This was not the Cleveland Browns’ best effort, as they lost to the Denver Broncos 29-12. There were dumb offensive mistakes, some questionable strategy, and then early defensive miscues without Denzel Ward that led to the Browns’ downfall. And now, we also have to wonder who the team’s quarterback will be next week. Let’s get to the full game recap.
Cleveland received the opening kickoff, but the offense went three-and-out and immediately punted to Russell Wilson and the Broncos offense. Denver picked up one first down via the ground game, but the Browns’ defense forced a couple of no gains after that to set up a 3rd-and-10. Wilson faced pressure, but aired the ball out up the right sideline for WR Courtland Sutton. CB Greg Newsome was flagged for defensive pass interference, resulting in a 34-yard penalty.
Denver had success on 3rd-and-8 after that, as Wilson got time to throw and Sutton beat Newsome across the field for a 31-yard gain to the 3 yard line. On 1st-and-goal, RB Samaje Perine punched it in, negating Denver’s red zone struggles for the early 7-0 lead.
On Cleveland’s next offensive drive, they had a series of nice, short plays to get the ball close to midfield. On 3rd-and-short, they lined up TE Harrison Bryant under center, but a false start was called on the center. On 3rd-and-5, the officials marked the catch by WR Cedric Tillman inches short of a first down. Bryant lined up under center again on 4th-and-short, and the exchange from the center was fumbled and turned over on downs at midfield.
Another takeaway for this defense.— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 26, 2023
: FOX pic.twitter.com/6MnVMVuBpV
Denver got into a 3rd-and-12 to begin their second drive, and this time the Browns’ defense got the stop, with Wilson’s scramble being stopped a few yards shy of a first down. On 4th-and-3, the offense actually stayed on the field to go for it from the 42 yard line. Wilson evaded pressure and scrambled for a first down, but the ball popped out at the end of the play as LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah punched the ball out and DE Alex Wright recovered at 34 yard line.
The offense couldn’t capitalize, going three-and-out and sending the punt unit right back on the field. P Corey Bojorquez had his punt sail to the end zone again for a touchback.
Perine continued his hot first quarter, moving the chains on a 3rd-and-4 carry, and then ending the first quarter with a 15-yard burst right up the middle to midfield, with Denver taking advantage of the Browns’ defensive tackles playing wide.
The Broncos were 3-of-4 on third down conversions in the first half, and faced a 3rd-and-8 near the start of the second quarter. Wilson bought time, rolled to his right, was tipped by Owusu-Koramoah, and still found its way to a receiver for a first down and into field goal range. Wilson a keeper after that, completely fooling the Browns’ defense as he scampered up the left side for 19 yards to the 7 yard line. On 1st-and-goal from the 7, Wilson kept it again but to the right side, getting to the 5 yard line. On 2nd-and-goal from the 5, the Browns’ defense was offsides, giving Denver another shot from the 2 yard line. On 2nd-and-goal from the 2, Wilson kept it again and scored, giving the Broncos a 14-0 lead.
Cleveland got a 19-yard run by Ford to get close to midfield again. He followed that up with an 11-yard run to get past midfield and into Denver territory for the first time of the game. DTR then had a quarterback draw that went for 9 yards, setting up a 2nd-and-1. RB Kareem Hunt then came in for a Wildcat run that went for 7 yards, out to the 29 yard line. A 9-yard completion to WR Elijah Moore set up a 3rd-and-1. Cleveland was 0-of-3 on third-down conversions, but moved the chains this time as Hunt got 3 yards to the 17 yard line.
DTR was going to hand the ball off to Hunt on the next play, but he lost the handle — fortunately, Hunt recovered for a loss of a yard only. After a second down incompletion, on 3rd-and-11, DTR’s underneath pass to Ford was dropped but wouldn’t have been a first down anyway. K Dustin Hopkins came on for a 36-yard field goal to put the Browns on the board at 14-3 with 5:59 remaining in the first half.
After picking up a first down, Denver found themselves in a 1st-and-25 after a false start and then an offensive pass interference. That helped allow the defense to get a stop and force a punt by P Riley Dixon. The punt didn’t have much hang time, so WR James Proche got a short return out to the 28 yard line with 3:04 remaining in the half.
Tillman began the next drive with a 17-yard catch from DTR. Cleveland faced a 3rd-and-7 heading into the two-minute warning. DTR bought time, then used his legs to pick up 6 yards, setting up a 4th-and-short. Cleveland went for it again, and Hunt got the handoff for a first down.
The Browns took their first timeout with 1:14 remaining, at the 43 yard line. Ford made a man miss on a swing pass and got out of bounds for another first down to the 32 yard line. DTR found Tillman for 23 yards, down to the 9 yard line. On 1st-and-goal from the 9, DTR kept it for a 3 yard gain to the 6 yard line. On 2nd-and-goal from the 6, DTR’s pass to the end zone was tipped and fell incomplete, otherwise he would’ve had WR David Bell for a score. On 3rd-and-goal, DTR tried to throw it to the back right corner of the end zone, but it also fell incomplete. Hopkins came on for a 24 yard field goal to make it a 14-6 game at the half.
