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Browns’ offense can’t finish, special teams is a disaster in 31-23 loss to Bills

Cleveland drops to 3-7 on the year.

Cleveland Browns v Buffalo Bills Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns’ offense kept driving well, and then something would stall the drive. The special teams unit was a disaster all game. And the defense was solid for much of the first half, before giving way to the momentum going against them, leading to a 31-23 losing effort against the Buffalo Bills. Let’s get to the full game recap.

Just like last week against the Dolphins, the Browns took the opening possession and drove down the field for a touchdown, thanks to the work of QB Jacoby Brissett. Brissett converted one 3rd-and-long with a 22-yard run, and then the next 3rd-and-long with a quick pass to WR Amari Cooper. After RB Nick Chubb was stuffed for a 3-yard loss, on 2nd-and-13 from the 25 yard line, Brissett dropped back and lofted the ball to the corner of the end zone to give Cooper a chance to post up a defender. Cooper snagged the ball for a touchdown to put the Browns up 7-0.

After not forcing a punt all of last week, Cleveland’s defense got one right away against Buffalo, who passed on two of their three plays and also had a botched play on second down. Following the punt, Cleveland’s next drive would begin at the 11 yard line. On second down, Cooper tried to hit TE David Njoku downfield off of playaction. Although Njoku was open, S Jordan Poyer came to deliver a big hit to make it an incompletion. Then, the third down conversion was wiped out by a hold on RB Kareem Hunt, eventually leading to a punt.

P Corey Bojorquez’ punt was a short 44 yard punt, and it was also returned 28 yards by the Bills to put them in field goal range right away. The defense came up with another three-and-out, though, so Buffalo sent K Tyler Bass on the field for a 42-yard field goal to make it a 7-3 game with 3:32 to go in the first quarter.

RB Jerome Ford had a nice kickoff return out to the 35 yard line to begin Cleveland’s third offensive drive. The drive began with a 26-yard screen pass to Chubb. A couple plays later, he had runs of 12 and 5 yards. Brissett fired another 12-yard pass in the seam to Cooper to set up a 1st-and-goal from the 8 yard line heading into the second quarter.

Chubb took the snap from the Wildcat to start the second quarter, but the Bills pressured it heavy and dropped him for a loss of six yards. On 2nd-and-goal from the 14 yard line, Brissett zipped a pass to TE Harrison Bryant over the middle. It was high and out in front, so it went off his fingertips. On third down, delivered a dime to TE Pharoah Brown in tight coverage, but he couldn’t hang on either. Cleveland had to settle for a 32-yard field goal to make it a 10-3 game.

The defense forced its third straight three-and-out of the game. On third down, DE Myles Garrett got to QB Josh Allen for a sack. The field position factor came into play again, though, as P Sam Martin booted the ball 52 yards, and then a holding penalty was called on Cleveland, meaning their drive would start back at the 10 yard line.

Despite the field position, Cleveland’s drive was going great, with a little bit of up-tempo mixed in: 9 yard pass to Cooper, 3-yard run by Hunt, 8-yard pass to Peoples-Jones, 5-yard pass to Cooper, and then runs of 6, 5, and 7 yards by Hunt to cross midfield. On 2nd-and-3 from the Bills’ 47 yard line, the Browns’ backup center situation hurt them. C Ethan Pocic exited after one snap, and that presumably led to a bad quarterback-center exchange, which Buffalo LB Matt Milano immediately recovered.

Buffalo started with back-to-back incompletions on screen passes, setting up 3rd-and-10. On third down, S Grant Delpit missed the open field tackle on TE Dawson Knox, allowing him to get the Bills’ first first down of the game. The Bills finally discovered that they should run the ball after that, getting gains of 16 and 9 yards on the ground into the red zone. A holding penalty set Buffalo’s offense back, though, and they had to settle for a 36-yard field goal. That made it a 10-6 game with 4:54 remaining in the first half.

Brissett found Cooper up the left sideline for 24 yards to get past midfield. The drive stalled a bit from there, although Brissett came so close to connecting with Cooper on a deep ball on third down — but Cooper’s second foot was on the white line by about half an inch. That led to a punt, and Bojorquez had another dud that only went 28 yards and was fair caught at the 22 yard line. Earlier in the season, Bojorquez was pinning those punts inside the 10 yard line with his eyes closed.

