If anything, this 2023 NFL season has been a roller coaster for the Cleveland Browns. That had several complete games against the Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, and Arizona Cardinals. Then they get slammed by the Baltimore Ravens 28-3 and Denver Broncos 29-12.
The team gave away the first contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers and had the game won versus the Seattle Seahawks. Sandwiched in between were comeback wins against the Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, and Ravens Part 2.
Now going to Los Angeles and playing a not-very-good Rams team (5-6-0) should have given the Browns another win to increase their 7-4-0 record. The Rams were on a two-game win streak and have beaten the Seahawks twice this year.
In the end, despite the debut of QB Joe Flacco, Cleveland folded in the second half losing 36-19.
So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
Offensive line - Except for the final three minutes, the offensive line for the Browns did an exceptional job keeping the Rams’ defensive line out of Flacco’s face. There were some issues at times and untimely penalties, but overall Flacco had time to go through his progressions and survey the field. There were two sacks late, but it is difficult to contain a pass rusher when he knows there is no threat of a run. RG Wyatt Teller had a great run game today and tackle Dawand Jones improves each week.
Defense - While the offense improved a bit with a new signal caller, they still could not convert third downs and sustain many drives. This meant the defense was on the field more and was relied upon to make stops. Which they did for three-and-one-half quarters. The last four possessions of the first half were missed FG, punt, punt, punt, and FG to go into halftime down 13-10. But the Browns offense once again did very little in the second half and wore down this distinguished unit. The Rams scored three TDs in the second half. Nice effort for most of the game.
WR Elijah Moore - Saw his targets increase after WR Amari Cooper left the game with a head injury. In the first half, he barely heard his name called, but he shined mostly in the second half. The 42-yard grab with 4:37 left in the second quarter was an exciting play and put Cleveland on the Rams’ 20. Midway through the third quarter, he caught a deep pass on the rightside for 18 yards that was called back because of an illegal formation call. In the very next play, he gained 22 yards to the Los Angeles nine-yard line. With 14:08 in the game, Moore gained eight yards that set up a short second down play. He did have one drop on the Browns’ seven-yard line, and he was not able to bring in the short pass on a third-and-five with 2:37 remaining in the game. Led all receivers with 83 yards on 12 targets and four receptions.
CB Mike Ford - Thrown in for a start, Ford played well and was tested all game. With 7:21 left in the second quarter, he was able to bat down the pass on a third-and-eight. On a first-and-goal, as the third quarter was winding down, he hit Williams for a three-yard gain without scoring. Played well on the punt return team as well. Finished with six total tackles.
Pass rush - Um, what happened? This vaulted pass-rushing machine the Browns supposedly have, where was it? Except for right there at the end of the game, did any Cleveland player actually touch QB Matt Stafford? At all?
Yep defense was FLAT like FLAT— daniel ha❌blin (@hamblind20) December 4, 2023
Not that Stafford had all day on passing downs, but mostly he was able to see the field with ease. Two QB hits? Two batted passes? Zero sacks? And it wasn’t like Stafford was getting out of situations, and then finding time to survey the field. It was just there wasn’t much of any defender getting near him. Period.
Penalties - Like the first Pittsburgh Steelers game, the Browns shot themselves in the foot with untimely penalties that either killed their own drive, or greatly benefitted the Rams. M.J. Emerson’s pass interference call late in the first quarter eliminated an instant touchdown but placed Los Angeles in prime field position at Cleveland’s 28-yard line, but in all fairness, the Rams only scored three. LG Joel Bitonio had a costly false start on a third-and-one with 2:37 in the game and there was the illegal formation call in the third quarter that negated a Moore gain of 18 yards. Seven penalties in all for 86 yards. But it was the timing of almost every single one that hurt.
C Ethan Pocic - Anyone can expect to line up against DT Aaron Donald and have issues. Which Pocic did for most of the contest. But Pocic also had problems keeping out NT’s Bobby Brown and Kobie Turner. With 13:31 before the half, it was Brown who beat Pocic who then nailed RB Jerome Ford for a six-yard loss. Two plays later, Pocic whiffed on the blitzing LB Byron Young who caught Ford for a one-yard loss. With just over two minutes before the half, RB Kareem Hunt attempted to run up the middle but was slammed for just a one-yard gain by Turner as the Browns had driven to the Rams’ 23-yard line.
