With a few minutes left in the game, Greedy Williams had an interception, and all the Browns’ offense needed was one first down to complete the comeback and adversity of the COVID week. They ran the ball three times, didn’t get it, and punted. The Raiders kicked the game-winning field goal and prevailed 16-14, putting a serious dent in Cleveland’s ability to make the postseason now at 7-7. Instead of being first in the AFC North, they are right back to last. Let’s get to the recap.
The Browns received the ball to begin the game, and QB Nick Mullens was able to move the chains with a couple of quick pass attempts. As has been the case for this offense, even before this week, one penalty (a delay of game) set them back, and they couldn’t recover as the Raiders then proceeded to run blitz Nick Chubb and D’Ernest Johnson for losses of 7 and 2 yards to force a punt.
The Raiders got a nice punt return from Hunter Renfrow to get out near midfield for their first possession, and then proceeded to put together an 11-play drive that took over seven minutes of clock. Cleveland was trying to hold Las Vegas to a field goal, but on 3rd-and-goal from the 5 yard line, QB Derek Carr fired a perfect outside pass to WR Bryan Edwards for a touchdown to give them a 7-0 lead.
On Cleveland’s next drive, they picked up another first down and then went for the big play off of playaction. WR Donovan Peoples-Jones ran a double move and was open and appeared to catch the ball for a big play, but then he unfathomably dropped the ball while trying to shove off the oncoming defender (who punched at the ball), resulting in an incomplete pass. That eventually led to a punt, which was a beauty from P Dustin Colquitt that went out of bounds at the 4 yard line.
After a five-yard completion by Carr, the Raiders faced 2nd-and-5 to begin the second quarter. A breakup by S John Johnson set up 3rd-and-5, and he faced pressure, evaded it, and then heaved it deep. That’s where S M.J. Stewart was tangled up with a receiver, and the officials threw a flag for a 46-yard penalty that brought the ball all the way to midfield.
Who is doing what to whom here? This should be a no call, not defensive pass interference. pic.twitter.com/H1x1H5BUY1— Terry McAulay (@SNFRules) December 20, 2021
That’s when Cleveland finally started to catch a couple of breaks — the Raiders had a holding penalty on a run, and then a receiver fumbled, setting Las Vegas back even further. After not converting on 3rd-and-21, they punted, and Peoples-Jones had a 19-yard return out to the 33 yard line. Unfortunately, after two runs and a completion shy of the sticks, Cleveland had to punt on 4th-and-2. Renfrow fair caught Colquitt’s punt at the 14 yard line with 10:32 remaining in the second quarter.
The Raiders got close to midfield again before the defense was able to force a stop with CB Greedy Williams’ third down coverage on WR Desean Jackson. This time, the Raiders’ punt pinned Cleveland all the way back to the 8 yard line. The offense could only managed 8 yards after Peoples-Jones couldn’t haul in a first down pass, and RB D’Ernest Johnson was chased down from behind on a screen pass. Colquitt punted again, starting Las Vegas’ next drive at the 39 yard line.
That’s when the game started to feel like a bit of a slow depth, as the Raiders were consistently able to get in third-and-short yardage situations before running the ball to move the chains. All the while, the clock was ticking toward the two-minute warning, with Las Vegas also set to get the ball to begin the third quarter. The Raiders had a 1st-and-10 at the 22 yard line at the two-minute warning. The Raiders had another goal-to-go situation, but this time the defense came up with a few pass deflections. On 3rd-and-goal, Carr tried to take off, but S Jovante Moffatt came up with the tackle to force a 24-yard field goal. That gave the Raiders a 10-0 lead with 0:56 remaining in the first half and one timeout for Cleveland.
Funny enough, the one-minute drill finally got the offense into a rhythm, as Mullens led the offense down the field and in range for a 47-yard field goal attempt from K Chase McLaughlin. The Raiders iced him, and he made the kick after the timeout. But of course, when it actually counted, he pushed it right, keeping it a 10-0 game at the half.
Cleveland got lucky to begin the second half, as Raiders receivers dropped open passes on second and third down for a three-and-out and quick punt down to the 31 yard line. Instead of seeing the change, we saw much of the same from the first half: two runs that were stopped, and then a third down pass short of the sticks that led to a punt right back to Las Vegas.
The Raiders appeared to make another mistake of their own, as Carr muffed a snap on a 3rd-and-short quarterback sneak attempt. He recovered, but was short of the first down. From their own 34 yard line, Las Vegas sent the punt unit out — and snapped it to the protector, who gained 2 yards for a first down. A few plays later, LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and DL Sheldon Day combined to sack and strip Carr of the football, with DE Porter Gustin recovering at the Raiders’ 47 yard line with 7:13 remaining in the third quarter!
Mullens began the next drive with a 13-yard screen pass to Njoku. Chubb followed that with a 4 yard run, and then a burst for 24 yards down to the 6 yard line.
Njoku just missed a touchdown pass on second down, and on 3rd-and-goal from the 4 yard line, Chubb got the handoff and took it in off the left side for the touchdown! That cut the Raiders’ lead to 10-7 with 4:37 remaining in the third quarter.
On the first play of the Raiders’ next drive, they gained 14 yards, but DE Takk McKinley had to be carted off afterward, leaving the team thinner at defensive end. Carr drove the Raiders down to the 21 yard line, where Las Vegas faced a 3rd-and-9 heading into the final quarter of play. To begin the fourth quarter, the coverage was good, Carr rolled out and looked, but just had to throw the ball away. Las Vegas came on to try a 39-yard field goal, which they made to give the a 13-7 lead with 14:46 to go in the game. Something to note is that Garrett limped over to the medical tent at the conclusion of the series.
The offensive momentum for Cleveland was short-lived, as they suffered another three-and-out. This time, they at least tried to be aggressive and attack downfield with a deep seam route to Njoku, but the safety came over in time to break it up. Las Vegas went three-and-out, though, punting right back to Cleveland at the 20 yard line.
Mullens finally connected with Peoples-Jones on a huge 25-yard connection on 3rd-and-3 to get past midfield, and that was followed by a 12-yard burst from Chubb to the 24 yard line. It looked like Chubb scored a touchdown from 11 yards out a few plays later, but RG Wyatt Teller was flagged for a hold, making it 1st-and-20 at the 21 yard line. Cleveland got it down to a 4th-and-5 situation from the 6 yard line, and with under five minutes to go, the Browns went for it. No one was open, but Mullens bought time and found TE Harrison Bryant open for a touchdown! The extra point gave the Browns a 14-13 lead with 3:45 to go.
Now, it was up to the defense to hold the Raiders — a tough task, given that all they need is a field goal to take the lead or win. Carr took a deep shot after picking up a first down, and Williams picked it off!
Now Cleveland needed to pick up a first down to win the game. They got a 3rd-and-3, but Las Vegas stuffed Chubb on third down for no gain heading into the two-minute warning. Colquitt lined up for the punt, and the Raiders would begin at the 29 yard line. Carr led the Raiders down the field and got them in range for a 48-yard field goal with 0:03 to go, which they drilled to win it 16-14.
You hate to second guess decisions, but when the Browns had that 3rd-and-3 situation, with how much Mullen had been coming in the clutch, that’s a situation where I would’ve given him a chance to throw for it. If no one was open, he could’ve just gone down to keep the clock running anyway.
Mullens played a heck of a game for the Browns. The defense did an admirable job for the most part. But it’s still frustrating and deflating to come up short, especially after the touchdown and Williams interception sequence.
- QB Nick Mullens: 20-of-30 for 147 yards, 1 TD.
- RB Nick Chubb: 23 carries, 91 yards, 1 TD.