Cleveland Browns: 3 takeaways from loss to the Chiefs


Dec 27, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won the game 17-13. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns dropped a close to game to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Unlike recent weeks, where the game was essentially over at halftime (or in some cases sooner), the Browns had the ball in Kansas City territory with a chance to win when time expired. That was a scenario that was hard to imagine after the Browns fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter and 17-3 at halftime.

But in one of the best efforts we’ve seen from this team in weeks, the Browns battled their way back against a Chiefs team that was fighting for a playoff spot, while the Browns are just fighting to make it to the end of another disappointing season.

“I talked earlier this week about planting seeds and moving forward,” head coach Mike Pettine said. “I think that second half was an indication. It’s one of those, you look at the scoreboard, you lost. But in some sense you just feel like you ran out of time.”

We don’t want to turn this into a Jason Campbell “moral victory,” but after what we’ve all witnessed the past few weeks, at least today’s game was enjoyable.

Here are three takeaways from the game, one for each of the only three offensive drives the Browns allowed the Chiefs to have in the second half.

The defense looked good – once it showed up

It looked like it was going to be a long day as the Chiefs went 65 yards on 11 effortless plays on the game’s opening drive for a touchdown.

Then it really looked like the Browns were well on their way to giving up 30 or more points for the 10th time this season – and seventh time in past eight games – when Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith hit Travis Kelce with a 13-yard scoring pass just before halftime.

But then a funny thing happened as the Browns defense actually started to play well.

Cleveland shut out the Chiefs in the second half to allow the offense to work itself back into the game. The Browns held the Chiefs to just three offensive series, which looked like this:

  • Six plays, 32 yards, punt
  • Five plays, 20 yards, punt
  • Three plays, six yards, punt

It was the final series that was the biggest of the game as, after the offense turned the ball over on downs, the defense stepped up, stopped the Chiefs, and gave the offense one last chance at pulling out a win.

On the day, the Browns held Kansas City to just 258 of total offense and just four-of-12 on third down.

It’s not enough to entertain bringing back defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil for another season (let’s not get carried away here), but it was nice to see the defense have success against a team other than the San Francisco 49ers.

The running game was rolling

For the second time in three weeks, the Browns had the running game going as they piled up 232 rushing yards against a Kansas City defense that came into the game giving up just an average of 92 yards per game on the ground.

Leading the way was quarterback Johnny Manziel, who finished with 108 rushing yards (including a 34-yard run), followed closely by Isaiah Crowell with 88 yards.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Manziel’s rushing total was the second-most by a quarterback this season, trailing Marcus Mariota’s 112 rushing yards, and the second-most by a Browns player this season. Manziel picked up 63 of those yards on his eight scrambles, which were the most scrambles by a quarterback since Russell Wilson had nine in a game in 2013.

The Browns have now accounted for 32 percent of their season’s rushing total (462 yards) in the games against the Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers and in those two games they’ve walked away with a win and a close loss, which isn’t a coincidence.

Cleveland was having difficulty throwing the ball all day against the Chiefs’ defense – even though Kansas City’s pass defense is far worse than its run defense – but they smartly kept going with what was working for as long as they could.

Johnny Manziel’s flaws look fixable

While it was nice to see Manziel making plays to keep drives alive with his legs, it is always going to be a problem if your quarterback is the game’s leading rusher.

There is no other way to put it, but Manziel was horrible as a passer against the Chiefs, who came into the game with a pedestrian rating of No. 17 in the league against the pass.

Manziel was just 13-of-32 (40.6 percent completion percentage) for 136 yards and an ill-timed interception. (And was lucky to not throw at least one more)

He was off-target all game long – missing Gary Barnidge at one point for what would have been a huge gain – and was never able to find a rhythm in the passing game.

But here’s the bigger point: everything that Manziel did wrong on Sunday is correctable.

Manziel continues to have poor footwork on his throws, as analyst Rich Gannon continually pointed out during the game, causing many of them to be off target or not have as much drive on them as you would like to see.

But that should be correctable.

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Manziel also continues to struggle to understand that, at times, it is OK to take a sack and live to fight for another play rather than trying to “make something happen” when a play if breaking down.

But that should be correctable.

Finally, Manziel continues to lead the offense into the end zone on a regular basis, as today’s game was the fifth time in seven games this season that Manziel has led the offense to 13 points or less.

But that should be correctable.

Unlike other quarterbacks we’ve seen in this town, like Colt McCoy, Derek Anderson and Brandon Weeden, to name a few, what ails Manziel should be fixable.

No matter how long they play or how much they are coached, Anderson and Weeden are always going to think their big arms can solve everything, and Colt McCoy will always be Colt McCoy.

But if he puts in the work, there is reason to believe that Manziel can get his fundamentals squared away and experience should help him with his decision making. Pair those with a few changes elsewhere on the offense and the scoring problems should work themselves out as well.