The second-best player on the team is no longer on the active roster. What will this Browns’ offense do now? This group is already struggling and will have to endure the rest of the season with other hopefully capable bodies.
The return of Kareem Hunt will help. But what about the quarterback position? Deshaun Watson so far has not lived up to his billing as a top-tier signalcaller. And what about the fact that the offense was supposed to air it out with all the talent in the receiver room? That has happened at all. Before the Titans game, Cleveland was ranked 30th in passing but Number 1 in rushing.
In the end, the Browns suffocated the Titans’ offense by defeating them 27-3.
So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
DC Jim Schwartz - This defense is incredible. Before the Tennessee game, this group was second against the pass and third against the run. Against the Titans, the stats will only add to how great this unit is. So far, zero rushing touchdowns allowed, and only one passing score. In today’s game, the pass rush was really good, but the rushing defense suffocated their opponents. RB Derrick Henry came into the contest as a Top-10 back but only gained 20 yards on 11 carries. If Henry was on your fantasy team, Jim Schwartz says sorry, not sorry. Allowing just 130 total offensive yards is not a bad day at the office. Not at all. Right now has my vote for the team’s MVP.
DE Myles Garrett - All game long, the defense played jailbreak with Garrett leading the revolution. Every single offensive series for Tennessee, Garrett was doing something disruptive. Had five tackles, but his 3.5 sacks don’t tell the real story of how he could have doubled that. With a slim 10-3 lead in the second quarter, Garrett and DE Ogbo Okoronkwo bulldozed their linemen and met at the quarterback on a third-and-11 play. Then with three ticks left until halftime with the Titans in field goal range with no more time-outs, Garrett beat OT Andre Dillard badly and sacked QB Ryan Tannehill as time expired. DE Za’Darius Smith and Garrett split their offensive counterparts with Smith flushing Tannehill out as Garrett finished the process with yet another sack. Tennessee then had to punt from its own end zone. All game the Titans stationed TE Chigoziem Okonkwo to chip Garrett then slide him off to Dillard, but nothing worked. His going into motion, then back again while his offensive blockers did the same was the strangest thing. Came close to getting a safety. Not All-Pro - All-World.
RB Jerome Ford - Houston, we have lift off. If last week’s game was the coming out party for Ford, today was the unveiling of the beast. Going into this game he was only rostered on 18% of fantasy teams and now will be next week’s hottest pickup. Not huge numbers with just 18 rushing and 33 receiving yards, but his two touchdowns made a huge statement. On his touchdown catch, he lined up wide left as the outside receiver, went seven yards with an inside fake, then did a smooth crossover step then straight with a fly pattern, and was all alone for the score completely fooling CB Sean Murphy-Bunting. He converted a first down with a 14-yard screen in the second quarter which had OG Wyatt Teller and C Ethan Pocic both pulling to block. Ford’s rushing TD, the first of his career, was with 5:49 left in the third quarter as OG Joel Bitonio pulled then Ford just barely dodged a tackle by CB Kristian Fulton before diving for the pylon as LB Jack Gibbens attempted to stop him. The answer to whether Ford or newly-signed Kareem Hunt will be the bell-cow RB was answered today.
K Dustin Hopkins - Clutch kicking from the veteran as he nailed a 52-yarder with 1:05 left in the first half as Cleveland was able to build a 13-3 lead. What a weapon for head coach Kevin Stefanski to be able to insert Hopkins as drives stall between the 40 and 50-yard lines. Three points is money in a close game. That kick could have been good for 10 more yards and was straight down the center of the uprights. Also booted a 48-yarder on the opening drive that capped off a sterling 12-play, 48-yard drive. Tennessee only returned one of Hopkins’ kickoffs as most kicks were around the minus-6 range. He also was 3-3 on extra points. Yeah! A good kicker!
GM Andrew Berry - For trading for Hopkins and Amari Cooper, signing Smith, Maurice Hurst, Shelby Harris, Ogbo, Juan Thornhill, and re-signing Anthony Walker in free agency, plus good drafts that brought in Alex Wright, Cam Mitchell, and Ford.
QB Deshaun Watson - Not a spectacular day, but a very good day. He took a lot of heat from just about every media outlet this past week about his mediocre performance in the first two games with an emphasis on the loss to Pittsburgh but rebounded nicely against Tennessee. And it began early with nice crisp passes to WR Elijah Moore. For the game, he only threw one bad pass into the turf and had that senior moment in the second quarter when he was about to be sacked with DT Kyle Peko draped all over him, and then Watson hurled what looked like a pass toward Moore who was almost 10 yards in the backfield. The touchdown pass to Ford was spot on with his lead time. On the Cooper touchdown, it was a matter of not missing the wide-open receiver. Finished with 27 completions on 33 attempts for 289 yards, two touchdowns, and was sacked three times. Can’t complain about a QB rating of 123. And zero turnovers. Nice work today.
