I’ll try not to remember this 30-13 loss in Seattle, which drops the putrid 2015 Browns to 3-11. But if I do, here’s what will likely stick in my mind:
Johnson Bademosi again saw serious work at cornerback, and again got beaten repeatedly. Until this season, Bademosi was almost exclusively a special teams ace, with scant few snaps at safety. Now, for some odd reason, the fourth-year player headed for unrestricted free agency is ahead of Pierre Desir on the depth chart. Even if Desir’s confidence is shaky, he has more upside and needs to gain experience during this lost season. Bademosi on defense is just a bad look.
When RG John Greco limped off the field early with a knee injury, any hopes for offensive consistency were dashed, as rookie Cameron Erving was forced into action. With subpar strength and problems with technique, the first-rounder remains a liability, twice allowing his man to sack Johnny Manziel. A holding penalty also wiped out a Manziel scramble for a first down.
Scattershot throws on the run and some outright drops by the wide receivers made the contrast between Manziel and Russell Wilson all the more stark. Johnny wasn’t awful, but Wilson (despite Mike Pettine’s ill-advised mid-week press conference remarks) is playing at an elite level, avoiding turnovers, earning the trust to tuck the ball in on designed runs, and coming through on third downs. Wilson completed seven of nine passes on third down, all for first downs, including one score.
The last 30 seconds of the first half was, if not the back-breaker, a microcosm of losing football. Tiny Taylor Gabriel couldn’t come down with a catchable third-down pass, forcing a punt. Seattle took over from their own 27 with just 16 seconds left, yet they managed a field goal, courtesy of a Tremon Williams face mask penalty on what would’ve been the last play of the half. Brutal.
On the bright side, Duke Johnson had the game’s longest run and led the Browns with 85 yards in just nine touches. Newcomer Raheem Mostert hit the ground running, returning five kickoffs to at least the 20-yard line, including a 53-yarder, the longest of the season for the Browns. They committed just four penalties. Danny Shelton, in his return to his home state, had a few good run stuffs. And for the first game in a month Travis Coons didn’t have a field goal attempt blocked.
Still, the deficiencies of the 2015 Browns were evident. The defense ultimately couldn’t stop Seattle’s drives or force any turnovers, and the tackling got sloppy late. The two Pro Bowl safeties made little impact, and the outside linebackers (Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, and Nate Orchard) were non-factors. The downfield passing game was for naught, and the rushing attack failed to follow up on last week’s season-best 230-yard effort.
The opening touchdown drive was impressive in its methodical execution, but the Browns never again found the end zone, so they’ll limp into their final two weeks against two more quality opponents itching for playoff spots. Die-hard observers will key on which Browns demonstrate the heart and the potential to become part of a winning future, once some pretty serious off-season changes sort themselves out.