After controlling much of the first half, it just had the feeling that Buffalo was going to go into the half with the lead. Buffalo drove into a goal-to-go situation, but had burned all three of their timeouts. On 1st-and-goal from the 5 yard line, Allen had to throw the ball away to avoid a sack. On 2nd-and-goal, the defense lost WR Stefon Diggs, as Allen found him wide open for a touchdown to give Buffalo a 13-10 lead with 0:14 left in the half. Cleveland took a knee after that.

The Bills were driving with ease on their opening possession of the second half, and it looked like they were well on their way to a touchdown drive. On a 2nd-and-4 from the 26 yard line, though, DE Jadeveon Clowney shot through the backfield to stop an end around play for a loss of 8 yards. A holding penalty on the next play set them back further, and eventually they faced a decision on whether to try a 56-yard field goal. They went for it, and Bass hit it right down the middle to make it a 16-10 game.

The theme for much of the game is that Cleveland’s offense was moving the ball well, only to falter when you thought they were in good shape. Such was the case on their first drive of the half, which saw Brissett completing more passes to move the ball as Buffalo was stuffing the run. When Cleveland finally did get a good run — a 9-yard run by Chubb on second down — it set up 3rd-and-1 from the 27 yard line. The Browns tried their patented quarterback sneak with Brissett, but the Bills stuffed it. Then, they tried it again on fourth down, and were denied again for a turnover on downs.

Off of the turnover, Allen completed a 17-yard pass, and then 15 more yards were tackled on due to a roughing the passer call on DT Tommy Togiai. Allen then found Knox wide open up the seam for a gain of 23 yards. CB Greedy Williams pulled the ball loose as Knox was going to the ground, and it was initially ruled a fumble. However, replay review showed that Knox had touched down, putting the ball at the Cleveland 18. A 13-yard run by RB Devin Singletary set up a 1st-and-goal from the 5 yard line, and then he punched it in for a touchdown on the next play to make it a 22-10 game.

Buffalo went for two to try to extend it to a 14-point lead, but S John Johnson denied the runner just in the nick of time to keep it 22-10 with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter. The Browns went deep off of playaction to begin the next drive, and the defender committed a 36-yard pass interference penalty on WR Donovan Peoples-Jones to get into Buffalo territory. Brissett then found Njoku for a 21-yard gain into the red zone.

On 1st-and-10 from the 16 yard line, Brissett was pressured but fired for Bryant open in the end zone. He couldn’t keep both feet in bounds, though. Cleveland eventually had to settle for a 34-yard field goal attempt, but the Browns’ disastrous special teams effort on the day continued as the kick was blocked. The score remained 22-10 with 1:37 left in the third quarter. The Bills got a 29-yard run to end the third quarter, putting them in field goal range. Cleveland’s defense held them to a 49-yard field goal try after that, which Bass again connected on with ease to make it a 25-10 game.

The offense went three-and-out, with them allowing a free rusher to sack Brissett on third down. Cleveland punted back to Buffalo with 11:53 remaining. They took it down to 6:45 remaining as they kicked a 28-yard field goal to make it 28-10 and a nearly-impossible three-possession game to come back from.

Brissett got passes of 14 yards to Bryant, 27 yards to Peoples-Jones, and then a 7-yard touchdown pass to Cooper to make it a 28-16 game with 4:11 to go. They went for the two-point conversion and although Cooper caught it, the official ruled that he had illegally touched it by stepping out of bounds earlier.

The Browns’ onside kick was not converted. They burned their timeouts as Buffalo kept moving the chains. At the two-minute warning, Bass kicked a 38-yard field goal to make it a 31-16 game.

Brissett made some great throws to Cooper, Peoples-Jones, and Hunt to keep moving the ball while getting players out of bounds. Although there was only 0:19 left, Brissett’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Peoples-Jones made it a 31-23 game.

Cleveland lined up for an onside kick again. The ball bounced off of a Bill, and S Ronnie Harrison had a chance to grab it near the Buffalo 40-yard line, but the opposition had their hands on it too, and then the ball squirmed out of bounds to essentially end the game.

Up next, the Browns host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Quick Hitters

  • QB Jacoby Brissett: 28-of-41 for 324 yards, 3 TD. 7 rushes, 29 yards.
  • RB Nick Chubb: 14 carries, 19 yards (1.4 YPC). 3 catches, 48 yards (3 targets).
  • RB Kareem Hunt: 5 carries, 32 yards (6.4 YPC). 2 catches, 22 yards (1 target).
  • WR Amari Cooper: 8 catches, 113 yards (12 targets), 2 TD.
  • WR Donovan Peoples-Jones: 5 catches, 61 yards (6 targets), 1 TD.
  • DE Myles Garrett: 3 tackles, 1 sack.