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BROWNIES & FROWNIES: Falcons defeat Cleveland 23-20 as Browns fail to stop the run

Atlanta should have been an easy win, but Cleveland plays vanilla on offense

Cleveland Browns v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Browns needed a win against Atlanta. Beginning the next game, all contests are against expected good-to-great teams.

Cleveland’s offense this year has surprised many. Not that the run game isn’t their focus and strength, but they have gained yardage through the air with short passes with lots of success on screens. Coming into this game Nick Chubb was the league’s leading rusher and several offensive linemen, Joel Bitonio, Wyatt Teller and Jack Conklin, have all graded high on Pro Football Focus each game so far.

Against Atlanta, the Browns were able to contain the run for over two quarters and then could not stop the Falcons from gaining valuable yardage whatsoever in the second half as Cleveland lost 23-20.

So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?


P Corey Bojoquez - A weapon each game. Had three kicks for a 48.0 average including two that landed inside the 20. His first punt went 62 yards.

Cleveland Browns v Atlanta Falcons
Jordan Elliott
Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

DT Jordan Elliott - Was part of the middle of the defense which shut down the Falcons ability the run in the first half. Had a near sack early in the second quarter, then on the next play got the first full sack of his career when the stunt with DE Isaiah Thomas provided an opening to which Elliott slammed down Mariota after beating center Drew Dalman.

TE David Njoku - Had several good catches in the opening drive that moved the sticks, but the fumble inside the Browns 30 was a gift that added seven for Atlanta. His blocking was key on two Kareem Hunt runs. Had a much needed first down catch with 11:15 in the fourth quarter facing a second-and-seven which gained nine. Led all receivers with five receptions for 73 yards.

Cleveland Browns v Atlanta Falcons
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

JOK - The versatile linebacker was seemingly everywhere today. Had seven total tackles with one tackle for loss. Just barely missed a sack in the second quarter.

RB Nick Chubb - Had a vanilla first half and could not get anything going, but rebounded nicely in the second half. Only had two catches which was odd, but reeled off 118 yards on 19 carries with an amazing 6.2 yards per carry average. The touchdown run was behind excellent blocks by Harrison Bryant, Jedrick Wills and DPJ.


Refusing points - With 3:45 left in the game and tied 20-20, TE Harrison Bryant failed to catch a bullet on third-and-seven. This meant a 64-yard field goal. During warmups, K Cade York consistently connects from 70-yards. The punt team was called upon instead. On the Browns’ opening drive, the offense was able to move the ball well and put together an eight play drive going 71 yards. Facing a third-and-one that lost two yards, head coach Kevin Stefanski went for it on fourth down at the three which became an incomplete pass. The Browns could have had three points on a chip shot. Cleveland lost by three. Hmmmm......

DE Isaac Rochell - Following the Njoku fumble, Falcons QB Marcus Mariota rolled out to his left to which Rochell had taken an inside path. Mariota had plenty of space and time in the left flats to find his receiver. On the following play, Rochell again pushed down towards the tackle for an inside rush to which Atlanta running back Cordarrelle Patterson had the edge without question. Aren’t defensive ends supposed to contain? With 9:10 left in the game, Rochell again made his way towards the middle as RB Avery Williams found nobody home on the end and galloped for 21 yards.

C Ethan Pocic - Could not handle DT Ta’Quon Graham for most of the game as the talented defensive lineman was in the backfield repeatedly on passing downs. With 2:09 remaining in the first half, David Njoku took an end around and headed towards the right side. Pocic had pulled and took out...nobody as three Falcons ran by Pocic for the six-yard loss.

