The Cleveland Browns suffered a tough road loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 12 of the 2023 NFL season. Not surprisingly, the blame game is in full swing. As the dust settles on the gridiron, it's time to dissect the game and identify the key personnel responsible for the Browns' disappointing defeat.

Week 12 Loss

Week 12 saw the Browns experience a setback, succumbing to a 29-12 defeat that might have just bombed their playoff hopes. The Broncos' formidable defense posed a significant challenge, thwarting the Browns' offensive endeavors and hindering their momentum. Defensively, the vaunted Browns struggled to contain the dynamic Broncos' offense. They allowed pivotal plays that widened the point gap.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson's concussion derailed the Browns' game plan. With PJ Walker at the helm, the Browns allowed the Broncos to score 12 unanswered points. Despite early struggles, the Browns managed to narrow the lead to two points with a touchdown. However, defensive lapses allowed the Broncos to extend their lead by five. Turnovers, including three fumbles, were a significant problem for the Browns. These contributed to Denver's 10-point gain.

Consequently, the Browns' three-game winning streak came to a frustrating end. They initially fought back from a 14-0 deficit but encountered challenges, including injuries and turnovers. While the Browns maintain a solid 7-4 record, the loss raises concerns. This is especially true if injuries to players like Myles Garrett, Thompson-Robinson, or Amari Cooper prove to be long-term.

Here we will look at the four Cleveland Browns who are most to blame for their Week 12 loss vs. the Denver Broncos.

Greg Newsome

Denzel Ward's absence due to a shoulder injury has left a noticeable void for the Browns. This is despite the impressive season he's had. Cleveland fans, familiar with discussions around shoulder injuries, are likely fatigued by the recurrence of such concerns. The optimism is that Ward's recovery will be swift, given the evident impact of his absence during Sunday's game.

Against the Broncos, the spotlight shifted to Greg Newsome. Despite his pivotal pick-six against the Ravens in Week 10, Newsome struggled in coverage against Courtland Sutton throughout this game. His challenges included a costly 34-yard pass interference on the opening drive and surrendering a 31-yard reception to Sutton on a crucial third down.

The struggles continued as Sutton accumulated 61 yards on three receptions. He made impactful plays, even though one significant play was nullified due to interference called on Sutton. With Ward sidelined, the Browns now rely on Newsome as the veteran presence in the cornerback room. However, his performance against the Broncos raises concerns about the team's defensive capabilities in Ward's absence. The silver lining is that Newsome has demonstrated a higher level of play before and needs to consistently replicate that.

Kevin Stefanski

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski bears responsibility for the Week 12 loss, particularly in his decision-making regarding Jerome Ford's usage. Despite Ford's impressive seven yards per carry, Stefanski opted to lean heavily on the passing game. This was even when Ford had the upper hand against the Broncos' rushing defense. This choice, especially in a closely contested game, raised eyebrows. Ford had limited opportunities with just eight carries for 61 yards after three quarters. He needs to trust his ground game much more.

Pass Rush

The Browns' pass rush failed to apply consistent pressure on Broncos QB Russell Wilson during Week 12. Despite the defensive talents of Myles Garrett, Za'Darius Smith, and Ogbo Okoronkwo, Wilson had ample time in the pocket. The lack of pressure resulted in Wilson having the luxury to go through his progressions comfortably. Strangely enough, there was minimal threat of being sacked. The defensive line managed only two batted passes, four QB hits, and a single sack. This raised questions about the effectiveness of key pass rushers.

Receiver Drops

The Browns' receivers contributed to the struggles with untimely drops during critical moments in the game. Notable instances included David Njoku missing a potential touchdown catch and Cooper dropping a catchable two-point conversion. These drops disrupted offensive momentum and hindered scoring opportunities. Other players like Ford and Elijah Moore also contributed to missed catches that impacted the outcome of key drives.

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Looking Ahead

The Week 12 loss against the Denver Broncos brought to light several factors contributing to the Cleveland Browns' struggles. Stefanski's play-calling decisions, particularly the imbalance in utilizing Jerome Ford, and Greg Newsome's challenges in coverage and tackling played pivotal roles. The ineffective pass rush further compounded defensive issues, allowing Wilson ample time to navigate the field comfortably. Additionally, critical drops by the receivers disrupted the offensive rhythm and squandered scoring opportunities. As the Browns and their fans reflect on this defeat, it becomes crucial to address these issues for future success. A comprehensive evaluation of coaching strategies, defensive execution, and offensive reliability will be paramount in regaining momentum and sustaining a competitive edge in the remainder of the season.