After a lackluster victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cleveland Browns had the chance to beat up on a lesser opponent in the Arizona Cardinals.
Instead, the opposite happened. The Browns were shelled 38-24, with both sides of the ball getting dominated by Arizona.
Player grades referenced are supplied by Pro Football Focus.
Offense inexplicably sputters
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt played well, but the rest of Cleveland’s play-makers did not. Odell Beckham Jr. caught eight of his 13 targets for 66 yards, but managed to create just nine yards after the catch and also had a drop. Jarvis Landry hauled in five passes for only 23 yards. Former Cardinal Ricky Seals-Jones turned two of his three catches into touchdowns (totaling three yards), but also had a costly fumble after a 26-yard gain.
Baker Mayfield had another poor showing. Aside from the two goal-line scores to Seals-Jones, he was ineffective. It took him 43 attempts and 30 completions to get to 247 yards, for an average of just 5.7 yards per attempt.
Early in the game, he missed an open Beckham in the end zone on what should have been an easy touchdown. There was plenty of room for Mayfield to fit the ball into Beckham underneath and away from the defenders, and he wasn’t pressured at all. But Mayfield’s ball sailed high, right to Patrick Peterson, giving Beckham absolutely no chance to make a play. These kinds of mistakes shouldn’t happen at all, but especially not against a defense like Arizona’s.
The offensive line was decent, with Kendall Lamm and J.C. Tretter earning PFF grades of over 75. Greg Robinson wasn’t too far behind at 70.9. Joel Bitonio finished with a decent 64.8, and Wyatt Teller had a disappointing outing, with a 39.4 pass block grade. Lamm was injured on his 25th snap, which led to Chris Hubbard reprising his right tackle role. He responded with a solid 69.5 mark, a significant improvement over his season average.
As a whole, the OL gave up just one sack, one QB hit, and nine hurries, for a total of 11 pressures. They did a good job neutralizing Chandler Jones, one of the NFL’s very best pass rushers. Limiting him to just the aforementioned single sack and QB hit is a huge win for the OL. That should have been enough to give Mayfield and Co. the keys to victory, but that obviously didn’t happen.
Defense shows its lack of depth
The one positive on defense for the Browns was rookie LB Mack Wilson. His elite overall grade of 90.4 was by far his highest of the season. To be fair, that number is heavily skewed by his 90.3 coverage mark, but his run defense grade was still 68.2, tied for his second-highest run defense grade of the season, and just the fourth time in 14 games that number was over 57.2. Wilson has not had a good rookie season, but it’s games like this that make his future bright.
Other than that, it was an atrocious effort unit-wide. The defense hurried Kyler Murray a dozen times but never hit or sacked him. Ends Bryan Cox Jr. and Porter Gustin didn’t pressure Murray once in 75 combined snaps. Murray completed 19 of his 25 attempts for 219 yards and a touchdown.
The Browns couldn’t slow Arizona’s passing attack (only one secondary member graded out over 60.1: Terrance Mitchell, who played nine snaps), but the Cardinals rarely needed to throw the ball, as they were able to run it at will. They ground out 226 yards and four touchdowns, all by Kenyan Drake. This doesn’t bode well for next week’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, who boast by far the NFL’s best rushing attack.
Good teams are capable of beating other good teams, and when they play bad teams, they win. Cleveland simply hasn’t been able to do either this season, and even when they do beat bad teams, they don’t play well. Plenty has to change, and it’s going to be a long rest of the season for the Browns, even if they are still mathematically in the playoff race.