After the Cleveland Browns gave the San Francisco 49ers their first loss of the young season last week, optimism is at an all-time high for fans of the orange and brown. And it should be. After all, the Browns were 3-2-0 going into this week’s game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Both franchises have lost their starting quarterbacks and are struggling on offense. For Cleveland, their defense is their saving grace by keeping them in games so that the offense’s most valuable player, kicker Dustin Hopkins, can provide the cushion needed to win games.
Meanwhile, the Colts were 3-3-0 and needed to gain ground on their division leader the Jacksonville Jaguars who won on Thursday night. This is the part of Cleveland’s schedule where the competition isn’t as tough as it was for the first five games, so every week’s game is crucial if they expect to see a playoff bid later.
At the final gun, the Browns eked out a 39-38 victory on the road and spoiled the Colts new uniforms. Cleveland is now 4-2-0 just one game behind the Baltimore Ravens.
So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
No quit - At one point, Cleveland had a nine-point lead midway into the third quarter and it appeared the defense would be all that was needed for the remainder of the contest. But Indianapolis came back time and time again and had several lead changes. With just over nine minutes left, the Colts went up 31-30. The Cleveland offense then put together their best drive of the day which concluded with a 58-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal to regain the lead 33-31. The Colts scored a touchdown with two missed tackles, and with 5:40 to go, the Browns were down five points 38-33. The offense knew it could not rely on Hopkins’ golden foot to bail them out. A three-and-out after wasting valuable clock ended with a punt. The defense stopped Indy with their own three-and-out and took over at their own 13-yard line with one time-out left and 2:35 remaining. A third-and-10 became a 30-yard completion to WR Elijah Moore. Good running by Pierre Strong. Two defensive penalties placed the ball at the one with 38 ticks remaining. No Nick Chubb, so three incompletions later it was fourth down and still on the one-yard line. Then Kareem Hunt just nosed the ball over for the go-ahead score. At no time did the offense, defense, or special teams quit. No sir. Good teams have this inside them.
.@Browns K Dustin Hopkins has set an NFL record with at least one 50+ yard FG in five consecutive games.— Dan Murphy (@DMurph_BrownsPR) October 22, 2023
K Dustin Hopkins - The offense’s most valuable component is their kicker. He has now nailed six field goals of over 50 yards for the season including the 58 and 54-yarder this game. Hopkins was a perfect 4-4 on field goal attempts and 3-3 on PATs. That equates to 15 of the 39 points scored by the Browns. Hopkins improved to 14 of 16 on field goals for the year. He also set an NFL record and is a lock to win back-to-back AFC Special Teams Player of the Week awards.
#Browns Myles Garrett on how hard it is to leap over the center without making contact on his FG block: "Depends if you're me or not...If you're me, it's another day at the office."— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) October 22, 2023
DE Myles Garrett - When this cat is on, he is wound up tight and explodes off that corner. Today his assignment was to be disruptive and make fools out of either offensive tackles. He graded out at an A+. And it began very early in the game. With 1:23 left in the opening stanza, Colts LT Bernhard Raimann whiffed on Garrett who then slammed into QB Gardner Minshew for the sack plus a fumble. Cleveland LB Anthony Walker was able to scoop up the loose ball and rumble down to the 36-yard line. Five plays later, the Browns put up seven. Garrett had a second sack just before the half after TE Drew Ogletree tried to block him and sent him to G Will Fries who had pulled to protect the outside corner but got there late. This ended up being a Hopkins FG. Oh, and eight minutes earlier, it was Garrett who jumped over Raimann on a 60-yard field goal attempt and blocked it. As a large man, how do you do this without touching your offensive counterpart?
That set Cleveland up with a Hopkins field goal as well. Garrett stuffed RB Zack Moss just before halftime for a loss which developed a third-and-13. He also batted a pass early in the third quarter on a key third down. He just missed another sack early in the fourth quarter that forced the Colts to punt. Strong run support today as he finished with nine total tackles, two sacks, and two QB hits.
S Grant Delpit - Each week his game gets better and is having a Pro Bowl year. He is usually slotted as a linebacker and reads the hole pretty quickly. Blew up a third-and-13 screenplay to TE Mo Alie-Cox that had promise but he beat his block for a loss. The long TD pass to WR Josh Downs was Delpit’s man to tie the game at 7-7. With 3:01 left in the game, he nailed the receiver on a third-and-15 which resulted in another Colts punt. Led all defenders with 10 total tackles.
DC Jim Schwartz - Adjustments happened early for Schwartz as Indy torched his unit in the first quarter and then settled down. He also lost DE Alex Wright, DE Ogbo Okoronkwo, LB Tony Fields, and CB Denzel Ward throughout the game. Fields and Ogbo would return. The defense had five three-and-outs including the Colts possession with 3:39 left in the game. Four takeaways, five QB hits plus four sacks kept Cleveland in the game as the defensive line played stellar run defense. RB Jonathan Taylor had just 75 yards. Nice in-game adjustments Coach.
