browns’ offense in the second half - Cleveland needed some long drives to erase clock. Instead, their last five drives were INT, punt, punt, INT, and field goal. The offense just could not get into any type of rhythm in the second half.

Run defense - While the pass rush was excellent, the run stoppage game had its problems with an emphasis on stopping the run on third downs. Yes, run plugger DT Larry Ogunjobi was out and later Sheldon Richardson was hurt. But up the middle was an issue for most of the game especially with rookie RB Jonathan Taylor.


Milk Bones – They love me, they love me not. They love me, they love me not.

Browns’ pass rush - Despite one of the better offensive lines, Cleveland was able to get a very good pass rush for most of the game. But late in the game, DT Sheldon Richardson was sidelined followed by rookie Jordan Elliott followed by Garrett. Vernon had a good push and was very active as was Porter Gustin and Adrian Clayborn. The absence of Larry Ogunjobi was evident later in the fourth quarter when a fresh set of legs was needed.

QB Baker Mayfield - The offensive line really did a good job for Mayfield who found the short passing game and played well within this scheme. The touchdown pass to Kareem Hunt was thrown in a tight window and he used his tight ends well. But, the two interceptions absolutely killed good drives and almost gave the game away. The second INT was overthrown and behind his tight end.

WR Rashard Higgins - Not having played in three weeks was motivation enough. Pegged as the Number 3 receiver, he was able to juke his way free several times and snag all three targets including the 15-yard touchdown catch with 4:15 left in the first half. Had a terrific block on “the play of the game.” Welcome back Hollywood - we missed you.

Play calling - Stefanski had an excellent game plan to move the ball on offense with the short passing game. Kudos. What was odd was the fact that with just over eight minutes to go and kissing a narrow 29-20 lead, every play called was a run in a game in which they couldn’t run at all. That was a lot of time to think the offense could simply run every down, make multiple first downs and wind down the clock. With 2:44 to go and a slimmer 29-23 lead, Indianapolis was being forced to use up all three of their time outs. The Browns ran, ran, and then threw an incomplete pass to stop the clock and give the Colts a free time out. Luckily, the very next play was Johnson’s 28-yard dash.

Indianapolis Colts v Cleveland Browns
Jonathan Taylor #28 of the Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball while being tackled by Sione Takitaki #44
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Linebackers B.J. Goodson and Sione Takitaki - Goodson had a game-high nine tackles and was decent against the run. He has weaknesses covering the back out of the backfield and doesn’t have very good penetration when asked to rush the passer. Could not keep up with the Colts’ Zach Pascal in the second quarter which resulted in a key 14-yard gain. Takitaki had some major hits and finished with seven total tackles. Finally, some good LB play.

S Sheldrick Redwine - One play, one interception. Gotta mention that.

Poll

Despite being the league’s Number 1 rushing team, in this game, the Browns’ offensive gameplan was to throw the short game. Agree on the strategy?

This poll is closed

  • 94%
    Seemed to work just fine
    (1250 votes)
  • 5%
    Should have run the ball more often
    (69 votes)
1319 votes total Vote Now