The Browns defense is hurting. The Tennessee Titans have scored the sixth most points this season. Those two ingredients appeared to spell disaster for Cleveland despite a three-game winning streak.
Cleveland went into this contest trying to prove that they are more than a club that can only feast on the bottom feeders and can find a way to win against better competition. The end result was an impressive first half followed by a horrible second half, but in the end it was a 41-35 win over the AFC South division leader Titans to bring the Browns to an impressive 9-3-0 record.
Going into the game, it appeared that whatever happens the remainder of the year, it will all begin with this game.
So, who played well against Tennessee? Who didn’t?
Pass protection - The offensive line was stellar today. Zero sacks and one QB hit is remarkable. Center J.C. Tretter along with guards Wyatt Teller and Joel Bitonio provided exceptional protection. Teller was able to block his man and then reach the second level linebacker on several plays. Rookie LT Jedrick Wills is getting better in pass protection as RT Jack Conklin killed it today. His man Jack Crawford only sniffed Mayfield twice. This unit has really jelled. Oh, yeh - and swing tackle Kendall Lamm was this unit’s star with the sure-handed touchdown grab that proved to be the game-winner. Make sure you vote for these guys on NFL.com/probowl.
DT Sheldon Richardson - This was a man possessed in the first half. He nailed Titans’ RB Derrick Henry on the fourth-and-one attempt in the first quarter. Later in the quarter he striped Henry, his first fumble in 375 carries, to which Karl Joseph recovered. FInished with four tackles, one QB hit and two almost sacks.
Special teams - The kickoff coverage allowed very little return yardage and feature excellent tackling by Stephen Carlson, Elijah Lee, Sione Takitaki and D’Ernest Johnson. K Cody Parkey hit both field goal attempts plus all five extra points for a total of 11 points scored for the game. P Jamie Gillan netted 41-yards a kick with zero runbacks.
First half play calling - The short passing game worked early and often. Rashard Higgins’ 35-yard gain on Mayfield’s second pass attempt set up the first half’s success ratio. The running was used sporadically especially since the Titans were expecting Nick Chubb to try to run to daylight. Everything Mayfield tried to do in the first half worked. His line was giving him great protection and very few attempts to bring him down, so head coach Kevin Stefanski kept the short passing game going.
WR Rashard Higgins and Jarvis Landry - This is now the starting wide receiver corps and will remain as such for the remainder of the season. Higgins has solid hands and can get open. Landry’s efforts always come in critical times. Both just finished shy of 100-yards but dominated their men in the first half. Landry needs more plays per game where he throws.
Third down conversions - In game’s past whether a win or loss, the Browns historically do not perform well on third down attempts. That changed today as they were 7-8 in the first half and 3-7 in the second stanza. Even converted two third-and-10’s and one third-and-12.
QB Baker Mayfield - Huge, huge, huge numbers in the first half and looked phenomenal. Horrible second half. In the first half, everything he touched turned to gold. His catch from Jarvis Landry was highlight reel stuff. 290 passing yards, four touchdown passes, great pocket protection enabled only one pocket collapse, great decision making and controlled the game. After intermission, the other Baker took the field and just could not move the ball. No overthrown balls nor interceptions is a huge plus. But, games are played for four quarters. The fumble almost cost them the game. 44 passing yards in the second half and just three points scored.
Protecting the lead - What happened to the offense in the second half? A mere three points were scored after setting a new franchise record of 38 points in the first half. Right out of the gate in the third quarter, the Titans went 75 yards in just three plays with only 1:08 of clock to score a touchdown. Their next possession they used a mere six plays with 2:10 gone and drove 61-yards for yet another touchdown. After Parkey added another field goal for Cleveland, Tennessee scored two more touchdowns. The good news was that the Browns had built such a huge lead that it was almost impossible for the Titans to come back. But, they almost did.
Second half pass coverage - 43-yards to Corey Davis, a 22-yard touchdown pass by MyCole Pruitt, 18-yards to Davis, Davis again for 22, A.J. Brown for another 18 that became a touchdown, nine yards to Derrick Henry, Davis for 11, Anthony Firkser for 14 and then 11, 18-yards to Davis followed by 14, Adam Humphries for nine, eight yard touchdown catch by Cameron Batson. All in the second half.
Second half play calling - 458 total yards for the offense is the good news. The bad is 344 were produced in the first half. Punter Jamie Gillan never saw the field until the third quarter. First half possessions: FG, TD, TD, TD, TD. Second half possessions: punt, FG, punt, punt, fumble, end of game. After huge success in the short passing game in the first half, Stefanski went almost exclusively to the running game which had gotten nowhere in the first half. Baker Mayfield attempted 25 passes in the first half yet only eight after halftime. The running game was completely stagnant in the first half, yet here we go with 14 attempts of less than three yards in an attempt to run out the clock. Coming out of the tunnel, the offense went into prevent mode instead of stepping on the gas and was an onside kick recovery away from a possible defeat. The sneak by Mayfield into a nine-man box was a horrible call given Nick Chubb was his running back.
Milk Bones - Containing sugary and acidic ingredients blended together
DT Larry Ogunjobi and DE Myles Garrett - For the first half, both men were pretty quiet yet were not on the field that much as the Browns’ offense controlled the time of possession. They each gave significant effort in the second half with a sack each and good pressure on QB Ryan Tannehill.
S Andrew Sendejo - The safety was very active with tackling. Was late getting over to MyCole Pruitt on the touchdown pass in the Titans’ first possession of the second half. Led the Browns in total tackles with eight.
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones - Excellent juke move on Titans’ CB Breon Borders on the long touchdown for 75-yards early in the second quarter. Dropped a sure touchdown in the first drive that traded seven points for three.
If the Browns finish 10-6-0, will that be enough to get them in the playoffs?
This poll is closed