Plenty of scenarios during Sunday afternoon’s Cleveland Browns game in Denver went wrong. The red zone offense continued to sputter, and the defense missed tackles like the Broncos’ running backs greased themselves with Crisco before kickoff.
However, near the end of the game, the Browns gained possession with a chance to win. That’s because the Browns had plenty that went right for them, as well.
Austin Seibert continues to look more like the next Phil Dawson. While all of Cleveland wished those field goals were touchdowns, Seibert’s four field goals in the second quarter kept the Browns in the game with the red zone offense struggling.
So, Browns have cleaned up the turnovers and penalties. But today, they’re 0-4 on TDs in the red zone.
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) November 3, 2019
More importantly, the league’s sloppiest team in terms of penalties cleaned up their act.
Coming into Sunday’s game, Cleveland averaged 10 penalties and 84 penalty yards per game, the highest numbers in the league through Week 8.
To put those numbers into perspective, the Browns’ 70 penalties through 7 games put Cleveland on track to challenge the all-time NFL record for penalties in a season, set by the 2011 Raiders.
That is not the record Browns’ fans expected to be challenging at the beginning of the season.
Head coach Freddie Kitchens re-instituted the training camp policy of running punishments for penalties committed.
“We’re working hard and every day trying to find a way to improve,” running back Nick Chubb said. “We went back to the basics. Jumping offside, there’s punishment for things like that. Just trying to find a way to improve on it and trying to find something that works.”
It seems like re-instituting punishments worked, as the Browns committed just five penalties for 40 yards against the Broncos.
A massive roughing the passer penalty on Sheldon Richardson in the fourth quarter is to blame for most of the penalty yardage. Other than that mishap, the Browns did not shoot themselves in the foot like in some other performances earlier in the year.
The Browns improved in turnover differential, as well.
Coming into the game, the Browns ranked in the bottom quarter of the league in turnover differential with a differential of -9.
That number increased on Sunday when the Browns turned the ball over zero times and the defense recovered a fumble.
Unfortunately, the Browns weren’t able to capitalize on the error and score a touchdown, instead settling for one of Seibert’s second-quarter field goals.
Freddie Kitchens says they've "made leaps and bounds" in progress with way they prepare, meetings, practice etc for games this season but acknowledges "coaching has to be better on SUnday's, execution has to be better" #Browns
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) November 4, 2019
Struggling second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield not throwing an interception is the most positive sign.
Kitchens felt good about his young star after the game, too.
“I thought he did a good job of staying in command of the huddle, of making plays, even had a couple good scrambles for first downs,” Kitchens said. He continued, “I thought he probably missed a couple, which he’d like to have back. I don’t know that they were outright misses, but I think he’d like to have them back.”
These are positive signs for the Browns who, as noted, are the sloppiest team in the league this season.
As the pressure builds on the shoulders of Kitchens, this might show that he and his team are figuring it out.
The Browns are entering a crucial stretch of games that will determine whether they can claw back into the divisional race, or whether they challenge for yet another top-five draft pick.