P Corey Bojorquez - Boomed a 69-yard kick in the first quarter that pinned down the Colts. Had five punts for a 54.4-yard average. The 2022 leading punter averaged 53.1 yards per punt, so this was a fine day.
RB Kareem Hunt - Was the bell-cow when called upon today. Had just 31 yards on 10 carries, but his touchdown push at the end of the game behind the blocks of OG Nick Harris and OG Joel Bitonio sealed the win when it appeared he might be stopped just short. His first TD of the game was right up the gut for two yards early in the second quarter to tie the game at 14. He followed the block of OT James Hudson who came in as the fullback.
Missed tackles - As good as this defense has been this year leading in most categories, one that is a problem is not wrapping up guys. For the game, nine missed tackles. Denzel Ward (2), M.J. Emerson, Juan Thornhill (2), Anthony Walker, Jordan Elliott, JOK, and Greg Newsome were the culprits. The most glaring example was with Cleveland holding a 30-21 lead winding down Quarter #3. With a good pass rush, Minshew found Colts WR Michael Pittman across the middle to which Newsome grabbed the jersey but fell off as Emerson came in with a two-armed forearm bar but bounced off. Pittman galloped for a 75-yard touchdown and Indy was now up 38-33.
QB Deshaun Watson - Apparently the ailments in his shoulder are still lingering because his play was not good until he became hurt and had to leave the game. His first pass was into the turf. His second pass was incomplete, and then his third pass attempt was intercepted by S Julian Blackmon in the first quarter. Seven minutes later, he tossed another pick but the play was ruled incomplete on replay. He delayed leaving the pocket on two occasions when he could have made the first down but threw incomplete instead. Went 1-5 for five yards with one INT and zero rushing yards. When he became hurt, Browns fans were heard saying “Stay down.”
No Amari Cooper - In the first half, Coop was invisible. He caught his first ball with 12:09 left in the game. Besides their kicker, this is their best weapon and yet wasn’t utilized? Then in the second half, he was targeted eight times. Two catches for 22 yards is not a misprint.
Defense first quarter - Indianapolis was able to march up the field several times early on and gained 142 yards this quarter alone with two touchdowns.
S Juan Thornhill - Had an off game and missed several tackles. Was completely juked and embarrassed by Minshew at the three-yard line who then scored the touchdown after scrambling for four yards and now had a 14-7 lead.
Defense third down stops - In the first half, the Colts converted 3-6 first downs on third down plays. They were on a roll in the second half as they converted the first four they attempted which kept each drive alive. Finished the game going 7-13 which is exceptional for any offense.
Fourth down play - This was just ugly. The drive began at their own 25 and six plays later Cleveland had the ball at Indy’s 41 leading 30-28 late in the third quarter. That is a 58-yard field goal try, but instead the struggling offense attempted to convert the fourth-and-two after a second-and-two and a third-and-two gained nothing. You think this was a sign? The Browns have a deep ball kicker it should be noted. QB P.J. Walker made a horrible pitch toss to RB Jerome Ford for the loss and turnover of downs at midfield. Of the three options, punting, attempting three points, or going for it, the latter was the worst decision.
Milk Bones – Organized people are those who are just too lazy to find their things
QB P.J. Walker - Nothing very impressive for most of his game, but a win is always a win. His first pass went wonky and incomplete. After going 0-3, he connected with TE David Njoku for 26 yards to Indy’s 49-yard line. He was intercepted the very next play which then was reversed. Walker was able to orchestra an impressive seven-play 34-yard drive with 1:17 left in the first half which saw Hopkins kick a 54-yard field goal to up the lead to 27-21. Had the fumble on the bad pitch that was recovered by Ford, then tossed the rock to Cooper on a key third-and-six into double coverage for no gain. With his interception, there were two Browns receivers in the exact same area making a logjam of defenders, one of which was S Rodney Thomas who picked off the errant pass. Finished going 15-32 for 178 yards, sacked twice, one pick, zero TDs, three runs for three yards, and a 51.3 QB rating. Oh, and he is 2-0 as the Browns quarterback.
Third down conversions - Six for 16 is not that great for this offense and killed many a good drive. Several were for long distances such as 16, 10, 11, 14, 11, and 10 yards, respectively. However, three of these positive conversions were critical to the outcome of each half.
RB Jerome Ford - A decent day. The early rip for 69 yards with just 47 ticks gone was a sight to see. Missed two blocks in the backfield that resulted in one sack. 11 carries for 74 yards plus two catches for 20 yards. After his big run, he had just five yards rushing.
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones - Yes it is true the talented receiver had just three targets and two catches for 22 yards. So, why the attention? The Browns started their last drive at their own 20 losing 38-33 with 2:35 remaining. As Cleveland drove to Indy’s 39-yard line, DPJ snagged a 17-yard completion to place the Browns in business at the 19. This momentum carried them to victory (with the help of two defensive penalties).
Do you think Myles Garrett has a chance at the league’s Defensive Player of the Year?
This poll is closed
Absolutely - did you see him play today?
Wait and see