What a crazy week for the Cleveland Browns.
After defeating division foe Baltimore Ravens in a wild comeback last Sunday, their starting quarterback Deshaun Watson went for an MRI on his ankle and was found to have severe issues with his shoulder instead. That examination resulted in Watson being placed on IR, and then ruled out for the remainder of the season.
The next step was, what to do next? Rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson and journeyman P.J. Walker remained on the roster as the only QB options, but neither has shown anything in their few starts this year. The only silver lining is that because the news came early in the week, the Browns were able to give both signal-callers first-team reps and get more film study plus adjustments finalized.
Now. WHERE are you Steelers fans at? You know who YOU are. You were in my mentions ALL week. Here’s your thread.— Mavs Ace (@Mavs_Ace) November 19, 2023
Both the Browns and Steelers came into this game 6-3-0 right behind the Ravens for the division lead. Pittsburgh and Cleveland each have eyes on the division crown as well as a post-season bid, so the winner would certainly have the advantage with both goals.
In the end, Cleveland prevailed but just barely 13-10. By the way, just barely counts in the standings. Now the Browns are 7-3-0 with Pittsburgh dropping to 6-4-0.
So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson - Here is all you need to know about the rookie’s day. With 1:38 left in the game with the score tied 10-10, Cleveland had the ball after the defense stuffed the Steelers who were trying to mount their own heroic comeback win. Browns began on their own 35-yard line knowing they had to get to Pittsburgh’s 40 in order for kicker Dustin Hopkins to boot yet another 58-yarder for the game-winner. First down: DTR 15-yard pass to WR Elijah Moore. First down: DTR short pass to RB Kareem Hunt for five yards to the 50. Second down: Short pass to the right to WR Amari Cooper for eight now at the 37. Guaranteed field goal range. First down: TE David Njoku catches the short pass to the right then plows for 11 yards, now at the Steelers’ 26. Hunt two-yard run. Steelers five-yard penalty. Second down: Hunt two-yard gain to get more centered to the 17 but with no time outs, the offense must hustle to get settled. Third down: DTR spike with no timeouts left and five seconds left on the clock. Hopkins’ 34-yard field goal hits dead center. DTR second start, first fourth-quarter drive for the win. On the final drive, DTR was 4-4 for 35 yards. In the first half, he was 13 for 19 and 24/43 for the game for 165 yards with one pick, but only one sack taken. Also had three scrambles for 20 yards, two of which went for first downs. Great game young man.
Browns had 53 total yards in the 2H up until the drive starting at 1:28.— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) November 19, 2023
They went 8 plays, 43 yards to set up the game-winning FG.
DTR 4-4 for 39 yards on that final drive.#DawgPound
P Corey Bojorquez - What a great game for the strong-legged punter. All game long he gave the Steelers bad field position. Was used an incredible eight times, with one punt 65 yards. Early he had the Steelers on their own nine-yard line which started the dialog of if the Browns had not one but two safety opportunities. With just eight minutes left in the second quarter, his kick went out on the 21, and midway through the third, he pinned Pittsburgh down on the 13. Only one touchback with a 47.5 yards per punt average.
LB Sione Takitaki - Was playing a great game with MLB Anthony Walker left the game which shifted Takitaki to the center. There, he blossomed. Early in the first quarter, it was Takitaki on two tackles that most Browns fans assumed were both safeties with each placed at the half-foot line. When Pittsburgh went for it on the fourth-and-one with 5:23 left in the third quarter, Takitaki was the first man to hit QB Kenny Pickett who lost his helmet. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Takitaki combined with Ogbo for a one-yard loss. Three minutes later, the linebacker batted a pass intended for a wide-open WR Allen Robinson. Finished with five total tackles with one pass defense.
DE Ogbo Okoronkwo - Man on a mission today. Had a relatively quiet first half, and then dominated the second half. With 9:13 left in the third quarter, he nailed RB Najee Harris for a one-yard loss. On the very next play, he assisted on the short reception to Harris which gained a single yard which forced a third-and-four before the punt. As the third quarter was about to expire, he again blasted Harris for a loss on a third-and-eight. Then the one-yard loss to begin Quarter #4. His best efforts were with just over five minutes remaining in the contest. He batted a pass and then caught Harris for a five-yard loss on consecutive plays. Was an absolute beast in the second half and finished with five tackles with four of those for loss, one QB hit, and one pass defense.
Third down stops - The defense stopped the Steelers on third down consistently all game including when Pittsburgh got the ball with just over five minutes in the game. Steelers went 1-5 in the first half and 2-9 in the second stanza.
K Dustin “Money” Hopkins - Can we just give Hopkins the Browns Offensive Player of the Year before he receives his first-ever Pro Bowl? The dude is just money. Money, money. 2-2 on field goals of 25 and 34 yards. Is the league’s leading kicker in case you didn’t know.
WR Elijah Moore - With all this talent, he was expected to make a huge difference this year yet has been sub-par. Not today. Converted a key third down in the second quarter from a bullet from DTR. Caught a short pass just before halftime as the Browns were moving into field goal range to the Steelers’ six-yard line with 32 ticks left. No catch in the game was more critical than his 15-yard completion on the first play of the final drive. Led all receivers with 60 yards with seven targets and six catches.