KR James Proche - The one punt he did not catch with just over six minutes left in the half was a head-scratcher. When the roll finally stopped, the Browns had to set up shop on their own two. After a three-and-out and subsequent punt, Los Angeles had a first down at Cleveland’s 42.
Milk Bones – Your pants say “Eat a salad” but your heart says “Eat pizza and drink another cold brew.”
DT Jordan Elliott - The talented defender made several good plays. Just seconds before the second quarter began on a third-and-10, Elliott along with CB M.J. Emerson caught WR Puka Nacua for just a three-yard gain which forced a missed field goal. He also made a good stop in the second quarter on a key third down. But in the second half, he didn’t make any dent and never even got close to Stafford. Finished with just two tackles.
Converting third downs - The Browns have been horrible with this all year. One for seven in the first half decimated numerous good drives. Was able to convert five of seven in the second half, but the first-half non-production was a killer.
Use of tight ends - What is this? Using the tight end group in the offense? Is this something new? All of a sudden Harrison Bryant was coming off blocks and catching the ball for first downs and even a score. Jordan Akins made a catch. David Njoku’s best catch was ruled he stepped out of bounds, but this week he had zero drops. Eight catches for this group.
RB Kareem Hunt - Had several short runs that converted into first downs especially late in the game. Was hardly used early on except for his lone target. Led all runners with 48 yards on 12 carries, mostly between the tackles.
K Dustin Hopkins - Kicked deep on kickoffs with only one return. Was 2-2 on his field goal attempts, but the missed PAT, only his second of the year, really busted a balloon for a team that had worked so hard to tie up the game. It was like, what? Browns is the Browns?
DE Alex Wright and DE Ogbo Okoronkwo - EDGE rushers are more than speed, twisting ability, and getting to the quarterback. First and foremost, there is the responsibility of containing on your end. Both players failed this on several occasions. With 11:14 to go facing a third-and-four in the second quarter, Ogbo cut down on an inside route to which RB Kyren Williams went around the end easily for eight yards and a new set of downs. As the third quarter was winding down, Wright went hard inside as Nacua was on a jet sweep that gained 31 yards on a first-and-15.
QB Joe Flacco - His debut was full of bright spots, and bad throws. In all, he threw seven balls over the head of his receivers, two being on purpose. His second half was better than the first two quarters as he finally figured out how to convert some third downs. It did not help that WR Amari Cooper had two drops along with Elijah Moore had a drop deep in the Browns’ end of the field.
Anyone putting this loss on Flacco should re-watch the game about 11 times.— Cody Suek (@CodySuek) December 4, 2023
Went 11-21 for 156 yards in the first half and finished with 254 yards on 44 tosses with 23 receptions. The two TD passes were spot on as he led Ford exactly what was needed, and the one to Bryant was thrown before the tight end even came out of his route. But the interception was a stupid play as the safety, former Browns JJ3, was clearly playing center field. This one play changed the complexity of the outcome. Flacco had something going on with Cooper early on until the receiver left the game, and then he seemed to find Moore often although, with 2:11 before the half, he tossed one slightly too high for Moore on a key third-and-10. The consecutive strikes to WR David Bell in the third quarter was a thing of beauty that gained six yards each and threaded the needle on the first toss.
CB Kahlef Hailassie - If you wondered who that #25 was throughout the game, it was Hailassie. He played well and then allowed some critical plays that hurt the outcome including when Stafford found Nacua running a post pattern between Hailassie and LB Sione Takitaki. Nacua caught it around the 50 and then outran everyone to the end zone. Finished with five total tackles and one tackle for loss.
What is your assessment of the debut of QB Joe Flacco?
This poll is closed
Give him an "A"
I liked some stuff, maybe a "B"
Still searching for the answer at QB. Mark him down as a "D"
Who are your winners and losers from yesterday’s Browns loss?