It was Sunday. The Browns lost. Rinse. Repeat. Such has been the story of the 2017 Cleveland Browns. However, it goes much further than the over-arching basis of a loss. There has been a consistent story of mistakes repeating each week. As such, it is possible to construct a game recap before the game even occurs. Here is such a story.
The Cleveland Browns played the Chicago Bears on Sunday December 24. The ending score did not matter other than that the Browns achieved a perfect 15-for-15 in their quest to complete a season without a victory. The loss played out in a similar fashion as each of the losses in 2017 have seemingly run together, each appearing the same as the last. With the Christmas Eve failure, however, the last true opportunity to avoid a winless season was abandoned as a meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers awaits in Week 17.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the issues the Browns ran into this week.
Browns offense versus Bears defense
- Kizer’s lack of accuracy showed up again. Josh Gordon would have amassed at least 200 yards given accurate throws.
- The Browns were able to put one solid drive together throughout the entire game.
- Spencer Drango allowed pressures way too easily.
- Way too many penalties at absurdly inopportune times. Cleveland’s offense stalled on multiple drives as a result.
- Kizer’s red zone turnover was a late-December gut punch.
- The Browns should have run more in the second half. Giving up on the running game provided Chicago’s defense with a one-dimensional attack.
- David Njoku played 30 percent of the offensive snaps, leaving us wondering why Hue Jackson refuses to use his best tight end.
The game started off decently on offense despite a Bears defense ranked No. 14 against the pass and No. 12 against the run. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson received enough touches to keep the defense off balance early, though penalties and DeShone Kizer being inaccurate on a couple of occasions killed any chance of small drives turning into actual points. A huge quarterback pressure at the worst time, given up by Spencer Drango, ended the first half on a down beat as the Browns were knocked out of field goal range.
Despite gaining more on the ground than through the air, Crowell was ignored in the second half. The entire game was put on the shoulders of Kizer who made some great throws but once again completed fewer than 50 percent of his attempts. He had plenty of under thrown balls, over thrown balls, and that red zone interception (what did he even see on that play?).
Browns defense versus Bears offense
- The Browns allowed rookie Mitchell Trubisky to abuse the soft zone, which never allowed what could be a good pass rush to get to him.
- Dion Sims and Ashland University product Adam Shaheen killed the Browns over the middle, continuing the trend of opposing tight end production. Shaheen’s fourth-quarter touchdown especially hurt.
- Cleveland’s defensive tackles were not good in coverage. Gregg Williams had Danny Shelton out in coverage five times and Trevon Coley six.
- Safeties 30 yards off the ball do not help against the run and rarely helped in coverage.
- Jabrill Peppers was allowed to move closer to the line a few times, and looked more at home, but these were few and far between.
- Defensive backs providing a 10-yard cushion on 3rd-and-5 continued to be an ill-advised decision.
As defensive coordinator Gregg Williams would say, the Browns defense forced Mitchell Trubisky to get rid of the ball quickly. Not that they gave their defensive line time to get to the quarterback, but the 10-yard cushions the cornerbacks gifted the wide receivers were too tempting for the rookie quarterback to pass up. He got into quite a rhythm dissecting the defense.
The good news is that the defensive line continued to limit the overall rushing game of the Bears though those short passes provided the same result.
At some point, Trubisky got bored with the gifts to the outside because he decided to expose the Browns other major weakness. The Bears have been wretched at tight ends receiving the football since Zach Miller went on the IR, but Dion Sims managed to have a career game against the Browns. Sure, that means just three receptions, but seeing poor Danny Shelton attempt to pick up Sims on a crossing route with Jabrill Peppers 20 yards beyond the play in center field made each of those gut-wrenching to witness.
Any attempt at keeping the game close was destroyed late in the second half when on a crucial third and short, the defense continued to give a 10-yard cushion and Trubisky was caught on camera laughing at how easy it was to obtain the first down to continue to milk the clock and lead to an eventual score that put the game out of reach.
- Hue Jackson goofed the end of first half clock management and forced the unnecessary Drango-related sack.
- Challenge flag gaffes were once again par for the course.
- Oof: Special teams does it again.
Hue Jackson ruined any semblance of an opportunity to score near the end of the first half with some horrific clock management. Rather than playing desperate to milk as many chances as possible at putting a score on the board, he seemed casual about letting time slip away. Later, he continued his policy of using the red challenge flag rather than lose it. It’s too bad the call was not going to go the Browns way. If the time spent during the challenge was on preparing for the next play, it did not show up on the field as the Browns looked unorganized and a penalty was the outcome.
Hey, look at that—there was another special teams travesty. At least the team limited it to one soul-crushing screw up this week, and it wasn’t the deciding factor of the game. Progress?
The 2017 Cleveland Browns might be horrific, but they have been horrific in completely predictable ways. However, the predictably horrific team is still our team. Besides, there is just one more week to go before the offseason begins as the Browns have locked up the No. 1 overall pick for the second consecutive year. Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, Saquon Barkley, and Minkah Fitzpatrick are up for that slot. Who do you have?
See you in the offseason.