The Browns faced being 3-3-0 during this season after beginning 3-1. Two losses to very good clubs have shown that maybe this roster can’t compete with the NFL elite teams. And then here are the undefeated Arizona Cardinals.
This game was predicted as a shootout since both franchises can score a ton of points and have suspect defensive units. In the end, the Cardinals took care of business while the Browns gave up the ball and muffed scoring opportunities to lose badly 37-14.
Let’s get right at it. Who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones - The youngster finally stepped up in Jarvis Landry’s absence and was the only bright spot on a dismal offensive showing. Caught four of his five targets for 101 yards and two scores including an electrifying Hail Mary grab right at the highest catch point just before halftime. His first touchdown he completely mowed over DB Robert Alford like a rag doll. Why isn’t DPJ more in the game plan?
C J.C. Tretter - The Browns center is quietly having a Pro Bowl season as most of Kareem Hunt’s yardage came to either side of Tretter. He is best at chipping his man then releasing to attack at the next level. It was Tretter who literally dumped LB Isaiah Simmons on a key Hunt run up the middle for a first down.
DE Jadeveon Clowney - Finally, a complete game from the veteran. Always known for his run defense, he was vital in the passing game with a key sack on a third-and-two with 9:35 left in the second quarter that stalled a good Cardinals drive to which they settled for a field goal. During Arizona’s first drive, Clowney had two stops for no gain by Chase Edmonds and James Conner.
LB Anthony Walker - The key free agent signee had a sensation game and was on the ball at all times it seemed especially in the second half. Facing a third-and-nine with just over four minutes to play in the half, Walker nailed Edmonds on a swing pass to the right flats. Led all defenders with nine total tackles.
CB Denzel Ward - Ward allowed his man to get two third down plays and then had two pass interference calls - all in the first quarter. Late in the fourth quarter, Cleveland was faced with needing two touchdowns and two two-point conversions from tying the game. They needed to get the defense off the field with time running out. However, it was Ward’s man Christian Kirk who made a key first down with 9:15 to go. Six plays later Arizona salted the game away with yet another touchdown.
Defensive secondary - Where do you start? How does one of the three best receivers in the game DeAndre Hopkins get so wide open not one, but twice? The latter was a touchdown where the kicking net guy was closer than any safety when Ward let Hopkins go long and S John Johnson was guarding, well, nobody. S Grant Delpit missed a touchdown saving tackle and was completely embarrassed as Hopkins skirted into the end zone right before the first quarter concluded. How many key third down conversions did the Cardinals make throwing towards Greedy Williams?
RT James Hudson - The rookie just could not keep up with Cardinals DE J.J. Watt nor LB Marcus Golden when he rushed in a down stance. Three of the five sacks were from either Watt or Golden. You figure it out.
Running game - No Jedrick Wills, no Jack Conklin, no Nick Chubb, no running success. This was despite the Cardinals owning the Number 28 rushing defense going into this game. Arizona was allowing 5.4 yards a carry (ranked 31st) and 139 yards per contest (23) yet all the Browns could muster was 73 yards and absolutely no continuity in the run game.
QB Baker Mayfield - Numerous pocket collapses didn’t help, but where was Mayfield’s head today? Threw for two touchdowns, but dude, one was a Hail Mary. The three turnovers he gifted to Arizona ended with two field goals and a touchdown. Was that interception to Rashard Higgins? Did he know that? You can’t win ballgames giving the football up.
Lack of tight end play - Austin Hooper three targets, one catch for four yards. David Njoku two targets with one reception for six yards. The Browns are paying these two players $10.513 million combined yet they are rarely used in the passing game other than to block. There aren’t much cheaper options for blocking tight ends?
Cardinals’ first five possessions - Touchdown, touchdown, field goal, field goal, field goal. DC Joe Woods had no answer on how to stop the Arizona offense.
Browns’ first four possessions - Punt, refused three points, fumble, interception. 59 total yards. Ouch.
Third and fourth down conversions - Arizona was 9-14 on converting third downs including five that were six yards or longer including one for 21 yards. They were 1-1 on fourth down attempts which was on their final drive. Their other fourth down situations they took points instead and netted nine points. Cleveland was 3-8 on third down attempts and a paltry 1-4 on fourth down.
Turnover battle - Browns two fumbles lost plus an interception. Cardinals four fumbles, zero lost.
Milk Bones – like pulling off an outrageous stunt that was bad in a very good way
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - Before he became injured JOK was around the tackle quite a bit and finished with eight total tackles. His batted ball early in the second quarter appeared he was launched instead of simply jumping.
DT Malik McDowell - Another great game by Big Mac as the Cardinals did not find much room to run up the middle. He beat G Josh Jones badly with just over three minutes to play as he tackled Conner for no gain. Only two tackles, but consistency is his trademark.
Cardinals’ opening drive to start the second half - With this defense there wasn’t a lot to feel good about, but stopping Arizona on their opening third quarter drive was awesome. That was the first time the Cardinals did not score and created a buzz among Browns fans that perhaps the halftime adjustments would work and a comeback might be in order. A Myles Garrett sack, then a 13-yard completion in front of Greedy followed by a one-yard completion with Troy Hill making the tackle.
WR Anthony Schwartz - His key contribution to this game was the short six yard completion right before the Hail Mary. Without this minimal gain, Mayfield probably doesn’t have the arm strength to get the ball directly into the end zone. Schwartz also had two kickoff returns for 54-yards including one for 35-yards. His 4.29 speed did not help him with just over seven minutes left in the game when he was nailed on an end around.
Do you think the Browns need to bring in a veteran defensive back before the trade deadline?
This poll is closed
We need help - Yes
These young guys will eventually come together