Cleveland played their worst game of the season, with neither the offense nor the defense playing at a high level as the now 6-0 Cardinals marched in and defeated the Browns 37-14.
The Browns’ offense got the ball first, and it seemed unusual right away to see them go three-and-out after an illegal formation penalty by RT James Hudson prevented a first-down conversion.
On the Cardinals’ first third-down attempt, they converted to the tune of 40 yards on a draw play to RB Chase Edmonds. The Cardinals continued marching into the red zone, and in a goal-to-go situation, Cleveland appeared to catch a break when a bad snap resulted in a big loss for Arizona. It didn’t matter, though — QB Kyler Murray found WR Christian Kirk open in the back left corner of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-19 to give them the early 7-0 lead.
On Cleveland’s next offensive drive, QB Baker Mayfield had downfield passes completed to WR Odell Beckham and WR Donovan Peoples-Jones. As has been the case in recent weeks, though, the Browns were stopped on third down in the red zone, and Kevin Stefanski decided to go for it on 4th-and-3. The Cardinals brought a blitz and Mayfield had to pull it down to eat a sack for a turnover on downs.
The Cardinals’ next drive took up the rest of the quarter, with two pass interference penalties on CB Denzel Ward, and a facemask and roughing penalty called on the defense as they got closer to the red zone. To end the first quarter, a false start and holding penalty set the Cardinals up with a 2nd-and-goal from the 13 yard line. On 3rd-and-goal from the 13 yard line, Murray dumped a ball underneath to WR DeAndre Hopkins, only to see S Grant Delpit and LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah badly miss tackles so he could scoot 13 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. That gave Arizona a 14-0 lead with 14:49 remaining in the second quarter.
Disaster continued to strike for the Browns on their next drive, as Hudson missed a block on second down, forcing Mayfield to try to scramble. Amidst the chaos, a defense hit Mayfield from behind to force a fumble and a short field for Arizona. This time, the defense did force a stop after a couple of tipped passes and a botched quarterback-running back exchange. The short field still allowed K Matt Prater to come on and hit a 36-yard field goal, making it a 17-0 game with 13:02 left in the half.
Markus Golden is NOT QB friendly pic.twitter.com/WiXzceBBlb— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 17, 2021
If you thought the previous drive was disastrous, it got even worse on the next drive. Two run plays only gained two yards to begin the drive, and then on 3rd-and-8, Mayfield airmailed a pass to WR Rashard Higgins, which was intercepted by the defense and returned all the way to the 4 yard line — although replay review brought the return back to the 28 yard line. A sack by DE Jadeveon Clowney held the Cardinals to a 51-yard field goal attempt, which Prater hit to make it a 20-0 game with 9:24 left in the half.
On Cleveland’s next, at last, they found their groove a bit on offense. It started with a completion to Beckham (although he went into the blue tent with a shoulder injury after that) and continued with several effective runs by Hunt. Down at the goal line, on third down, Mayfield fired to the outside to Peoples-Jones, who caught it and bowled over CB Robert Alford for the touchdown. That cut the Cardinals’ lead to 20-7 with 5:06 remaining in the first half.
The defense had a chance to force a three-and-out, but on 3rd-and-9, Murray got a dumpoff to WR Rondale Moore, who ran for just enough yards to move the chains. Heading into the two-minute warning, Murray had tons of time to throw and found Hopkins for a 33 yard gain near the right sideline. Arizona looked like they were going to march in for six, but Murray had a botched snap again, yet recovered it. Prater kicked a 33-yard field goal with 0:44 left in the half to make it 23-7.
With 0:03 left in the half, the Browns were at their own 43 yard line to attempt a Hail Mary. He dropped back, stepped up, and delivered, and Peoples-Jones had the ball hit him right in the chest in the end zone for a touchdown! After a first half that could’ve been much, much worse, they gave themselves a better chance at a potential second-half comeback by making it a 23-14 game heading to the half.
The Cardinals received the ball to begin the second half, and a sack by DE Myles Garrett helped pave the way for a three-and-out and Arizona’s first punt of the game. Cleveland took over their opening drive at the 33 yard line. Unfortunately, they went backwards as Mayfield was sacked by an unblocked defender on the first play and also sacked on third down, forcing a quick punt back to Arizona.
The defense forced a three-and-out for the second straight drive, and RB Demetric Felton had a decent return out to the 32 yard line. TE David Njoku was flagged for a hold to begin the next drive, making it 1st-and-20 immediately. Beckham returned to make a big catch for 24 yards and a first down. The drive looked to be going well until a reverse to WR Anthony Schwartz was stopped for a loss of 3 yards. Then, on 2nd-and-13, Mayfield faced pressure and again tried to keep the play alive. Instead, the ball came free and the Cardinals recovered near midfield. Mayfield went to the injury tent after the play, holding his shoulder.
The defense tried forcing another three-and-out, but on 3rd-and-10, the blitz didn’t get home and Murray found WR A.J. Green for 34 yard and into scoring range. A few plays later, Murray ran it himself to set up 1st-and-goal from the 8 yard line. The defense had yet another miscommunication on second down, as the cornerback dropped Hopkins to the safety, but Johnson came up too. Hopkins was completely uncovered for the 8-yard touchdown to make it a 30-14 game with 2:56 left in the third quarter.
The Browns converted a 4th-and-short situation in their own territory leading, and then moved the ball to the Cardinals’ 37 yard line heading into the fourth quarter, down 16 points. They moved the ball down near the goal line, but then on a fourth down pass, Mayfield hit Beckham, who dropped it for a turnover on downs. Making matters worse, Hunt had to be helped off the field, unable to put any weight on his leg.
It looked like the defense might generate a stop on their next drive, but the officials flagged a very soft roughing the passer penalty on DT Malik Jackson to extend the drive. After that, the Cardinals were able to burn clock via the ground game as they marched into field goal range. After a bunch of runs, Murray threw a 14-yard pass to the corner of the end zone for Green and the touchdown, making it a 37-14 game.
Case Keenum came on to finish off the game. He went three-and-out, and then on 4th-and-2, his back shoulder pass to Schwartz fell incomplete for a turnover on downs. Colt McCoy then came on to finish things off for Arizona.
- QB Baker Mayfield: 19-of-28 for 234 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 2 fumbles lost.
- RB Kareem Hunt: 14 carries, 60 yards. 3 catches, 12 yards.
- WR Donovan Peoples-Jones: 4 catches, 101 yards (5 targets), 2 TD.
- The Browns have lost two games in a row for the first time in the Stefanski era.
- The offensive tackle play had a big impact on today’s game, disrupting the pass and the run.
- On a short week, it doesn’t look like the Browns got any healthier heading into their short week against the Broncos.
- The Browns are now in third place in the AFC North and back to .500, one game behind the Bengals and two games behind the Ravens. As another gut-punch, the Ravens blew out the Chargers earlier in the day, holding them to 6 points, after Cleveland couldn’t stop them a week ago.