Cleveland Browns v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Goal line offense - In the first half, Cleveland had the ball inside the five and only netted three points. On the opening drive the Browns had an excellent 10-play drive end up at Atlanta’s 11. After a Nick Chubb one-yard gain plus an eight-yard completion to TE Harrison Bryant, the ball was sitting on the two with a third-and-one. Chubb then lost two yards. Instead of running out the field goal team, Brissett tossed an incomplete pass. Right before the half, the Browns again drove to the one. First down the Chubb fumble-not fumble. Second down an incomplete pass to Njoku but yet another Wyatt Teller holding penalty. Two incomplete passes brought it to fourth-and-11. Cleveland has the league’s best rushing team with a first down on the one, and three passing plays are called? The offense even had brought in two extra offensive linemen on these plays. Those two trips inside the five netted just three points.

Offense third down conversions - Three for 13 will kill any drive.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons
Harrison Bryant
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

TE Harrison Bryant - Several runs to the outside Bryant was instrumental in sealing off his man. In the second quarter with a third-and-six, Njoku had taken his man downfield while Bryant peeled underneath. He ran four yards yet the linebacker was sitting four yards beyond the first down marker. After Harrison caught the pass, LB Mykal Walker came up for the hit before help arrived from LB Rashaan Evans who shoved and prevented Bryant from reaching the first down line. Why not run a seven-yard route when you need six instead of a four-yard route? With 3:45 to go in the game, he dropped a shot from Brissett right at the first down marker on a key third-and-seven. Instead of Stefanski going for the 64-yard field goal, the Browns punted. Atlanta then drove down the gridiron and kicked the game winner.

Run defense - Going into this game, Cleveland ranked seventh against the run and had Atlanta bogged down the entire first half with just 21-yards including loss of downs for minus two, minus two, minus four and minus one. Halfway through the third quarter the levee broke and suddenly the Browns front seven could not stop the Falcons from running for good yardage. After a Cade York field goal to go ahead 13-10 in the second quarter, Atlanta began at their own 25 and had a 10-play 75-yard drive that used up 5:15 of clock before scoring a touchdown. Get this: every play was a run. Nine runs were for five yards or more. Ouch. Falcons finished with 202 yards. Bigger ouch.

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CB Denzel Ward - Made a terrific play on the interception when DT Tommy Togiai put great pressure on Mariota who threw early to WR Drake London running a dig route. Ward jumped the route and undercut London for his 11th career pick. The facemask penalty with 2:50 to go in the game really put Atlanta in good field goal range which became the game winner.

QB Jacoby Brissett - Had a great opening drive and was able to go through his progressions and find the open man repeatedly. The touchdown scramble was a thing of beauty as he completely juked out LB Walker who had a shot at the four. Did have numerous overthrown balls. Began the game going 13-16 and was on fire on the final drive of the game hitting Donovan Peoples-Jones and Kareem Hunt for key first downs but the interception intended for David Bell was a poor throw. The fourth down sneak early in the game ultimately became the touchdown scramble. Finished with 21 completions on 35 attempts for 234 yards and a 68.0 QB rating.

Cleveland Browns v Atlanta Falcons
Kareem Hunt
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

RB Kareem Hunt - Is a shifty runner who found his calling in the second half. The pass reception for 11 yards with the stiff arm with 5:15 left in the game was a joy to watch and classic Hunt. Finished with 10 carries for 49 yards plus two catches for another 19 yards. Loved the 20-yard pickup early in the fourth quarter. Not a great output, but decent.

S Grant Delpit - Made several good tackles in the first half including taking down Atlanta TE Kyle Pitts for a minimal gain with just over six minutes gone in the second quarter. It was Delpit who engaged RB Tyler Allgeier at the Browns’ 42-yard line then rode him to the 25. Maybe Delpit will get frequent flyer miles with that 17-yard ride.

LB Jacob Phillips - Was very active and led all defenders with seven tackles.


What do you feel ultimately lost the game?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Could not stop the run
    (301 votes)
  • 11%
    Offense stalled too many times
    (82 votes)
  • 9%
    Did not kick an easy field goal
    (64 votes)
  • 31%
    Play calling
    (218 votes)
  • 2%
    Lack of a pass rush
    (15 votes)
  • 2%
    Lack of a passing game
    (14 votes)
694 votes total Vote Now