The Cleveland Browns won’t be hanging their hats on a morale victory, but a 20-13 loss to the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams playing without several key starters and a patchwork secondary wasn’t the worse showing in prime-time. Especially considering the team had a chance to tie it up late.
With the loss, the Browns dropped to 1-2 this season and have a ton to work on. Premier among the questions facing Cleveland is the play calling, which drew boos from the home crowd at FirstEnergy Stadium, most notably on a bizarre fourth down draw play.
“It just didn’t work. It was a bad call,” said Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens, who is also Cleveland’s offensive play-caller. “We’re trying to win the game and we’re on their side of the field. Bad call.”
The Browns also struggled with play calling at the goal line with the game on the line. On a fourth down, Mayfield ended up heaving an on-the-run lob to the end zone.
“I didn’t do a good job at the end of the game,” Kitchens said.
The Browns skipper was asked about how sluggish the offense has looked early after having wild success last year in the final eight games with Kitchens calling the plays.
“I wouldn’t say anything is missing,” Kitchens said. “It takes time to develop offensively. We had been through eight games already last season, so we knew what we were doing. I have to do a better job during the course of the week putting these guys in a better situations on game day.”
T.J. Carrie, Browns Patchwork Secondary Shine Against Rams
There were some bright spots for the Browns. The story coming into the game was how banged up the Browns secondary was. But the unit played out of this world, despite the entire starting lineup being held out by injury.
T.J. Carrie and Justin Burris — who was added to the roster on Friday — collected interceptions of Jared Goff. Carrie also led the team in tackles from his corner spot with seven.
Kitchens had said that the team would make no excuses despite the massive injury report.
“I do not want them worried about the scoreboard. I want them to worry about how they compete every play, and we will let the score take care of itself,” Kitchens told reporters this week. “I want to play smart, I want to play fast and I want to play physical, whoever is on the team. I will roll with whoever is there. I think we have enough guys who are willing to go out and play well, prepare well and put everything out there for 60 minutes or however long it takes.”
On the line, Larry Ogunjobi collected a sack, as did star defensive end Myles Garrett, who was passed by Tampa Bay linebacker Shaquil Barrett (8.5) for the league lead in sacks. Garrett — who also forced a fumble from Goff — now has six.
“I thought the defense played incredible today,” Kitchens said. “Those guys did an incredible job.”
Nick Chubb Carries the Load Offensively for Browns
Nick Chubb literally carried the load for the Browns. He had 23 carries for 96 yards and caught four balls for 35 yards. He was targets seven times, with many of the called screens not developing against the Rams speedy defensive front.
In the passing game, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry collected nine combined catches. Landry finished with a team-high 62 yards and Beckham had 56.
Demetrius Harris had one catch and it was for the Browns lone touchdown in the back of the end zone. Harris is filling in for David Njoku, who hit IR this week with a wrist injury that will require surgery.
Baker Mayfield had another uneven performance, completing just 50 percent of his passes for 195 yards, one touchdown and one interception.