The Cleveland Browns had an opportunity to show off for a national television audience. The city was highlighted throughout the show and the team, despite a ton of injury issues, did what they had to do against the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football.
The Broncos offense struggled to get moving outside of throws to receiver Courtland Sutton. The Browns defense, which struggled for a couple of weeks, was able to pitch a shutout in the first half and hold the Denver offense to less than 100 yards during that half. That didn’t continue in the second half as the defense showed warts when Denver made some adjustments.
On offense, Cleveland used a variety of pass catchers with Case Keenum starting in place of the injured Baker Mayfield. The team’s rushing attack was still productive despite not having their top two running backs and right tackle Jack Conklin due to injuries.
Here is everything we learned watching the Week 7 victory:
In his first start for the Browns, Case Keenum proved that he can be a serviceable starter in the NFL. Very little about his performance was concerning or exciting. Keenum was professional in getting the offense in and out of the huddle and making adjustments at the line.
His lack of arm strength was obvious at times but he also showed the ability to put the ball in the perfect spots at times as well.
Depending on the amount of time Mayfield is out, Keenum showed that he can keep Cleveland afloat which is all you can ask from a backup quarterback. The journeyman quarterback finished the game completing 21 of 33 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown. He also didn’t turn the ball over.
Serviceable, with the team’s offensive line, run game and pass-catching talent, should be enough until Mayfield is able to return.
Despite missing Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and Jack Conklin, along with starting fullback Andy Janovich, the Cleveland rushing attack was still able to click.
D’Ernest Johnson carried the load for the rushing attack and was able to produce. The offensive line opened large holes and the play-calling put him in a position to be successful. Johnson could have put himself in position to get more carries even when Chubb and Hunt get healthy.
Johnson carried the ball 22 times for 146, both career bests, and a touchdown. The Browns were able to salt the game away late on the back of Johnson. No other back had more than two carries in the game.
Trying to get fans to finally forget Phil Dawson, Chase McLaughlin hit a 52-yard field goal and two extra points in Week 7. The long field goal was even more impressive with the wind that he was dealing with.
Unfortunately for McLaughlin, he is no longer perfect this season due to a blocked kick. Two of his blockers were run over by Broncos defensive lineman Shelby Harris who blocked the kick.
McLaughlin is no longer officially perfect but not due to a mistake of his own so, unofficially, we can still consider him perfect on his kicks.
The Denver offense struggled both due to the Cleveland defense and their own limitations. Teddy Bridgwater was limited due to injuries which was obvious in his play. Even at his best, Bridgewater hasn’t proven the ability to carry an offense.
The Broncos ground game also couldn’t get anything going against the Browns.
Joe Woods and company are still figuring out the best use of some of their pieces while also losing Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. John Johnson III played closer to the line of scrimmage than he has so far this year but was still in position to make a great interception.
Playing the Broncos offense, much like playing the Chicago Bears in Week 3, helps make the defense look good but doesn’t mean the defense has things figured out.
Denver took the ball to start the third quarter and was able to easily score. They then had a 17 play drive to score again in the fourth quarter. The defense just couldn’t get off the field on those two drives, a total of 30 plays for Denver.
Despite the win, the defense still has some things to figure out if they want to combat some of the high-powered offenses in the NFL.
At one point, Odell Beckham Jr. looked like he may leave the game after reinjuring his shoulder trying to make a catch on the sideline. Trying to make catches was a struggle prior to that as well.
Instead, Beckham returned after halftime and had two quick catches on the Browns first possession of the half.
Those two receptions ended up being his own receptions during the game and his shoulder injury could continue to be a concern after only being activated after a pregame workout.
Beckham works hard, cares deeply and gives his all on the field. Perhaps he is trying too hard to make things happen but the drops continue to pile up while the explosive plays have been minimal. Can they get it figured out this season?
Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney were hugely important in controlling the Broncos offense. The two monster-sized defensive ends drew a ton of attention from the offensive line and Garrett was chipped, seemingly more often than not, on most plays.
Their combination of length, power and speed makes things difficult for both the passing and running games. They often meet at the quarterback or running back and did so often in Week 7. They both have shown high effort to keep after plays if they are extended.
Takk McKinley often spells the starters and there isn’t a huge drop-off. While he isn’t the physical force that Garrett and Clowney are, McKinley still gets pressure and impacts the game even if it doesn’t show up in the boxscore.
By themselves, the Cleveland defensive ends can keep their team in many games.
With so many players missing Week 7 due to injuries, Donovan Peoples-Jones got hurt during pregame warmups. The hits didn’t stop there for Cleveland at home.
Denzel Ward hurt his hamstring and was quickly ruled out by the team. He left the Week 5 game with a neck injury.
Finally, late in the game, Jarvis Landry left the field limping. Landry, returning after missing four games due to a right knee injury, took a pass over the middle and was hurt being tackled. He limped off the field and seemed in obvious pain.
Thankfully, Landry was able to return to the game shortly thereafter.
Injuries continue to threaten the team’s season.
While the 17 – 14 margin of victory is not impressive, a win is a win and the Cleveland Browns are 4 – 3 with 10 days off before they face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Halloween.
With a ton of injuries, and more during the game, the Browns just needed to get the victory. The game showed the team that they can win with their great offensive line and D’Ernest Johnson proved that he can be a lead back in the NFL.
While the Broncos didn’t put up a big fight, they have some talented players on both sides of the ball. Cleveland got the victory, Denver drops their fourth straight.
A win is a win for the home team on Thursday Night Football.