LT Geron Christian - Pittsburgh’s defense is no joke. For the second week in a row, Cleveland had to play backups at both offensive tackle spots. Christian was lined up against former Brown Larry Ogunjobi who had just one tackle and one QB hit. That was it. The Steelers’ would stunt to Christian’s side usually with Montravius Adams who failed to record any stats. Great work from our practice squad guy who had zero penalties and allowed zero sacks. Nice job.
You SHOULD like the Cleveland Browns defense https://t.co/ZHdAcDpHUE— Andrew Spayde (@AndrewSpayde) November 19, 2023
Defense - Pittsburgh only gained 64 yards in the first half and just could not run the ball. Yes, a 75-yard touchdown run began the second half, but that was a lack of tackling skills. QB Kenny Pickett only had 106 passing yards and was sacked three times. Take away Warren’s long run and the Steelers had just 203 total yards all game. The first-half possessions were four punts and a one-down kneel down. The second half was much of the same with TD, punt, punt, punt, field goal, punt, punt, one play for 13 yards.
S Grant Delpit - Nothing spectacular, just a steady game and very active and around more plays than his stats display. Led all tacklers with seven with one tackle for loss.
CB Denzel Ward - Made several good plays including a stop of Harris in the third quarter when he appeared he had a large hole. Batted down the pass intended for WR Diontae Johnson, their best receiver, late in the game. On the Steelers’ second-to-last drive, three straight passes to Johnson went incomplete with Ward’s coverage. Shut down Johnson who finished with just two catches for 18 yards despite having eight targets.
Missed tackles - How many times did you see a Browns’ defender whiff on a tackle, or jump high and then fall off? The most flagrant was CB Greg Newsome’s whiff on RB Jaylen Warren’s 74-yard scamper right out of the gate to begin the second half. Newsome had the angle, took a head bob, and then, well, it was all green for Warren. Others missing tackles include JOK, Rodney McLeod, Ronnie Hickman, and Maurice Hurst.
RT James Hudson - Maybe Hudson is being misclassified because after all he was lined up against T.J. Watt all game. But the Browns had a good strategy with lining up a tight end on Hudson’s side to not chip, but blast Watt, then release him to Hudson. It was when Hudson was all alone that the destruction began. So, the big question is, why did lining up the tight end cease if this was working? Hudson got lucky in the third quarter when an apparent sack was changed due to a roughing the passer call. But with just six minutes to play and a good Cleveland drive, the lack of a tight end sent Watt on a great inside move for the sack. Watt ended up with three QB hits, a sack, two tackles for loss, and six tackles.
Inexplicable third & fourth quarter, but clutch DTR— Matt OnTheBrowns (@MattOnTheBrowns) November 19, 2023
Offense second half - What happened at halftime? This group absolutely died except for two drives, one of which ended with an interception of a tipped ball, while the other was the final drive. Second-half possessions: Punt, punt, interception, punt, punt, punt, field goal. For one, the offense quite running the ball. For another, Jerome Ford had only one carry in the third quarter. Cleveland came out passing the ball and was faced with multiple long third-down situations: Third and 10, 8, 10, 15, 13, 22, 7, and 7. All in the second half. A miserable output when the team had a 10-0 lead that fell apart despite the defense playing their asses off. The defense cannot be expected to keep this roster in every game. They just can’t.
Converting third downs - Cleveland had a monster number of third down plays all game. That means the offense can’t keep drives going. 3-8 in the first half and 0-9 in the second half. For the math happy, that is 17 third-down attempts. Pitiful.
Milk Bones – Anything done before the first coffee of the day could be classified as self-defense
TE David Njoku - Okay, good news or bad news? Let’s do bad news first. Three dropped passes in the second half. Two of which would have converted into a first down. All three hit him in both hands, with one being slightly behind him. He did make several good plays including another drag-as-many-defenders-as-you-can play. In the first quarter, he gained nine yards on a third-and-10 but failed to extend his football hand over the first down marker. His catch-and-drag with 30 seconds before the half is what got Hopkins in range for the field goal. Had a critical drop with just five minutes left in the game which resulted in a punt instead. Was money on the final drive for 11 yards which ended at the Steelers’ 26. When he was punched with a closed fist in the end zone, why wasn’t this called?
RB Kareem Hunt - Did he even play in the first quarter? Played sparingly, but made two critical blocks on a six-man pass rush. Gained a first down with 12:20 left in the third quarter on the fourth down call. Who can forget his hurdle late in the fourth quarter that gained a first down to the Steelers’ 28. Led all rushers with 12 carries for 36 yards but was not a factor in the passing game.
DT Shelby Harris - Had some issues maintaining his gap in the second half, but in the first two quarters, the Steelers could not run up the middle. Was able to bat down two passes, both of which were to open receivers that would certainly have been converted into a new set of downs.
DE Myles Garrett - Other than the missed safety in the first half, had a very vanilla first half until he sacked Pickett midway into the second quarter when he beat OT Dan Moore on an inside move with additional pressure from Ogbo. On a second-and-12 with 9:14 left in the game, Pittsburgh had a great drive going to Cleveland’s 15 when Hurst flushed Pickett to the side where he met Garrett who ended any touchdown thoughts and finished with a game-tying field goal.