The Browns know their chances at the post-season dwindle with each loss. Tampa Bay came into Cleveland with a less-than-stellar 5-5-0 record with just as many issues as the Browns. Hard to imagine this club going 9-8 and making the playoffs in the ultra-competitive AFC.
Tampa Bay came into this game as the worst running team in the league. They were dead last in total rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, rushes for 20+ yards, average rushing yards per carry plus rushes for 40+ yards.
Cleveland is one of the best running teams in the league but is horrible at stopping the run.
At the end of the contest, the Browns had a beautiful drive at the end of the game which culminated in a spectacular touchdown grab by TE David Njoku to send the game into overtime. In the extra period, both clubs could not move the ball. Cleveland drove the field and RB Nick Chubb bullied his way into the end zone for a much-needed 23-17 win.
So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
RB Nick Chubb - Another 1,000-yard season for the spectacular back. Had a vanilla first half, but amped it up in the second half with an emphasis on the fourth quarter and into overtime.
With two minutes left in regulation and behind by seven, Chubb took the handoff and began to his left. As he turned upfield it was all green in front of him. Donovan Peoples-Jones took control of his man while C Hjalte Frodholdt led Chubb before he was knocked out of bounds at the 12 for a 28-yard gain. This set up the game-tying touchdown. Finished with 26 carries for 116 yards plus a 16-yard reception. The overtime TD was all-Chubb power.
Defense on third down - The defense, especially the defensive backfield, did a very good job on Tampa’s third down attempts. The Bucs were 0-4 in the first half and only converted three of 15 for the game. Four of these were for four yards or less.
QB Jacoby Brissett - The quarterback was throwing some tight-windowed balls today with very good accuracy. Had several good scrambles including 17 yards in the second quarter. Was sacked four times. The ball he threw to Njoku was a bit high, but Njoku made a Top-5 catch. His toss to WR Amari Cooper with 2:22 left in overtime was just inches from being batted down by CB Carlton Davis as Cooper then gained 16 yards and a new set of downs. Earlier had hit Cooper in the open which was dropped, but Brissett’s patience on that play was remarkable waiting for the play to unfold. Brissett found Cooper open again with 47 ticks remaining which gave Cleveland a first down at the two. Brissett also had a crucial block on Anthony Schwartz’s end around for the game’s first score. Finished with 23 completions on 37 attempts for 210 yards. His lone interception was the Hail Mary.
First and last drives - Because it is what Cleveland does, their opening drive was a thing of beauty. Seven plays, 78 yards with just 4:15 of the clock was all it took. Receivers DPJ and Cooper were the featured players before Chubb ran off right tackle for 15 yards. An end around by WR Anthony Schwartz scored from 31 yards out. Down by seven with just 2;45 left in the game, the Bucs punted from their own 17 to which DPJ had a nice 17-yard return to set up the Browns at Tampa’s 46. Chubb gained 34 yards on two runs and suddenly Cleveland had the ball on the 12. Three plays later and zero yards gained, Brissett tossed it high to Njoku who grabbed the tip of the ball in his palm and then cradled it as he fell into the end zone. After K Cade York’s successful PAT, the game went into overtime.
WR Amari Cooper - Had a very pedestrian first half, but came through in the clutch in the final quarter and into the overtime period. Dropped a key third down play late in the game that would have kept a good drive moving, but otherwise was stellar. His 17-yard catch on the final drive of OT brought the ball out to Cleveland’s 46. Two plays later, he rambled for 46 yards as his defender Davis had slipped. Seven catches for 94 yards amidst 12 targets.
CB M.J. Emerson - Mike Evans is an elite receiver. On paper the 6’5”, 231 pound nine-year, four-time Pro Bowler is a complete mismatch against the 6’2”, 200 pound Emerson who just happens to be a rookie. But Emerson was electric today and kept Evans to two catches for 31 yards. Not that the Bucs weren’t throwing to him. He had 12 targets. Emerson’s technique, if he was a step behind, was to swat at Evans’ arm just as the ball arrived which forced a one-handed attempt to catch the ball. A key play for Tampa with 3:29 left in overtime was a batted pass attempt to Evans by Emerson. Had four tackles. Nice job.
DAVID NJOKU ARE YOU KIDDING ME pic.twitter.com/ll6uhWXgsy— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) November 27, 2022
TE David Njoku - Realize that five catches for 29 yards are not a sensational day, but his touchdown catch to tie the game was a thing of sensationalism. Having a vertical leap of 37.5 inches is a huge plus when the ball is slightly out-of-reach as this pass was. Only able to get one hand up, the football literally stuck into his palm to which he then brought it down and was able to cradle it gently against his chest. Poetic indeed.
