So far this season, the Browns have beaten all the clubs with poor records and with the exception of Indianapolis, have lost to the good teams.
Philadelphia came into the contest leading their division sporting a dismal 3-5-1 record and numerous problems with their offensive line while leading the NFL in sacks allowed. Cleveland is very much in the hunt for the post-season. So, any win is a good win.
In the end, it was a 22-17 victory which moved the Browns not only to 7-3-0, but coupled with the Baltimore Ravens 30-24 loss slipped Cleveland into second place in the division.
Who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
LB Sione Takitaki - The young linebacker seemed to be everywhere in the first half. Multiple tackles, good coverage on tight end Dallas Goedert, a pass batted down, a tackle for a key loss, blitz pressure that allowed Eagles’ QB Carson Wentz to be sacked by Adrian Clayborn, and....oh yeh, an interception ran back for the game’s first points which proved to be the difference in the final outcome.
DE Olivier Vernon - No Myles Garrett? No problem. Vernon was constantly in the backfield and finished with three sacks. Also had three tackles for losses and just before the half, batted down a ball that would have kept the Eagles drive going but instead forced a punt. Led the defense in QB hits with three. With 3:59 left in the third quarter, Vernon nailed RB Miles Sanders after a two-yard gain. On the ensuing play, Vernon beat OT Jason Peters miserably with an outside push and nailed Wentz for the safety just as the QB was getting his feet set.
Second half rushing - The Eagles were ranked 24th against the run, yet the Browns could not move the ball on the ground until the second half. Of the 137 yards rushing for the game, all but 18 yards came in the second half. Nick Chubb finished with 114 yards while Kareem Hunt had just 11, but scored the game’s only rushing TD. The gap between J.C. Tretter and Joel Bitonio saw many nice gains in half Number 2 although Hunt’s nine-yard loss in the third quarter was an attempt to this same hole.
CB Denzel Ward - Whether it was WR Alshon Jeffrey or WR Travis Fulgham, neither athlete could gather in many balls with Ward’s smooth coverage. Only two balls were completed his way all game. Had two missed tackles for the contest, but was smothering the two big name receivers who ended up with a total of one catch for eight yards. His interception was his ability to time his jump correctly and catch the ball at his full height. Missed another shot at an interception, but overall had a terrific game. The Takitaki pick six was the result of Ward off the edge and hitting Wentz as he released. Ward’s pass interference call with 2:07 left in the game was a completely bogus call.
Pass rush - Whether is was Vernon in the backfield or Sheldon Richardson, all game long the pass rush placed constant pressure on Wentz. Clayborn was also a constant force with several key stops, 1.5 sacks and two QB hits which were both just shy of a sack. Porter Gustin and Jordan Elliott both were very active with Guston a near miss on another sack. DC Joe Woods had a good game plan and it worked consistently. Elliott caused the fumble in the first quarter.
Punt coverage - Have you noticed that nobody gets anywhere if one of Jamie Gillan’s punts are actually run back? Elijah Lee, Tavierre Thomas, longsnapper Charley Hughlett and Takitaki are instantly in the returner’s space with sure tackling. The punt downed at the two by Thomas was classic.
WR KhaDarel Hodge - His catch of 42-yards in the third quarter was huge right after the Eagles scored their touchdown. The big gain led to a 46-yard Cody Parkey field goal. Finished the game with 73 yards.
LB Malcom Smith - Playing at the middle linebacker role for much of the game, he had no answers in coverage of either tight end Goedert or Richard Rodgers. Smith had three missed tackles in the game and led all defenders in this category. With 2:56 left in the game, he missed RB Sanders on a short pass which gained nine yards and kept the Eagles drive going right before Ward’s interception. Just four tackles for the game, all after Goedert and Rodgers had secured the catch.
Third down conversions - Was 3-10 for the game. Ouch. That means seven drives were stalled because of failed conversions.
Fourth down conversions - Coming into this game, the Browns were 5-13 in fourth down attempts. Was 0-1 in this game and resulted in zero points. On a drive that began at their own four-yard line, the Browns were able to move the ball mainly with short passes before Hodge’s catch placed the ball at Philly’s 41. Two plays later, a pass interference call put the ball at the one with a first down. Next: Hunt minus one, incomplete pass to Austin Hooper, Hunt for one. Three downs netted zero yards. A field goal would have given Cleveland a 10-point advantage at the half. In the end, it would have padded the lead by eight points. Please - take the points.
MILK BONES - Icy to dull, hot to relax
OT Jedrick Wills - Several key gains were gained between Wills and LG Joel Bitonio. Wills had problems with the pass rush of DE Josh Sweat and then allowed a sack by Sweat in the second quarter. Wills is a mauler in the running game, but can be beaten with pass protection. Sweat also had a QB hit and got around Wills for two tackles behind the line.
K Cody Parkey - The Eagles were only able to run one kickoff back. Parkey nailed a 46-yarder in the driving rain and in the fourth quarter a 28-yarder. The blocked field goal attempt was the inability of the left interior offensive line to stop deep penetration. Made both PATs.
Missed opportunities - Ward dropped an interception, Hunt’s touchdown was reversed, Mack Wilson’s interception was reversed, first-and-goal netted zero points, blocked field goal, good field position after the safety provided zero points, Baker Mayfield overthrown ball to wide open Hooper in the end zone.
WR Rashard Higgins - Hollywood is getting much better at downfield blocking as evidenced by still controlling his man as Chubb broke numerous tackles and continued downfield on that 54-yard gain. Higgins was targeted four times with three catches for 65 yards. His 43-yard reception on the Browns second possession of the game led to the first-and-goal at the one. Decent numbers, but mostly on one catch.
QB Baker Mayfield - Had a very pedestrian first half, but found success after the intermission. His fumble was a gift to Philly at the Browns’ 19-yard line who then scored a touchdown. Mayfield was very effective passing rolling out to either side. His rollout run netted a key first down in the third quarter, but he overthrew several players including Hooper in the end zone for a sure touchdown early in the game. In the second quarter he overthrew Higgins on a third-and-seven. With 7:07 left in the third quarter, another overthrown ball was attempted to Hodge who had gotten open. Was sacked three times. Finished with 204 yards on 12 completions.
With the Browns on the Eagles one-yard line and having gained zero yards in three downs and still at the one, what would you have called?
This poll is closed
Run Hunt up the middle
Kick the field goal
Have Mayfield roll out to pass to receiver or tight end in the back corner of end zone with the option to run if needed
Run Hunt to the wide side and let him use his speed