The Cleveland Browns struggled during their Week 16 matchup against the New York Jets, losing 23-16.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 27, 2020
While this should have been one of the team’s easier games against the 1-13 Jets, it was anything but.
Going into the game, it was obvious that it would be an uphill battle for the Browns.
On Saturday night, the team placed five players on the COVID-19 list.
This included the core of the team’s wide receivers.
On top of this, offensive linemen Wyatt Teller and Jedrick Willis Jr. missed the game due to injury and illness respectively.
All of these absences quickly became noticeable as the Jets came out firing.
At the end of the first half, the Jets held a 13-3 lead, stifling the Browns’ offensive attack.
QB Baker Mayfield struggled without his reliable receivers
The rushing game also struggled mightily in the first half, with Nick Chubb posting just eight yards on six carries.
While they made a comeback effort in the fourth quarter, it was cut short by back-to-back fumbles from Mayfield.
The second came as the Browns approached the RedZone with just over one-minute left.
It was a tough loss for a team that had nothing going their way.
An absolutely disastrous Sunday for the Browns
— Marc Sessler (@MarcSessler) December 27, 2020
Here are three things that we learned after the loss.
1. Browns Defense Is Bad
While many excuses can be made surrounding the team’s COVID situation, it is hard to defend the Browns defense.
In a week where the offense was cut down by COVID regulations, the defense’s importance became even clearer.
However, they folded at the pressure.
This was a Jets team that had won a single game this season coming into Week 16.
They are the worst offense in the entire NFL by a lot, with just 271.1 total yards of offense per game.
Regardless of this, the Browns defense allowed 218 passing yards and touchdowns, along with 131 rushing yards.
They did come up with some big stops though, particularly with the blocked field goal in the third quarter.
#Browns block a 50 yard FG attempt (their second blocked kick of the day), and still trail 20-3. Points on this next drive are an absolute must.
— Adam Copeland (@exiledclevelndr) December 27, 2020
Of course, they were missing players on the defensive side of the ball and that certainly hurt.
However, it has been clear that the biggest thing holding this team back is the defense.
To struggle against the Jets, a team that has averaged only 14.7 points per game this season, is embarrassing.
2. The Offensive Line Is Critical
The losses of guard Wyatt Teller and tackle Jedrick Willis Jr. hurt the team this week.
Wyatt Teller being out is very noticeable for the Browns today
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) December 27, 2020
While their rushing offense is typically their primary source of scoring, it was virtually nonexistent this week.
They were a nonfactor for this week, though they came on stronger during the second half.
#Browns with 0 yards rushing in the first quarter.
— Tony Zarrella (@Tony_Zarrella) December 27, 2020
Chubb rushed for just 28 yards with 11 carries, after averaging 93.1 yards per game this season.
Kareem Hunt also had just 11 yards on four carries.
While each had a touchdown, their lack of production was evident as it seemed like the team strayed away from their strength.
Part of this was because the losses on their line.
The Browns’ offensive line has been the best in the league this season.
However, they seemed a bit more penetrable this week.
That hurt both their rushing and passing offense, as the Jets were able to send pressure successfully.
For the Browns to be a solid team, it is critical for their line to be at full strength.
3. Having No Receivers Is Hard
Mayfield had been playing well of late coming into Week 16.
While he didn’t play terribly against the Jets, it was clear he wasn’t comfortable.
Part of this was because the team’s top four receivers were all restricted from playing due to COVID contact tracing.
Pair this with the offensive line that wasn’t full strength, and it was difficult for Mayfield to get into a groove.
While he had 285 passing yards and zero interceptions, he went just 28-53 passing the ball.
He wasn’t able to be as calm in the pocket, something that hurt him this week.
His throws were just a little off at times because of that.
This was another reason that he fumbled the ball, as he was moved around the pocket and lost sense of where the defenders were.
JETS FORCE THE BAKER MAYFIELD FUMBLE
— PFF (@PFF) December 27, 2020
While the receivers will likely be coming back for next week, this shows how important the team’s passing game is.
The Browns rushing game didn’t hold up this week and they weren’t quite able to rely on the passing.
If they are able to make it into the playoffs, this could give them a better understanding of what they need to do to win.