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This week, the Cleveland Browns traveled to the motor city to face off against the Detroit Lions. The narrative on paper looks the same: “Browns took the field, Browns failed, Browns lost.” However, when you look deep into it, the Browns held the lead longer than they had all season. They were in fact only hindered by two major mistakes. This week was a week that should have given Browns fans hope, even in the face of defeat. This is the Cleveland Browns Weekly Notes: Week 10.
1. Bring The Noise
In the week prior, one of the strangest developments occurred with the Browns nearly trading for Cincinnati Bengals’ back up quarterback, AJ McCarron. For most quarterbacks, this would be crushing to their confidence, especially for a rookie like DeShone Kizer. Instead, he turned in what may have been his best performance of the season. While he threw an interception late in the game, it didn’t take away from his effectiveness, as he threw for 323 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown. This would be enough to warrant a nomination for the Pepsi Rookie of the Week. However more importantly, it also showed more of a development in Kizer. Two weeks prior against the Minnesota Vikings, while he didn’t throw a touchdown, he was able to garner 179 yards through air against the 11th best passing defense in the NFL. While Kizer has been far from perfect (we’ll get to that), he’s been showing he could be what Cleveland has been looking for all these years. The next few weeks will be telling as to what Kizer’s future will be. If he continues to build upon his recent success and he can maintain the support that he’s had in the locker room, Cleveland may not have to draft a quarterback high in next years draft, as many are speculating they will.
2. Just Passing Through
So far this season, Cleveland has had the the third best rushing defense, with only the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings having allowed less yards. Passing wise however, they’ve just been alright, and it showed this past week. They were able to keep Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in check for the first half the game. However, once he started finding the holes in defense, seemingly where safety Derrick Kindred or cornerback Jamar Taylor were, he was off to the races. The Browns’ defense has played well but they’re still one or two pieces away from being an elite, well rounded defense.
3. Shifting Gears
This season hasn’t been the best for running back Isaiah Crowell, not just in terms of lack of productivity, but also in terms of opportunities to do so. This week, the Browns stuck with the run game and allowed him 16 carries, as part of run to pass ratio of 33 to 40. Crowell lead the way with 90 of the overall 201 rushing yards. This ultimately was where the Browns found the most success.
4. The Audible
One of the most controversial moments of the game came with less than 20 seconds in the first half. With no time outs left, it appeared that the Browns had changed the play at the line of scrimmage. Whatever the play was supposed to be, it turned into a quarterback sneak by Kizer from about the three yard line. Detroit stopped him, then sat on him to make sure he couldn’t complete another play, effectively ending the half. When it was revealed that Kizer called the audible at the line, most fans were not very pleased, even a couple calling for his job. However, consider that Kizer is already calling audibles on his own, at age 21, when most quarterbacks are just following orders from their head coach. While it didn’t work out in this instance, the initiative does mean something potentially positive going forward.
5. Taking Responsibility
There were some moments that defined several players in this game. The first one was for wide receiver Kenny Britt, who has been struggling this season. Britt was targeted three times, and made four receptions for 38 yards, including a touchdown. Britt made an effort to step up and prove his worth. Kizer took responsibility for the awful audible. Later in the game was a scary moment, where a defender was able to easily get by rookie tight end, David Njoku, and land a nasty hit on Kizer. The hit sent him to the locker room for three drives. Njoku took ownership of the mistake, apologizing to Kizer after the game. When a young team shows responsibility, it’s the first step in the right direction, as they are admitting that they have a problem.
6. Return Game
A few weeks ago, nobody was really sure if we’d see the return of star wide receiver, Josh Gordon, rookie cornerback, Howard Wilson, or wide receiver, Corey Coleman, who were either lost due to injury or suspension. As week 11 approaches however, things have truly changed. Coleman has been cleared to practice, and early word is, he may be playing on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Gordon meanwhile, who has served time for failed drug tests, has since returned to team work outs. He can return practice on November 20th, in time for their week 12 match up in Cincinnati against the Bengals. Finally there’s Wilson, who has been dropping subtle hints that he could be on the verge of returning. If these hints are true, it would be a huge boost to a defensive secondary that could use more fire power in their arsenal. Things could get interesting in this second half of the season.
7. Looking Forward to the Week Ahead
This week, the Browns face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Cleveland. To have any kind of chance, Cleveland is going to have to exploit Jacksonville’s weakness against the run. The Jags have the top pass defense in the NFL, in terms of total yards allowed, but are 23rd in terms of rushing yards allowed. If Cleveland does what they did last week and let the running backs do their job, they can open up pass lanes. If Crowell and Johnson have a good game, the Browns will have a chance. On the other side of the ball, we’ll get a chance to see the number one rushing attack take on the third best run defense. Cleveland will need to stymie the Jaguar’s run game, forcing Jacksonville to try to win on the inconsistent arm of Blake Bortles. One last note, the weather is calling for clouds and possible rain or snow showers, with a high of 37- not Florida weather. Jacksonville has played one game in cold weather against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which the weather was 23 degrees. With the chance of rain or snow, this could change the way the game is played. While unlikely, this could be the ultimate game to a team that is clawing at a chance for the playoffs.