No starting quarterback or starting running backs? No problem — the Browns snapped their two-game losing streak to defeat the Broncos 17-14 on Thursday Night Football, improving to 4-3 on the season. Let’s get to the recap of the game.
The Browns got an immediate jolt on offense with their first offensive drive. After a 4-yard pass to WR Jarvis Landry, a screen pass to TE Austin Hooper went for 34 yards. RB D’Ernest Johnson then took the next three carries for 20, 10, and 4 yards, the last of which was for a touchdown to give Cleveland a quick 7-0 lead.
The Broncos ran the ball twice for three yards on their first drive, and then on third down, TE Noah Fant caught a pass but was brought down just shy of a first down by LB Anthony Walker. Denver sent out the punt unit, and Cleveland took over their next drive at the 23 yard line.
Cleveland moved the ball on their next drive with completions to WR Jarvis Landry and more runs by the backs. A holding penalty in Denver territory stalled the drive a bit, but K Chase McLaughlin came on and impressively drilled a 52-yard field goal right down the middle despite winds up to 29 MPH to give the Browns a 10-0 lead with 3:09 to go in the first quarter.
On Denver’s next drive, QB Teddy Bridgewater made a perfect throw to WR Courtland Sutton for 31 yards despite tight coverage by CB Greg Newsome. Heading into the second quarter, the Browns’ defense faced a 3rd-and-9 situation from the 31 yard line. Bridgewater tried to go for six to begin the quarter, but his throw to the end zone was picked off by S John Johnson, who dropped back to snag the post route.
Cleveland got to midfield on their drive with more work on the ground, but then a false start by LG Joel Bitonio and a drop by WR Odell Beckham led to a third down heave to WR Anthony Schwartz that fell incomplete. Jamie Gillan came on for the punt, which was covered inside the 20 at the 13 yard line. The change in field position paid off as the defense forced another three-and-out, although P Sam Martin boomed his punt 59 yards as Cleveland took over at the 33 yard line to start their next drive.
The Browns moved the chains with a mix of runs and passes, eating up clock leading into the two-minute warning. They faced a 3rd-and-13 from the 23 yard line, and Keenum went for an outside throw to Beckham. Beckham slipped and fell, nearly leading to an interception that could’ve gone the distance. McLaughlin’s field goal attempt from 41 yards was blocked by DE Shelby Harris, keeping it a 10-0 game with 1:50 to go in the half.
Denver could do nothing with it. After a run and an incompletion, the Browns brought a blitz on third down and Bridgewater had to throw it away. Denver punted and Cleveland took over at the 20 yard line with 1:02 remaining and all three timeouts. The Browns tried throwing the ball but only went backwards, punting right back to Denver with 0:23 left to go.
The Broncos received the ball to begin the third quarter and quickly moved the ball past midfield for the second time of the game, including a couple of connections to Sutton. Bridgewater continued finding a rhythm with quick hitter passes down into the red zone. The defense tightened up in a goal-to-go situation, forcing an incomplete pass and then stuffing a run to set up 3rd-and-goal from the 9 yard line. Bridgewater found Gordon in the flat and CB Denzel Ward had a crack at making the tackle. Gordon stayed on his feet and dove for the end zone for the touchdown to make it a 10-7 game after a drive that took up nearly half the period.
After an illegal formation on the Browns’ next drive, Beckham finally caught passes of 6 and 17 yards, followed by a completion over the middle to Schwartz. After that, fans almost had a heart attack as Keenum was about to be hit from the blindslide, but he just barely got the pass off to Johnson for an 18-yard catch-and-run to get into field goal range.
More hard runs by Johnson got Cleveland down to the 6 yard line, facing a 3rd-and-3. Landry was wide open in the end zone, but Keenum was hit as he threw, resulting in an incompletion. The Browns went for it on fourth down, and after not finding anyone open, he broke a tackle to get a first down to the 1 yard line. From the 1 yard line, Keenum ran a playfake and found FB Johnny Stanton open for a touchdown to extend Cleveland’s lead to 17-7 with 0:27 left in the third quarter.
Denver faced a 3rd-and-2 heading to the fourth quarter. DE Myles Garrett got a rare one-on-one matchup and got a hand on Bridgewater, although DE Jadeveon Clowney was credited with half of the sack. Denver’s punt was hit 50 yards and downed at the 22 yard line.
More running by Johnson got the ball to near midfield. For the second week in a row, a reverse to Schwartz was stopped for a loss, setting up a 3rd-and-7. Keenum completed a back shoulder pass to Landry for 16 yards, but Denver challenged the ruling on the field and it was overturned to an incomplete pass. Cleveland sent out the punt unit with 11:32 to go in the half, and the Broncos’ next drive was set to begin at the 20 yard line.
Denver got a bailout call on their next drive with a facemask penalty instead of having to face a third down situation (although Denver’s runner was also grabbing Cleveland’s facemask). A few plays later, the Broncos faced a 3rd-and-1 from the Browns’ 40-yard line, after CB Denzel Ward exited with a hamstring injury. Bridgewater completed the pass to Sutton on a rollout for 10 yards and a first down. It was decision time for Denver when they faced a 4th-and-short at the 11 yard line with just over six minutes to go. Needing two scores, would they go for it or take the field goal try? They went for it, and Bridgewater ran the quarterback sneak to just barely get the conversion.
Two plays later, Denver faced 3rd-and-goal from the 10 yard line. They ran a screen pass, and RB Javonte Williams weaved through traffic for the touchdown, making it a 17-14 game with 5:17 to go in the game.
Could the Browns finally put a game away with their offense? On first down, Keenum completed an 8-yard pass to TE Austin Hooper. On 2nd-and-2, Johnson broke free for a 20-yard run, going over the 100-yard rushing mark on the day and moving the ball topast midfield. His next carry went for 6 yards, as Denver burned their first timeout with 3:30 remaining. On second down, Keenum went playaction and hit Landry for a first down.
Johnson ran for 3 yards, and Denver burned their second timeout with 2:36 remaining. Johnson muscled through with 7 more yards on second down to move the chains as the Broncos used their final timeout with 2:27 to go. Cleveland could run out most of the clock with three run plays, with ball security being a premium. He carried for 3 yards, setting up a 2nd-and-7 heading to the two-minute warning. A couple plays later, they faced a 3rd-and-7, and he ripped off an 8-yard run to get a first down and secure the victory!
- QB Case Keenum: 20-of-32 for 192 yards, 1 TD. 3 rushes, 8 yards.
- RB D’Ernest Johnson: 22 carries, 146 yards, 1 TD. 2 catches, 22 yards (2 targets).
- WR Jarvis Landry: 5 catches, 37 yards (8 targets).
- DE Myles Garrett: 1.5 sacks