When the Cleveland Browns scored on a very clean opening drive against the Buffalo Bills, there was reason for optimism. This is great considering a snowstorm that ended up in snowfall taller than most forced the game to move from Buffalo to Detroit. The announcement for the change came on late Thursday, which is a bit of a wrench for any team’s gameplan. So, if you consider that, along with the fact that the Browns were shellakced last week against the Miami Dolphins, things might be different against the Bills, a Super Bowl favorite.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, this wasn’t an overtime drive and the game was far from over after they scored. On offense, the Browns did keep driving the football – Jacoby Brisset commanded the Browns’ offense in the first half, going 13-18 for 156 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Amari Cooper had 6 of Brisset’s completions and was able to move down the field for 91 yards on offense for Cleveland. If you saw this you’d probably think the Browns were blowing out the Bills! Unfortunately, for those who couldn’t watch, Cleveland scored just 10 points and trailed the Bills, 13-10, at the midway point. The Browns clearly did a wonderful job of moving the football. But, none of that matters when you can’t score – which was an overarching theme all day long against Buffalo.
Another somewhat positive overarching theme was the fact that the Browns came to play on defense to start the game. Cleveland got off to a hot start on defense by holding Buffalo to just 15 yards of on offense in the first quarter – their lowest allowed in three seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The Browns even held it together after a turnover as they limited the Bills to just six points through the first four series of the game. Unfortunately, like the offense, the Browns also began to fizzle out as well on defense and the Bills started to settle in on both side of things. Here’s how things went for Cleveland on defense once Buffalo finally settled in on offense:
Once Buffalo got it going, they had 342 total yards on offense through the final three quarters. Momentum started to shift when the Bills picked up a touchdown before halftime on a five-yard pass from quarterback Josh Allen to wide receiver Stephon Diggs, who was criminally wide open. From there, Buffalo scored on all five of their second-half possessions, outside of the final one that ended the game with a kneel-down.
Sure, it never helps the run game when the defense can’t stop allowing points, but it was a very rough day for Cleveland’s running game as well. On Sunday, Browns superstar Nick Chubb finished with just 19 yards on 14 carries and as a team Cleveland finished with just 80 yards with a 3.1 yards per carry average. The Browns’ greatest strength on offense is their running game and it’s clear the Bills understood the assignment. Like last week against Miami, Cleveland was dared to throw the football over running it by Buffalo. And, once again, the Browns fell for the bait as Brissett finished with 342 passing yards, which was his first 300-yard game since 2019. That’s great for Brisset but none of it matters when the offense went 40 game minutes between scores, so it was nothing more than a tempest in a teacup.
Sunday’s game against the Bills was the pentultimate start for Brissett and will see his last several series under center next Sunday when the Browns host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers have the fifth-best best passing defense in the NFL and are middle in the pack in terms of defending the ground game. So, this game against the Bills might’ve been Brissett’s swan song with the Browns for this season. All things considered, Brissett has done a great job despite the circumstances stacked against him.
If Cleveland wants to try and finish the season with a winning record, their last shot without Deshaun Watson is against Tampa Bay. That obviously means throwing it a lot less and running the ball behind Chubb and Kareem Hunt a lot more. But, based on how the last two weeks have gone for the Browns, it might be another empty calorie afternoon with Brissett under center. Hopefully, Cleveland finds a bit of balance on offense to play past an inevitably disappointing defensive performance. If not, it’ll be the same article tone, different week from Right Down Euclid.
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found three to five times a week on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.
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