The Browns received good news for today’s game with the activation of QB Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum, plus WR Jarvis Landry from the reserves/COVID list. S John Johnson was ruled out with a hamstring pull and DE Myles Garrett and DT Malik Jackson began the day as questionable.
Cleveland got themselves backed into a corner. With three games remaining but only one game out of first place in the AFC North Division, they must win out to have any chance of a playoff berth.
And of course today they played one of the NFC’s best clubs in the Green Bay Packers which currently had the Number 1 seed and boasts the league’s best passing attack.
When the final gun sounded, the Browns had lost another heartbreaker 24-22 with four interceptions. Call them Baker Mayfield feeling festive with four gifts for the Packers on Christmas Day.
So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
Opening drive - Geez! Where has that offense been for the past seven games? The Browns took the ball all the way down for a statement touchdown. What began at their own 25, it only took seven plays and just 2:39 of clock to go ahead 6-0. Baker Mayfield was a perfect 3-3, Nick Chubb had a huge 54-yard screen play that saw C Nick Harris and RG Wyatt Teller lay some key blocks on the second level, and the return of WR Jarvis Landry. We vote all games should begin this way.
CB M.J. Stewart - After a horrible showing last week, Stewart was on fire with a keen display of his tackling skills. Had back-to-back plays deep into the second quarter when he had an open field grab on A.J. Dillion and then a two-yard loss for Packers RB Aaron Jones on a third-and-six which forced a punt. It was Stewart who nailed Jones on a key third-and-1 with 7:32 to play for a two-yard loss and yet another Packers punt. Led all tacklers in the first half with five. Led all defenders with 10 total tackles (9 solo) and two tackles for loss.
RB Nick Chubb - In the first half, the bulk of the Browns’ offense was on the shoulders of #24. Throughout the game, the workhorse gave Cleveland some large chunks of yardage that moved the chains and kept the first downs coming. 17 carries for 126 yards and one touchdown while adding 58 receiving yards is a man’s game.
Rushing defense - The defensive front couldn’t rush the passer, but this unit certainly shut down the Packers running game with just 50-yards gained in the first half while RB Aaron Jones had just 20-yards. Plus, zero rushing touchdowns. 109 total yards rushing for the game was outstanding. Joe Jackson, Sheldon Day, Malik Jackson, Tommy Togiai, Josiah Bronson, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Myles Garrett and Porter Gustin each did a tremendous job.
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan - Every week, Coach throws guys into the blender and somehow it is tasty. With a pair of Pro Bowlers on staff, one of which was out due to COVID, the line was basically makeshift. LG Joel Bitonio moved to LT for his second game in a row, C J.C. Tretter was out as well so his replacement was Nick Harris, Blake Hance once again filled in at RT while Michael Dunn manned the LG spot while Wyatt Teller the other guard spot. The end result was a massive 219 yards rushing and simply manhandled the Packers front seven. On the flipside, there were four sacks. Every week a jigsaw puzzle, every week an outstanding cast of characters shuffled around.
C Nick Harris - Replacing Tretter is no easy assignment, but the youngster proved he belongs with the big boys. Several plays he was seen pulling and getting a Packers player on the second level. Great game.
QB Baker Mayfield - Two interceptions in the first quarter alone. The first he tossed into double-coverage with an overthrown ball near midfield. Right before the first stanza expired and down 7-6, he once again overthrew his receiver, this time a wide-open Landry on a third-and-19 in which Cleveland had gotten to the Packers’ 24 so lost points there. He overthrew Rashard Higgins in the second quarter who had to contort his body in order to make the catch. The two-point conversion toss was to Green Bay corner Eric Stokes instead of DPJ. A heavy pass rush by Preston Smith enabled Mayfield’s third pick of the game this time deep in their own territory. The end result was a third Packers TD. In fact, all three first half touchdowns came directly off Mayfield’s three picks. On the final drive he overthrew TE David Njoku twice, had the ball almost picked by LB De’Vondre Campbell and then the fourth interception sealed their fate for the loss. Had another almost INT early in the fourth dropped by CB Eric Stokes. Finished with a 55.3 QB rating. Just a horrible game.
CB Greedy Williams - Right before the half, why was Greedy playing off so far on one of the NFL’s most gifted receivers Davante Adams. The receiver took pass after pass while Greedy’s reaction was to tackle him after the catch. Missed an embarrassing tackle early in the third quarter for a decent gain.
Lack of pass rush - Where was the pass rush? Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers had a toe issue and wasn’t going to run or scramble, but yet he had the time he needed to pick apart the Browns secondary. DT’s Day, Jackson and Togiai were all set on pause as none even sniffed the backfield. The always dependable Garrett appeared sluggish while the other side manned by Gustin didn’t do much either. Zero sacks on a gimpy quarterback. Ouch.
LT Joel Bitonio - The Pro Bowl left guard has had his issues on the outside replacing Jedrick Wills. That first step kills him almost every time. Two of the four sacks were his man Preston Smith whom Bits attempted to push deeper than the pocket but rarely succeeded. Run blocking Bitonio was on fire, but had major issues keeping his man out of the backfield on passing downs. He truly misses his comfy guard spot.
K Chris Naggar - He missed the first extra point attempt in his very first NFL contest. On the Browns’ next touchdown, instead of kicking another PAT, the offense was forced to go for two which was unsuccessful. At the end of the game, Naggar’s missed kick set into motion losing by two. Were there no other options at kicker heading into a must-win game?
Milk Bones – Dear Santa, I was good at being naughty. Does that count?
RB D’Ernest Johnson - While running mate Chubb was grinding for large chunks, it was Johnson who had several key runs at key moments that enabled the Browns to keep the sticks moving. Four rushes for 58 yards and one reception for eight yards.
Special Teams - It all began with K Chris Naggar’s first-ever NFL kick - a miss. That forced the offense to play catch-up, go for an unsuccessful two points, and then lose by those very same two points which should have been extra points. KR Demetric Felton was nailed at the 15. DB Herb Miller had an illegal block in the back that negated a good return. Only DPJ at PR had a decent game.
LG Michael Dunn - Starting his second game in a row, Dunn played well. Was able to contain DT Kenny Clark for most of the game. None of the sacks allowed were Dunn’s man. Is an excellent pulling guard.
WR Rashard Higgins - Only five catches on six targets, but each reception was a key moment catch.
Third down conversions - Six for 11 is a good game.
What was the story of the game?
This poll is closed
Browns’ loss keeps them further from the playoffs
Browns played the NFC’s Number 1 seed tight
Baker Mayfield four INT performance
Makeshift offensive line held their own
Cleveland’s 219 rushing yards against Packers 12th ranked rushing defense