Another week, another slew of errors, and another game where the Cleveland Browns fall short. The Browns suffered their fifth loss of the season in Week 7, falling 23-20 to the Ravens on the road. It leaves them in third place in the AFC North and facing a desperate game next week against a Cincinnati Bengals squad that is just getting its groove. Here we’ll look at some takeaways from the Browns’ loss in Week 7.
This week, the Browns’ mishaps included an offensive pass interference call against Amari Cooper, which nullified a go-ahead score. It also included a false start that turned Cade York’s 56-yard tying field goal try into a 60-yard attempt, which the Ravens blocked.
Browns fans view the officials with scorn after this game, but the Browns actually put themselves in this situation. Keep in mind that this game included many of the same errors that have plagued this club all season. Not surprisingly, the passing game was far from crisp, and the running game was frequently overlooked. Once again, the special teams proved to be a weakness. Sigh.
Here are our four takeaways from the Cleveland Browns’ Week 7 loss vs. the Ravens.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 23, 2022
4. Special teams are a wash
This season’s special teams unit has been a wash. To illustrate, in this game, they allowed a 46-yard punt return to the Browns’ 21 that set up a Ravens touchdown. Later, D’Ernest Johnson attempted to run a kick out of the end zone and was tackled at the 24. However, the Browns were penalized for holding and forced to punt. They went to the Ravens’ 40-yard line but had to punt because they were out of field goal range.
Instead of Chester Rogers or Demetric Felton, Donovan Peoples-Jones handled punt returns. He had two 14-yard returns, including an eight-yard long. Meanwhile, Johnson had one 27-yard return.
Rookie kicker Cade York had the aforementioned potential game-tying field goal partially blocked by Malik Harrison after Michael Dunn was penalized for a false start. York ended the game with two field goals and two extra points.
Sans Deshaun Watson, Cleveland’s margin for error in every game is so small, so the special teams have to be on point. That just hasn’t been the case this season.
3. Locker room mayhem
Players screamed and hollered in the locker room before it was opened to the media after yet another debilitating loss. The shouting reached a point where the players had to be calmed down.
The yelling was so loud that it could be heard in the neighboring interview room. This transpired even as head coach Kevin Stefanski, QB Jacoby Brissett, and DE Myles Garrett were holding postgame news conferences.
The locker room tirades, which included a reference to leadership, lasted about five minutes until Stefanski himself stormed through the doors. When everything simmered down, he discussed the Browns’ fourth consecutive loss.
This was surely not a good sign for the team, which has already been neck-deep in intrigue because of the Deshaun Watson hullabaloo. With potential locker room drama reaching a boiling point, the work gets even harder for Stefanski & Co.
2. Painful penalties
The Browns were called for two significant penalties in the fourth quarter. However, they also had infractions that cost them at other crucial periods of the game.
Cleveland had a total of six penalties for 45 yards in the game, the most serious of which was called on Michael Dunn as York tried a 55-yard field goal to tie the game. The penalty pushed the kick back to a 60-yard attempt, which was blocked at the line of scrimmage.
Upon watching the replay, however, Dunn’s penalty-inducing movement did not seem apparent. Stefanski stated that he did not get an explanation from the referees on the on-field call but will seek one from the league.
Prior to the kick, WR Amari Cooper had a 34-yard touchdown call reversed due to offensive passing interference. Cooper made contact with Ravens CB Marcus Peters on the play, and Stefanski stated that he will seek an explanation from the league over that call, too.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, however, stated that the penalties in the last minute, whether correct or incorrect, did not determine the game for the Browns.
“I definitely think there were a lot more plays out there that we left,” he said post-game. “Off the top of my head, I can think of five… We weren’t expecting calls, so we just have to find a way to make those plays and be better.”
1. Hey, the D on Lamar Jackson was tight
Their fifth loss notwithstanding, the Browns defense objectively had one of their best performances of the season.
Ravens star QB Lamar Jackson was sacked three times, limited to 179 yards on the ground, and completed only 9-of-16 throw attempts for 120 yards. As such, Baltimore was restricted to 254 total yards. That’s the lowest total allowed by the Browns this season.
It’s also one of Jackson’s worst performances of the season. It was precisely what the Browns defense needed to not only give Cleveland a chance to win but also to demonstrate that they’re capable of playing better football after a terrible six-week start to the season.
The stat line of TE Mark Andrews may be the most striking indicator of the Browns’ defensive domination on Sunday.
The Pro Bowler and All-Pro in 2021 was confined to a single catch. It’s a compliment to the Browns’ linebackers and the rest of the defense for keeping him in check and shutting him down.
Star pass rush artist Myles Garrett, however, admitted that it’s difficult to see the performance as a silver lining following yet another heartbreaking defeat.
“A loss is a loss,” he said. “I don’t think about the stats at all. The stats don’t matter to me, especially when we lose.”