CB Denzel Ward - Numerous mistakes from the Pro Bowler. On Tampa’s first touchdown to WR Chris Godwin, Ward allowed Godwin to have the inside track which eliminated any ball play by Ward without having to go through the receiver. On the Bucs’ final possession before the end of the game, Ward was casual when defending WR Julio Jones who caught the pass for 21 yards and in decent field position. With 9:24 left in the third, Ward played off Godwin too much and the speedy receiver scampered 22 yards after Ward missed the tackle.
Third down conversions - A horrible day trying to convert third downs. 0-5 in the first half and 3-15 for the game. One third down play ended in a key sack. The Browns’ first conversion wasn’t until just over five minutes to play in the game.
Middle of the offensive line - For most of the game while dropping back to pass, Brissett had little time to go through his progressions because of the all-out effort by Tampa’s defensive line plus the occasional extra rusher. It was reserve OL Hjalte Frodholdt’s first game at center who is sandwiched by two Pro Bowl guards. However, that hardware meant nothing today as the Bucs had four sacks and kept constant pressure on Brissett. RG Wyatt Teller had all he could handle with DT Vita Vea while LG Joel Bitonio struggled with DE William Gholston. Most running plays were gained by taking the edge, but today, the middle just wasn’t open.
Milk Bones – When you realize you continue to watch the Browns because of the food
Special Teams - Jerome Ford is a star in waiting for this offense, but for now, he is a star kick returner. He ripped off 43 yards just before the half. K Cade York’s first field goal attempt kept hooking left but was good from 51 yards.
York’s second FG went janky way left. York connected the ball on the rightside of the ball which sent the football sailing far left into the stands for a souvenir. He made both PATs including the crucial game-tying point right before the end of the fourth quarter. P Corey Bojorquez had nice punts to the 10 and 13 as the third quarter was winding down. He had six kicks for a 54.8 average. When is this guy going to win the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week? The coverage teams were excellent with Harrison Bryant, D’Anthony Bell, and Charley Hughlett. DPJ had his first awesome punt return since his days at Michigan early in the third quarter as he ripped off 16 yards. But this is because of the blocks by Tony Fields and Jordan Kunaszyk when they corralled three Buccaneers at once. Hughlett remains a special player for this club.
CB Thomas Graham - If you had to grab a roster card to see who that #31 was making the tackle, you aren’t alone. With Tampa on a third-and-eight at their own 13, Godwin did a simple flare out from his slot position to which Graham read it and nailed the receiver for only a two-yard gain. On a third-and-four with just nine minutes to play, Graham came in tight on Godwin who gave a good head bob to the center then ran his route out left which converted for a first down after the six-yard gain. Five minutes later, Graham gave too much cushion to Godwin who gained 15-yards to the Browns’ 39. Finished with six tackles.
Fourth down conversions - Two for four today, but both conversions were for positive results. Right before the game ended, Brissett hit Njoku on a fourth-and-10 that tied the game. Facing a fourth-and-one early in the second quarter, RB Kareem Hunt gained two yards but eventually, the drive stalled. On a fourth-and-six, the ball was intercepted on the last play of the first half on the Hail Mary. The other fourth down attempt was with 8:26 left in the game on Tampa’s 44-yard line. On that ill-advised fourth-and-nine, Brissett threw incomplete to Cooper. Luckily, the Buccaneers could not do anything with their great field position on three plays then punted.
Anthony Schwartz sighting - The end around for the game’s first points was amazing. The hole was huge as Brissett de-cleated S Antoine Winfield and Cooper blocked out Davis. At the 11:59 mark of the third stanza, Schwartz caught a pass in the left flats and gained 17 yards. His stats for the game are one carry for a 31-yard average, plus one catch for a 17-yard average. Both numbers are Pro Bowl worthy.
DE Myles Garrett - Was almost invisible in the first half, but was energized in the second two quarters and into the extra period. Was a presence on almost every down in the fourth quarter and finished with 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss, and three total tackles.
DT Jordan Elliott - Had some good plays and was able to help plug the center on running downs. His sack in the first half was a matter of nobody open as QB Tom Brady had seven seconds in the pocket before Elliott was able to break free and nail Brady. Had three tackles with one tackle for loss.
It will probably take 10 wins to get a post-season berth in the AFC. Do you think Cleveland can make a run and earn a spot in the playoffs?
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Not a chance