Week 11 instant reactions: Browns fail to capitalize, fall to 3-7

Nov 20, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) sits by himself on the bench after the Browns lost to the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 20, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) sits by himself on the bench after the Browns lost to the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns had all the opportunities in the world but failed to capitalize and in turn, fell 31-23 to the Bills, dropping to 3-7 on the season. 

If the Cleveland Browns could just play the first quarter of every game each week, this team would have a good chance to be undefeated. Unfortunately, football is a four-quarter game and the Browns have not shown they can’t sustain the hot starts they get off to.

The Bills are no slouch team in the NFL, but if you would have said prior to the game — that was moved from Buffalo to Detroit due to the massive snowstorm that blanketed western New York — that the Browns defense would hold Josh Allen to 197 yards passing with a touchdown and just seven rushing yards, you’d probably think Cleveland had a legitimate shot to win the game.

That was not the case on Sunday afternoon at Ford Field. Cleveland received the opening kickoff, which Jerome Ford returned it 21 yards from the four-yard line to the 25.

The Browns marched down the field, going 75-yards on 11 plays, and ended the drive with Jacoby Brissett finding Amari Cooper in the endzone from 25-yards out.

The defense showed up on the first drive, forcing a three-and-out, but then couldn’t take advantage and went three-and-out themselves before the two teams exchanged field goals.

After another Buffalo punt,  Cleveland was marching down the field, but a bad snap from backup center Hjalte Froholdt ended the promising drive and the Bills turned it into a field goal.

Another Browns punt resulted in the Bills marching down the field to get a touchdown and a 13-10 lead before the half, and then got an opening second-half field goal to extend the lead to 16-10.

What went wrong?

Self-inflicted wounds did the Browns in yet again. Pre-snap penalties, the fumble on a seemingly good drive, and dropped passes were yet again the cause of the offense folding and the Bills taking advantage.

Outside of Ford, special teams remain to be a sore spot on this team. Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski should seriously take a look at getting rid of the current special teams coordinator, Mike Priefer, as he seemingly never has his unit ready to play. Rookie kicker Cade York had yet another kick blocked and that simply cannot happen.

The Bills took advantage of punts, turnover on downs, and the missed kick as they scored on every single possession in the second half, minus the final kneel-down to ice the game. Before the Browns got a late touchdown from Donovan Peoples-Jones, his first of the season, Buffalo kicker Tyler Bass had outscored Cleveland 18-16 as he connected on all six of his field goal tries.

For the “run the ball” crowd, Cleveland mustered up only 80 yards on 26 carries, for an average of 3.1 yards per carry. Nick Chubb finished with 14 carries for 19 yards. Kareem Hunt, who has not been very good this season, led the team with 32 yards on five carries. Brissett had seven carries for 29 yards.

As aforementioned, the defense held Josh Allen in check, a week after holding Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in check. However, that could not be translated to the rushing attack of Buffalo, who rushed for 171 yards on 31 carries, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

What went right?

Jacoby Brissett had yet another stellar game for this team as he continues to be the starter until Deshaun Watson makes his Cleveland debut in two weeks. Brissett finished the game 28-of-41 for 324 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.

Two of those touchdown passes came to Amari Cooper, who caught eight passes for 113 yards. Peoples-Jones had his seventh-straight game with at least four catches and 50 yards. He finished with five catches for 61-yards and the touchdown at the end of the game. He is surely earning himself an extension in the offseason.

What’s next for the Browns?

Next Sunday will be the final game of the 11-game suspension that Watson is currently serving. The Browns will play host to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccanneers. Should Cleveland be victorious and get to 4-7, then there will be a sliver of hope to turn this season around. After all, the goal was always to get to at least four wins prior to Watson making his debut.

Nobody can answer how much this team will change overall with him under center, but he will provide a spark of hope to this frustrating season. And if he cannot lead them to five or six wins over the final month and a half, then it’ll still be a part of the bigger picture of 2023 and beyond.