The Cleveland Browns slumped to another disappointing loss Sunday afternoon in Denver. With issues all over the field and on both sides of the ball, it isn’t clear whether the players want Freddie Kitchens to keep his job.
The Browns’ defense allowed several long runs due to poor tackling, helping quarterback Brandon Allen to his first NFL win. This was Allen’s first competitive football game in over 1,000 days.
This is embarrassing “tackling” on Fant’s 75 yard TD. pic.twitter.com/JCODvEZvsB
— Craig Lyndall 🧢 (@WFNYCraig) November 3, 2019
Despite their defensive challenges with Allen and the rest of the Broncos’ suddenly prolific offense, the Browns had chances to take over the game and get a much-needed win.
For the first time this season, Cleveland didn’t turn the ball over. Turnovers plagued quarterback Baker Mayfield the entire season, and more recently in Week 8, stud running back Nick Chubb.
In fact, the Browns won the turnover battle against the Broncos 1-0. For a team with a -9 turnover differential, that’s an important victory.
The turnover gave the Browns a do-over after they had to settle for a field goal — then they settled for another field goal.
— Dan Labbe (@dan_labbe) November 3, 2019
In the second quarter, the Browns scored four times. There must be a misprint in the final score, right? Alas, all four scores were field goals.
The Browns’ inability to convert on third down and keep offensive drives alive is to blame for the frequent field goals. It is also to blame for the Browns scoring only seven points outside of the second quarter.
Let’s break that down.
In the first half of the game, the Browns converted on just 3-of-10 third-down conversions. While this might seem like an indictment of the third-down play calling (and it is), there’s another factor at play here.
In the first half of the game, the Browns faced third down with an average of 7.5 yards to gain to get the first down. That’s the opposite of the old football trope “third and manageable.”
While the numbers on third down look bad in the first half, what they really show is an inability to move the ball on first and second down, leading to difficult yards to gain once the Browns’ offense reached third down.
Any defensive coordinator, from high school to the NFL, can dial up a play call to get a stop on third and long. And, that’s just what happened.
This stunted the Browns’ ability to score points, especially in the second quarter when the Browns consistently had good starting field position but came away with just field goals.
The second half of the game was marginally better for Cleveland, although it didn’t show on the scoreboard.
The Browns converted on 3-of-5 chances in the second half and had a better yards-to-gain average of four yards.
However, Cleveland was unable to convert when it mattered most.
Down five points in the third quarter, the Browns handed the ball off to Dontrell Hilliard on third-and-three. He gained two yards.
The Browns wisely went for it on the subsequent fourth-and-one. Baker Mayfield ran it off the shoulder of the right guard for no gain.
Some might question the wisdom of not having one of the league’s leading rushers on the field for two crucial short-yardage plays, but let’s move on.
Imagine having Nick Chubb on your roster and not having him on the field on 3rd and short, AND THEN on 4th and short. 🙃#Browns
— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) November 3, 2019
The Browns ended that drive with zero points.
Then again, late in the fourth quarter and down by just five points, the Browns had the ball on the Denver 25-yard line with one yard to gain for a first down.
They failed to convert on third and fourth down, and the ballgame concluded.
The game was there for the taking, and they let the Broncos off the hook. The Browns aren’t good enough to let any team off the hook, even if their quarterback’s last game was the 2016 Liberty Bowl.