The Cleveland Browns are at a point in the schedule where they can’t allow the weaker clubs to creep up on them and grab a win. Coming into Cleveland, the Arizona Cardinals are one of these teams who have had issues all season long with only a single victory against seven defeats.
Both teams had questions regarding whether their starting quarterback would suit up, or play. For Arizona, Kyler Murray has been out all season rehabbing a knee injury he suffered last season. For the Browns, Deshaun Watson has had shoulder issues.
The Browns’ defense is one of the league’s best and was ranked #1 against the pass coming in which played well for a Cardinals offense that has struggled to find a rhythm to put up decent passing numbers each game.
At the final gun, Cleveland dominated Arizona 27-0 and upped their record to 5-3-0 in a division in which every club has a winning record.
So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
De-fense! De-fense! De-fense! - This was truly a game that the Browns defensive unit completely shut down the other team for all four quarters. The Cardinals had just 24 total yards after the first quarter, 31 yards at halftime, and 99 for the entire contest. Seven sacks, eight batted passes, 10 QB hits, 10 tackles for loss, two interceptions, and forced nine punts. Oh yeah, and their first defensive shutout in 251 games. The Browns’ defense confirmed that they are one of the best groups in the league and kept constant pressure on every passing down. The Cardinals had 14 possessions and every single one was for six plays or less. No, not a misprint.
DE Shelby Harris - What a great game from the interior of the Browns defense, but Harris was cranking it up all game. His sack came midway through the first quarter when LG Dennis Daley had pulled but was not able to get to Harris who had read the play action and went straight to QB Clayton Tune for a big loss. He caused the fumble with 9:38 left in Quarter #3 as he had beaten former Browns C Hjalte Froholdt and was able to strip the ball loose recovered by Cleveland. Finished with three tackles, one sack, one batted pass, and two tackles for loss.
Offensive line - Both guards Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller had great games either pulling on runs or with pass block assignments. Often, QB Deshaun Watson had all day to throw and was able to go through his progressions. James Hudson played well when both Dawand Jones and then Jedrick Wills became injured and Nick Harris is a demon playing fullback. Ethan Pocic was able to get to the second level numerous times and seal off a linebacker. Jones played exceptionally well at right tackle taking on DE Jonathan Ledbetter who had five tackles but did not even sniff a sack. One sack all day for this unit and just two penalties. Nice job in the trenches and opening holes.
DT Dalvin Tomlinson - As a participant in crashing the pocket, Tomlinson had a career day. He sacked Tune at the two-minute warning before halftime on a third-and-19 when Tune pulled up to scramble and Tomlinson pushed aside Froholdt as he spied Tune moving towards a small crease. The Cardinals were able to move the ball midway through the third quarter when Tomlinson nailed WR Rondale Moore for a one-yard gain when it looked like he had a big hole. The Sione Takitaki interception was from pressure from Tomlinson. His second sack was on a third-and-seven at the beginning of the fourth quarter when he got loose from G Trystan Cole. This forced Arizona to go for it on a fourth-and-12. On the next series which became a three-and-out, S Grant Delpit had blitzed and grabbed Tune to which Tomlinson then brought him down for a half-sack credit. Finished with four tackles, 2.5 sacks, three QB hits, and two tackles for loss.
Third and fourth down stops - With 5:15 left in the game, Arizona converted their very first third down of the day on a third-and-one. The Cards went 0-4 in the first half and finished converting one of 10. Nice work. The stop on the fourth-and-12 was inevitable.
WR Amari Cooper - This dude was clutch and had several large gains, something this offense has missed for the majority of the season. Began quiet, then grabbed a 59-yard catch-and-run to the Cardinals’ 13-yard line which resulted in a field goal. His touchdown catch with 6:48 to go until the half was unusual. QB Deshaun Watson’s pass was tipped by DE Dante Stills and then skipped up and deep. Cardinal defender Antonio Hamilton was in the right place for the pick but misjudged the flight of the ball and came back towards the line of scrimmage then went over his head. Arizona S Jalen Thompson read the bobbling rock correctly but Coop had gotten deeper and came down with the catch and score. With 8:41 left in the game, Cooper beat Hamilton deep right for 49 yards and was tackled just short of the goal line at the three. On the next play, RB Kareem Hunt scored to up the tally to 27-0. Caught all five targets for 139 yards with a 27.8 yards per reception average.