Converting fourth down plays - Two for two was the tally. Stefanski went for it on a fourth-and-two in the third quarter which ended up a defensive holding call. The end of that drive was the Ford rushing touchdown. The second one he went for was a fourth-and-one at Tennessee’s 40-yard line with 8:20 left in the game with Watson doing the sneak behind OG Wyatt Teller’s block. The Cooper touchdown pass came two plays later. Two conversions = two touchdowns.
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - Was a man on a mission today. His run recognition today was outstanding as he decided right away when and where to fill holes. With 6:14 left in the first half, he read the run perfectly and nailed RB Derrick Henry for a three-yard loss. He stopped a third-and-five short pass to RB Tyjae Spears for no gain which forced the Titans to go for it on fourth down. JOK had another tackle for loss in the third quarter on Spears for a one-yard loss when the running back was pinned and then tried to bounce outside but into JOK’s waiting arms. Led all tacklers with six.
#Browns defense leading the league (at the moment) by holding opponents to 19% on 3rd down, 8 for 41— Matt Fontana (@MattFontana83) September 24, 2023
Defense-stopping third downs - The Titans just could not run the ball nor make any ground on those key third downs all game. In the first half, Tennessee was 2-8 on third down conversions with one being a pass interference for a first down, and 3-14 for the game. Four attempts were for five yards or fewer.
WR Amari Cooper - Was very vanilla in the first half, but the game plan targeted the veteran in the second half with huge dividends. Would love to describe his awesome head fake with shoulder shimmy that fooled both the cornerback and safety on his wide-ass open catch, but the honest truth is he just outran the coverage on a simple go route. Converted three first downs on catches and had seven grabs for 116 yards.
Referee error - We can understand an official not seeing something when they are not right on the play, but Amari Cooper’s snag and then the toe-tap down the sidelines very last in the second quarter is a head-scratcher. Cooper caught the ball cleanly over Fulton’s effort, then darted down the sideline only to do a slight spin and then stop as if he wasn’t sure if the whistle had blown. The Titans safety, Amani Hooker, also stopped as a spectator as Cooper then ran it in for the apparent touchdown. But what is confusing is why this was not recanted in the replay process which clearly showed Cooper had remained inbounds the entire process. Oh, the whistle did blow to end the play. What is worse is that the field judge (wearing #60) was right on top of that play within two yards. Cooper was at least a foot off the line. Boo, hiss.
CB M.J. Emerson - With 6:14 left in the first half, the Titans had a third-and-12 as the defense had bottled up the offense. Tannehill then tossed a prayer towards WR Treylon Burks to which Emerson then smothered the receiver with his body. Of course, it was called pass interference as Burks had beaten Emerson and was all he could. Then with 40 ticks left before halftime, again Tennessee had a third-and-long situation this time needing 10 yards. Emerson wasn’t even close to WR Deandre Hopkins who gained 26 yards to Cleveland’s 49 and another set of downs. This was the play right after the booth review.
Defense failed to stop fourth down - The Titans were in desperation mode at Cleveland’s 44-yard line as they were forced to go for it on fourth-and-five with 29 seconds left in the first half. Tannehill then found WR Chris Moore for 33 yards over Cam Mitchell which set them up at the 11.
Milk Bones – The older you get, the better you get. Unless you’re a banana
RB Kareem Hunt - The welcome mat was pretty big for Hunt as he resumed his position as the guy behind the bell cow. Only had five carries for 13 yards and two receptions for 22 yards, but his veteran presence was felt. His best play was a screen in the third quarter as he waited for his blockers and found a hole for 13 yards. This was Hunt’s 50th game with the Browns. Welcome back our friend.
Offense! Offense! Offense! - The hope is that Cleveland’s offense doesn’t have great games every other game, but so far that is the trend. Very nice output although it seemed rocky at first. The offensive line looked poor early but settled in and did what they do best. Watson with time to survey the field is a lot better quarterback than the one who is flushed and hassled all game. Ford looked great with RB Pierre Strong getting some good reps late. And there were lots of passes for most receivers. 367 total yards is something to write to Grandma about.
WR Elijah Moore - In the first half it appeared it was going to be the Elijah Moore highlight reel. He wasn’t much of a factor in the second half but overall had a good game. Caught all nine targets for 49 yards. Had a fumble in the first quarter which stopped a good drive.
DE Alex Wright - Wright was a major disruptor all game, which like DT Maurice Hurst sometimes does not get the headlines nor the stats but had a very good game, particularly in the second half coming off the bench. Had the third most tackles and played great run defense. His sack was the first play of the fourth quarter as he beat C Aaron Brewer with a nifty swim move for a 10-yard loss and suddenly a third-and-12.
DT Maurice Hurst - Had a quiet first half but was responsible for clogging up the middle where the Titans had nowhere to go. Absolutely slammed into Henry late in the second quarter for a two-yard loss. Did not register any sacks, but forced the quarterback to dodge him several times into the arms of another defender. Sorry Maurice, no assists in this game.
How do you view this Browns defense?
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