Denver began the second half with a short swing pass to the running back for a 2 yard gain, but DE Za’Darius Smith left the field with an injury after the play. A 7-yard screen pass set up a 3rd-and-1, but the defense came up with a big stop on third down for a loss of 3 yards, recognizing the pitch immediately. Denver’s punt rolled to the 20 yard line, as the Browns’ offense hoped to continue their little bit of momentum.
DTR opened with a pass attempt for WR Amari Cooper, but much like the first half, the ball placement was bad and fell incomplete. Ford got it to a 3rd-and-8 situation, and with the pressure coming, he found Cooper for 11 yards on the right side for the first down. The ground game got its burst back on the next play, as Ford carried for 13 yards.
DTR hit TE David Njoku for 16 yards on the right side, as the tight end went high to snag it. Another 5-yard run by Ford set up 2nd-and-5 from the 32 yard line. DTR threaded a 17-yard pass to Njoku after that, to the 14 yard line. A few plays later, the offense faced a 3rd-and-7 from the 11 yard line. DTR pass over the middle for Njoku sailed, but Denver was flagged for a hit on a defenseless receiver, even though it seemed like a bad call. That set up 1st-and-goal at the 5 yard line. Hunt was stopped for only a yard on first down. On 2nd-and-goal, Njoku couldn’t hold on to a perfect pass up the seam, as the defender knocked it away.
On 3rd-and-goal, the Browns went big and gave it to Hunt, who only got it to the 2 yard line. The Browns kept the offense out there and went for it. On 4th-and-goal from the 2 yard line, DTR went playaction and fired it to Bryant for the touchdown to make it a 14-12 game.
Cleveland went for two, with Hunt taking the direct snap and flipping it to DTR. DTR found Cooper wide open and delivered a slightly off-target pass, but it was still very catchable, and Cooper booted it to keep it a 14-12 game.
Denver got their offense going again on the next drive, with a 13-yard slant pass, then runs on the ground of 15 and 7 yards to quickly get into field goal range. That was followed by a 24-yard run to Perine, setting up a goal-to-go situation. On 1st-and-goal from the 7 yard line, Wilson’s pass to the end zone was incomplete. On 2nd-and-goal, the run play got it to the 2 yard line. On 3rd-and-goal, the Browns’ defense stuffed Perrine for a loss of 3 yards. That forced Denver to kick a 23-yard field goal by K Will Lutz, making it a 17-12 game with 1:25 left in the third quarter.
The Browns faced a 3rd-and-12 after a false start by RT James Hudson. DTR bought a bunch of time but kept going backward before throwing the ball away. It drew a roughing the passer penalty, but DTR had to go to the sideline with QB P.J. Walker entering the game. Walker handed off to Hunt for a 3 yard gain to end the quarter, as DTR was shown with a bloody lip on the sideline.
Disaster struck for Cleveland to begin the fourth quarter. Walker handed the ball to Moore, who tried to flip it to RB Pierre Strong, and the exchange was fumbled for a loss of 21 yards and Denver recovering.
An 11-yard run by Denver set up 1st-and-goal at the 10 yard line. The defense forced a few incompletions, but on the third down catch in the corner of the end zone was challenged by Sean Payton to see if his received was in bounds for a touchdown. After review, it was ruled that WR Adam Trautman was in bounds for the score, making it a 24-12 game with 13:29 to go.
A false start and then a sack set Cleveland up in a 3rd-and-15 situation, and then it was incomplete on third down for a quick three-and-out. The defense responded with their own three-and-out, but now the margin-for-error was slim, needing two touchdowns with ten minutes to go.
Walker started the next drive with a quick out to Ford for 6 yards, and then the defense was flagged 15 yards for a questionable facemask penalty. Walker found Moore for a 26 yard pass just over the defensive player’s reach on the left sideline. An incomplete pass and then a screen pass for a loss of 4 yards made it a 3rd-and-14, though. After a third down incompletion, the offense stayed out there for fourth down, but Walker was quickly sacked and fumbled, turning the ball over.
P.J. had 'em on Lock(e).— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 26, 2023
: FOX pic.twitter.com/3fkbcssrlV
Denver kicked a field goal to take a 27-12 lead with 4:19 to go. After a couple completions by Walker, the drive stopped again with another sack, and then Walker skipping a pass on fourth down.
The defense forced a three-and-out, and Cleveland got the ball back at the 5 yard line with 2:32 to go and no timeouts, down by 15 points. Walker ended up taking a sack in the end zone for a safety, extending Denver’s lead to 29-12. Down by 17, the Browns opted to pass up on any onside attempt.
It was a terrible game for the Browns. They had self-inflicted wounds on offense, fumbling the ball twice on “trick” plays and losing it without the defense forcing the issue. The defense had early miscues. And then, you have players banged up like DTR, Cooper, Smith, and Garrett.
Up next, the Browns stay out West and go to SoFi Stadium to take on the Los Angeles Rams. Who is ready for Joe Flacco vs. Matthew Stafford?
- QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson: 14-of-29 for 134 yards, 1 TD. 5 rushes, 21 yards.
- RB Jerome Ford: 9 carries, 65 yards (7.2 YPC).
- RB Kareem Hunt: 7 carries, 22 yards (3.1 YPC).
- WR Amari Cooper: 2 catches, 16 yards.
- TE David Njoku: 6 catches, 59 yards.
- It was the first 29-12 game in NFL history.