QB Deshaun Watson - Made good decisions including when the run and when to dump off for short yardage. He did throw two balls into the turf including a second down toss midway in the second quarter with TE Jordan Akins wide open that killed a drive on the fourth-and-three play. Threw a nice ditch pass to RB Jerome Ford early in the game that converted a third-and-three. Had a great scramble with seven ticks before the fourth quarter for 13 yards on a third-and-11. Of the four long balls he heaved, the two to Cooper were pinpoint for large gains. Watson looked like the Houston Texans Watson and managed the game extremely well. Finished with 19 completions on 30 attempts with two touchdowns, one sack, zero picks, and a 107.5 QB rating. One thing that came out of this game is the expectation that the Browns can do good things for the remainder of the year if this version of Watson is the quarterback.
P Corey Bojorquez - Exceptional game from Bojo and should be the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week with this performance. As drives would stall, he entered the game with seven punts for 410 yards and a sterling 58.6 yards per kick average. Last year’s punting leader had an average of 53.1. Two were touchbacks and both were just barely and had an opportunity to be touched. He had one punt go 73 yards and one that landed on the one-yard line and placed Arizona in bad field position for most of the game. Exceptional day at the office.
S Grant Delpit - Is he a safety or a linebacker? Today, he was a menace with DC Jim Schwartz playing a 4-2-5 with Delpit in the box. He just missed out on two sacks, one in each half. Had the tackle on Arizona’s fourth-and-12 attempt. Led all defenders with 10 total tackles, a half sack, one QB hit, and one tackle for loss.
CB Denzel Ward - Had a quiet first half then caught the interception early in the second quarter that set up the missed field goal. With 2:07 left in the first half, he swatted the ball away from TE Trey McBride who was open. His coverage of Moore resulted in one catch for five yards. Finished with two batted passes with three tackles.
Third down conversions - The Cardinals had a weak pass rush and weren’t able to place much pressure on Watson for most of the game. Yet, on key third downs that could have moved the ball and killed some clock, the Browns were 6-14 for the game. Seven third-down situations were for nine yards or longer.
Browns first two possessions - In the beginning, it appeared that Arizona just might be able to stay with the Browns as they were able to stop them after just six plays and a punt, then another six-play drive ended with a failed fourth down conversion. Cleveland had a grand total of 50 yards on these two possessions and not even seven minutes of clock usage. But then slowly and methodically, the offense began to gain small chunks plus Cooper’s big gains and suddenly was up 10-0.
Milk Bones – My neighbors are listening to great music whether they like it or not
LB Sione Takitaki - Shared time at linebacker as the defense played mainly a 4-2-5 but was effective in coverage. With just over two minutes left in the third quarter, he read the crossing pattern of McBride and extended his body for the interception. Had three tackles and one batted pass.
K Dustin Hopkins - Remains clutch with field goals made of 30 and 45 yards and then missed a 48-yarder just barely early in the fourth quarter. Was very odd that HC Kevin Stefanski did not use Hopkins with the score 0-0 in the first quarter facing a fourth-and-three and went for it instead. That kick would have been from 56 yards which is doable for Hopkins. Was a perfect 3-3 on PATs.
KR James Proche - If you wondered if Donovan Peoples-Jones had decided to return punts for one last game before moving to Detroit, that #11 you saw was Proche instead whose nickname is “Channel 3.” He came to Cleveland’s practice squad via the Baltimore Ravens then activated for this game. He had six punt returns for 55 yards including breaking one for 17 yards and had a 20-yarder sent back because of a Mike Ford holding call. Proche is shifty and looked quite comfortable whereas DPJ always appeared antsy back there. Nice work in his first game as a Brown.
DT Jordan Elliott - Played stout in the middle and was part of the Cardinals’ inability to run up the gut all game. Had a sack that stopped a decent drive and although his tackle summary netted just one, he was able to plug his gap forcing the ball carrier to seek out other options.
RB Jerome Ford - Had a reserved first half, then was able to do the dirty work of ball movement in the second half. Was very good in the passing game with five receptions for 33 yards and was a safe dink option. Took a short pass early in the third quarter that gained nine yards. Led all rushers with 20 carries for 44 yards.
OL James Hudson - Had the “Next man up” mentality and filled in for RT Dawand Jones when he went down in the second quarter, then filled in nicely for LT Jedrick Wills who went out with a knee injury and did not return.
How do you feel about QB Deshaun Watson after his first game back?
This poll is closed
He can take us to the post-season
With this defense, all he needs to do is not turn the ball over