The only winning streak the Cleveland Browns put together so far this season came to a screeching halt on Sunday.
The Browns fell in Cincinnati to the Bengals 23-10, all but guaranteeing a miss of the playoffs this year per ESPN.
The #Browns now have a 0.4% chance to make the playoffs, per ESPN FPI
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) December 12, 2022
That has the frustrations and finger-pointing swirling once again, something that lessened during the previous two weeks.
The Bengals aren’t Tampa Bay, however, and they certainly aren’t Houston.
Players needed to elevate their performances and efforts over what had been brought in those two wins.
That didn’t happen Sunday. A couple of guys had nightmare games that may have helped put the dagger in Cleveland’s season.
Nick Chubb having a quiet Sunday isn’t squarely his fault.
Anytime a running back struggles, it’s usually because the offensive line did too.
But that’s what makes guys like Chubb so special.
Even when the big fellas up front aren’t sharp, the best backs still make something out of nothing.
That something on Sunday for Chubb was 34 yards and 14 carries for a 2.4 yard average.
Chubb also did not score, only the fifth time that’s happened this season.
It’s also the first time this year he hasn’t touched the endzone in back-to-back weeks.
Give Cincy’s defense some credit, however, as they bottled up Derrick Henry in a similar fashion just two weeks prior.
The Bengals have faced the number two and number three rushers in the NFL in the last three weeks. They gave up only 72 yards on 31 carries with no touchdowns to Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb combined pic.twitter.com/cUUWIIVyvW
— Nick Manchester (@NickManchester9) December 12, 2022
With Deshaun Watson still getting his feet back under him, Cleveland needs to ride Chubb down the final stretch.
The Bengals defensive front came prepared, though, and shut that down Sunday.
It might be cheating to lump the entire offensive line together as one player.
However, with as atrocious as they were collectively on Sunday, they’ve earned the criticism.
Five of Cleveland’s nine penalties in Cincinnati were committed by the offensive line.
Jack Conklin had two holding calls, Jedrick Wills had a false start, Hjalte Froholdt was caught as an illegible man downfield, and even Joel Bitonio was slapped with a hold.
That’s 40 yards in penalties just from the offensive line.
That’s more yards than Chubb gained on the ground.
Factor in Watson’s two sacks and you get an extremely forgettable Sunday afternoon for the guys up front.
It’s the last group many fans would expect to experience these issues.
Yet here we are.
The #Browns offensive line has lost so many battles up front the last few weeks, in both the run game and pass game. It’s been glaring.
— Jeff D. Lowe (@JeffDLowe) December 11, 2022
The Browns offensive line is incredibly overrated.
— Danny Cunningham (@RealDCunningham) December 11, 2022
The last thing Cleveland needs is for its offensive line to crumble in these final four games.
Cornerback Denzel Ward absolutely lit up Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase on this screen play.
💥DENZEL WARD!💥 pic.twitter.com/tHQ4BHPw22
— 𝗙𝗢𝗟𝗟𝗢𝗪 @𝗙𝗧𝗕𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗱𝟳 (@FTBeard7) December 11, 2022
Unfortunately for Ward, he was torched practically every snap outside of that.
Chase ran free all day long to the tune of 119 receiving yards on 10 catches and 1 touchdown.
Joe Burrow putting some throws on the money didn’t help Ward out much either.
Ja'Marr Chase vs Denzel Wardpic.twitter.com/mHLDUxZPpb
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 11, 2022
Those 10 targets were more than the rest of the Bengals receivers combined.
Cleveland’s defense knew where the ball was going and still couldn’t stop it.
Plain and simple, the secondary got punked by Chase and Burrow.
That group remains problematic for Cleveland’s defense and will need a shakeup in the offseason.
Those changes won’t include Ward, however, he’s not exactly endearing himself to fans as of late.