Cleveland Browns drop winnable game to Rams, 24-6

Oct 25, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (55) tackles Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson (29) during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns
Los Angeles Rams

It was a day like so many before it for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.

The defense played well – at least until they started giving up big plays.

The offense struggled and when they did get something going they were done in by penalties.

In the end the Browns let yet another winnable game get away from as they fell to the Rams at the Edward James Dome, 24-6.

Cleveland dug itself an early hole when Taylor Gabriel fumbled a short pass that Rams defensive back Rodney McLeod returned 17 yards for a touchdown just three minutes into the game. Greg Zuerlein added a first-quarter field goal and, despite holding the Rams to minus three yards of offense, the Browns found themselves trailing 10-0 at the end of the third quarter.

As they so often do, the Browns answered touchdowns with field goals but because was doing its part – and because St. Louis employs Nick Foles as its quarterback – Cleveland was able to pull within four points after a Travis Coons field goal early in the third quarter.

But the game took a turn for the worse midway through the third quarter.

Following a missed field, the Browns took over on their own 25-yard line trailing with a chance to take the lead.

Consecutive penalties on Jim Dray and Gary Barnidge pushed the Browns back to their own 10. But thanks to a 28-yard pass from Josh McCown to Barnidge, the Browns were able to quickly move to their own 42-yard line.

A holding penalty on Cam Erving pushed the Browns back, but after an incompletion and a short pass to Barnidge, McCown found Travis Benjamin with a 36-yard completion to take the Browns to the St. Louis 21-yard line.

But! A (somewhat dubious) holding penalty on Joe Thomas  the fourth penalty of the drive on Cleveland – brought the big play back and the Browns would punt two plays later.

Having dodged a bullet, the Rams finally broke the Cleveland defense as they moved 88 yards in just four plays for a touchdown and a 17-6 lead.

While there was still a little more than a quarter left to play in the game, everyone watching knew the game was essentially over as Todd Gurley walked untouched into the end zone from the one-yard line.

In an example of how stats can be deceiving, McCown finished the game 26-of-32 for 270 yards and a quarterback rating of 101.8. But he also took four sacks, could not get the Browns into the end zone, lost two fumbles and was just three-of-11 on third down. He also finished the game in the locker room after taking a beating that left him with some kind of injury to his right arm.

The running game was a non-factor for another week, rushing for just 3.4 yards per carry. Particularly ineffective were Isaiah Crowell (eight carries for nine yards) and Duke Johnson (six rushes for 17 yards).

The Browns also were penalized a staggering 11 times for 98 yards. (Of course, the Rams were called for nine penalties of their own as the refs made it a busy day.)

Defensively the Browns allowed more than 150 rushing yards for the sixth time in seven games, allowing the Rams to run for 158 yards and 6.1 yards per carry. Rookie running back Todd Gurley finished with 19 rushes for 128 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

This is probably the most disappointing loss from the Browns since the opener against the New York Jets. They were never really in the game and there are not really any positives to take away from the day.

With McCown leaving the game with some kind of injury and the Browns falling to 2-5 on the season, this next week will renew the calls for the Browns to turn to Johnny Manziel, whether he’s ready or not. Of course, if McCown can’t go the Browns may have no choice.

It was a day like so many others for the Browns on Sunday and now the club faces more questions about a season that has quickly slipped away.

It remains to be seen what answers the team can come up with before next weekend’s game.