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Cleveland Browns’ defense has no answer for Tua, lose 39-17 to Miami Dolphins

The Browns have a disappointing effort following their bye week.

Cleveland Browns v Miami Dolphins Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

After the win over the Bengals, I was a little bit of blind hope that the defense would be able to disrupt some of Tua’s production. Nothing close to that happened, as the Browns were dominated, losing by a score of 39-17 and dropping to 3-6 on the season. Let’s get to the full game recap.

The Browns couldn’t have asked for a better opening drive coming off the bye. RB Jerome Ford, just activated off the injury list, took the opening kickoff 48 yards out to midfield. Then, on the first offensive play, QB Jacoby Brissett ran a playaction pass, took his time, and found WR Donovan Peoples-Jones up the left sideline for 38 yards. Several plays later, on 1st-and-goal from the 1, Brissett finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to TE Harrison Bryant to give the Browns a quick 7-0 lead.

Miami’s high-powered offense lived up to the hype right out of the gate. They kept moving the ball forward, but used a healthy dose of the ground game to keep moving the chains. That included on a 4th-and-1 play in their own territory. Down in the red zone, QB Tua Tagovailo used a nifty pump fake and smooth delivery to the fullback for a 13-yard touchdown pass, knotting the game up at 7-7 mid-way through the opening quarter.

The Browns kept moving the ball through the air, with Brissett finding Peoples-Jones for a 22-yard gain on a 3rd-and-13 following a sack. On a 2nd-and-10 from the Dolphins’ 34 yard line, RB Nick Chubb had the ball poked out from behind, leading to a fumble and CB Xavien Howard recovering to close out the first quarter.

Tagovailoa found WR Jaylen Waddle over the middle for 29 yards to get past midfield, and then RB Raheem Mostert had a burst of 14 yards to get even further. Miami’s drive started stalling when they tried a trick play to have a running back throw the ball, but it ultimately led to a 6-yard sack. The Dolphins kicked a 39-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead with 11:05 remaining in the second quarter.

Brissett kept being effective through the air, finding WR Amari Cooper for 10 yard gains on two instances, including a 3rd-and-5 to get past midfield. Cleveland then ran the ball with Hunt on 3rd-and-a long-1, and he was stuffed for a loss. On 4th-and-3 from the Dolphins’ 42 yard line, the Browns went for it. Brissett quickly fired a quick pass over the middle to Peoples-Jones, but it was either deflected by the defender or off of Peoples-Jones’ hands for a turnover on downs.

Miami got off to another hot start on their next drive with a 20-yard pass to WR Tyreek Hill. As they got into Cleveland territory, a 9-yard run made it 2nd-and-1 from the Browns’ 13 yard line. Mostert was stopped for no gain on second down, and then on third down, a player came in motion and then went under center for a quarterback sneak, which Cleveland also stopped for maybe half a yard. The Dolphins then tried to hurry things up on 4th-and-1, giving to RB James Wilson, who S Grant Delpit denied for a loss of a yard and a stunning turnover on downs just before the two-minute warning.

Brissett found Bryant for a 12-yard gain leading into the two-minute warning, and Cleveland having the ball at the 27 yard line with two timeouts. Unfortunately, they went three-and-out from there, with Brissett taking a sack on third down. After the punt, Miami took over near midfield with 1:22 to go and two timeouts.

Give Tagovailoa a ton of credit: even with the Browns trying to take away the middle of the field, he reacted appropriately and made some beautiful throws: a 7-yard out route to Waddle on 3rd-and-7 to move the chains, and then on 2nd-and-1 from the 14 with 0:37 left, he put the ball perfectly in the left corner for WR Trent Sherfield for a 14-yard touchdown. That put Miami on top 17-7 with 0:32 to go in the first half.

Not that Cleveland was going to do anything in such a short time, but LT Jedrick Wills and RT Jack Conklin were flagged for holding on back-to-back plays, so Brissett just took a knee to head to halftime.

Miami got the opening kickoff of the second half, and they continued their momentum. Tagovailoa stayed patient and surgical, even taking a little more time on some plays than usual to wait for his receiver to clear the underneath defender before throwing the ball. After all those passes, then the running game re-opened, with Mostert getting a handoff and running 24 yards untouched to the end zone and the touchdown. The Dolphins led 24-7 with 11:35 remaining in the third quarter.

On Cleveland’s first drive of the second half, they were on their way to a three-and-out before a terribly cheap roughing the passer call on third down bailed them out. Chubb had his longest run of the day for 8 yards, and then Brissett had the longest team run of 14 yards off of a scramble. On 3rd-and-4 from the 19 yard line, Brissett’s pass to the end zone for Peoples-Jones fell incomplete. Head coach Kevin Stefanski sent the field goal unit on the field, and K Cade York connected from 37 yards out to make it a 24-10 game with 6:56 left in the third quarter.

The defense forced two incompletions to start the next drive. On 3rd-and-10, Tagovailoa stepped up and quickly found Waddle again over the middle from a first down. After that, the defense didn’t come close to stopping the Dolphins’ offense, as the defense was helpless to stop them. Down at the goal line, on 3rd-and-goal from the 2 yard line, Tagovailoa found Hill for the touchdown to make it a 30-10 game with 0:37 left in the third quarter. Miami missed the extra point.

To end the quarter, Brissett hit Chubb for 7 yards, and then Chubb burst for 17 yards on the final play — however, that was negated by a holding penalty, setting up 2nd-and-11 heading to the fourth quarter, down 20 points. Cleveland kept their slim hopes alive by moving quick in the fourth: a 12-yard pass to WR David Bell, a 20-yard pass to Peoples-Jones, and then a draw to Chubb, who went to the left, bounced off of a tackle, and continued up the left sideline for the 33-yard touchdown. That made it a 30-17 game with 13:09 left.

The Browns’ defense didn’t help the comeback efforts. Two Miami incompletions were negated by a 15-yard penalty on DT Taven Bryan, and an offsides on DE Jadeveon Clowney. As the Dolphins were approaching the red zone again, a high snap was brought down by Tagovailoa, who just went down for the safe six-yard loss. That stalled the drive, but still allowed K Jason Sanders to hit a 33-yard field goal and make it a 33-17 game with 8:15 to go. The Browns would need two touchdowns and a two-point conversion on each to rally. Instead, they went three-and-out, were sacked on fourth down, and then the defense allowed an untouched 20-yard touchdown run by RB James Wilson to make it a 39-17 game with 7:07 remaining.

The Browns got the ball past midfield on their next drive, but again turned it over on downs with about four minutes to play. Miami ran the clock out after that to close out the game.

I didn’t expect the Browns’ defense to shut down the Dolphins’ offense this week. But I thought the offense would be able to go score-for-score enough of the way, and that’s how the game was shaping up early. Cleveland shot themselves in the foot, though, when Chubb fumbled — and then the defense just had no hopes of stopping Miami. Tua definitely impressed me, but it was also a very bad effort from the defense. Next up, the Browns take on the Buffalo Bills. They’ll need to beat Buffalo and Tampa Bay to get to 5-6 before Deshaun Watson’s return in order to have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs still.

Quick Hitters

  • QB Jacoby Brissett: 22-of-35 for 212 yards, 1 TD. 7 rushes, 40 yards.
  • RB Nick Chubb: 11 carries, 63 yards, 1 TD. 3 catches, 18 yards. 1 fumble.
  • RB Kareem Hunt: 6 carries, 9 yards. 1 catch, 10 yards.
  • WR Donovan Peoples-Jones: 5 catches, 99 yards.
  • DE Myles Garrett: 2 tackles.