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Week 15 Game Recap: Cleveland Browns 17, Denver Broncos 16


What you need to know

Cleveland Browns

The Browns pulled off another surprising victory, edging the Broncos 17-16 in Denver. Baker Mayfield didn't play perfectly as he struggled with his accuracy at times, mostly on rushed throws thanks to Denver's pass rush. That being said, he made big plays when needed and was helped out by safety Jabrill Peppers. Peppers intercepted Case Keenum in the end zone in the second quarter and sacked Keenum on fourth down on Denver's final drive of the game, one that had game-winning potential had they gotten into field goal range.

Denver Broncos

Denver played with a severely depleted secondary after losing CB's Brendan Langley to a concussion, Jamar Taylor to an ejection, and Bradley Roby to a mouth laceration(Chris Harris and Isaac Yiadom were already inactive). Dymonte Thomas intercepted Baker Mayfield at the end of the 1st half. Derek Wolfe recovered a strip-sack fumble in the 3rd quarter, ending a 9 minute drive by the Browns. Von Miller broke Denver's franchise record for sacks during the contest.

Cleveland Browns

QB Baker Mayfield, 67 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 31 - 188 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 4 - 6 - 0
Denver's pass rush got pressure on Mayfield throughout the game which forced him to rush some passes. That played a big part in many of the inaccurate throws that he uncorked during the win. Mayfield did turn in plenty of excellent passes, as well. His 31-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman capped off his team's first drive of the game. It was an excellent pass and catch which saw Mayfield put the ball in perfect position for Perriman to reach over the defender to high-point the ball. After that drive the Cleveland offense sputtered a few times with Mayfield missing some throws. Mayfield took a few end zone shots on the first drive of the second quarter, missing a closely-covered Perriman on a play that could have been pass interference on the defense and then rushing a throw to David Njoku which sailed over the tight end's head. Cleveland had to settle for a field goal on that drive. One of Mayfield's worst decisions of the game resulted in an interception at the end of the second quarter. Mayfield made a poor choice and forced a deep pass down the middle to a closely-covered Jarvis Landry. The ball sailed high and right into the arms of a Denver defender. In the third quarter, Mayfield lost a fumble on a strip sack. He was trying to get the pass out but his arm came forward without the ball, resulting in the turnover. Mayfield's final touchdown came on a short, two-yard slant to Antonio Callaway. He did a good job of waiting for the safety, who was following his man in the opposite direction, to clear out of the way before firing a strike to the rookie wideout for the score. Mayfield's play has breathed new life into a long-dormant Cleveland franchise, although at this point of his career, he's a better quarterback in real-life than he is in fantasy.

RB Nick Chubb, 40 offensive snaps, Rush: 20 - 100 - 0 (1 targets)
Chubb struggled early in the game against a tough Denver run defense but he eventually managed to wear them down as the game went on. Most of Chubb's first half carries were stopped for minimal gains, outside of a 12-yard run in the second quarter where he used his power to break a tackle. Things picked up for Chubb in the second half. On the second drive in the third quarter it appeared Chubb had a 35-yard run but the play was nullified by an offensive holding penalty. He followed that lost play with a bad drop on a very catchable ball. That play would have gone for seven yards, minimum, had he made the catch. Chubb bounced back in the fourth quarter, ripping off a 40-yard run to the left. He showed his speed on the run to get past the first wave of defenders. The Browns leaned heavily on Chubb to ice the game, handing him the ball seven times on eight plays on their final drive. Chubb showed well in what was one of his tougher matchups since becoming Cleveland's full-time starter.

RB Duke Johnson, 26 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 28 - 0, Rec: 4 - 25 - 0 (5 targets)
Johnson saw his most extensive workload in a few games, totaling eight touches in the game. The Browns coaching staff seemed more inclined towards using Johnson than they had been in previous weeks. Johnson's first chance resulted in an incomplete pass. It wasn't a great throw from Baker Mayfield as it was off-target, but Johnson did get hands on it. At the beginning of the second quarter, Johnson ripped off a 15-yard run up the middle. Most of his receptions came on short passes near the line of scrimmage, with his longest catch going for 10 yards. Johnson saw one red zone carry, which resulted in an eight-yard run, bringing the Browns down to Denver's eight-yard line. While this game was much better than his past few weeks, Johnson's weekly usage is likely to remain inconsistent.

WR Antonio Callaway, 49 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 35 - 1 (7 targets)
Callaway's first two targets were incompletions as Baker Mayfield threw too high for him on each. He made a nice play on his first catch, taking a short pass underneath and diving for a first down. In the third quarter, he picked up five-yard gains on consecutive catches. Callaway's longest catch was a 12-yard gain on a slant, but he counteracted that by picking up a taunting penalty after the catch. Callaway wound up scoring the game-winning touchdown early in the fourth quarter, connecting with Mayfield for a two-yard score on a slant route.

WR Jarvis Landry, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 37 - 0 (8 targets)
Landry got off to a fast start, catching a 19-yard pass on the first offensive play of the game for Cleveland. He was mostly quiet after that big play, however, seeing just two more catches. He did lead the team with eight targets, but many of his targets were uncatchable as Baker Mayfield missed him high on several attempts. He came close to pulling in a one-handed catch in the first quarter but couldn't reel in a pass that was high and a little behind him. Landry was the intended target on Mayfield's second quarter interception. He was closely covered near the goal line but Mayfield targeted him anyway. The pass sailed over Landry's head for an easy interception for the Broncos defense. Landry did show strong hands on a 12-yard catch in the fourth quarter. On the grab, the defender had a hand in there trying to jar the ball loose, but Landry wouldn't allow it. His final catch was a red zone target from the Denver eight-yard line. He wound up bringing the ball down to the two-yard line on the play but several Broncos brought him down before he had a chance to reach for the goal line. Landry remains the team's top option in the passing game but Mayfield has been spreading the ball around to several receivers over the past few games, which has cut into Landry's volume.

WR Breshad Perriman, 28 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 31 - 1 (2 targets)
Perriman appears to have found a home as a deep threat in Cleveland's offense. Beset by drops in Baltimore, Perriman flashed excellent hands on a first quarter touchdown reception. Perriman made an excellent catch on the 31-yard score, high-pointing the ball over top of the defender before falling backwards into the end zone. He later drew another deep target at the end zone but couldn't come down with the ball. He wanted a pass interference penalty called as there was some contact on the play. The officials did not agree. He was quiet the rest of the way, having a four-yard catch nullified by an illegal shift, which was called against him. He did make one mistake in the game, picking up an unnecessary roughness penalty away from the ball in the third quarter.

TE David Njoku, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 30 - 0 (5 targets)
Njoku turned in another quiet game, finishing with just three catches. As has been the case with Jarvis Landry, Baker Mayfield's tendency to spread the ball around has cut into Njoku's production. It seems like ages ago, but Njoku saw 23 total targets back in Weeks 5 and 6. His first catch was a big one as he went for a first down on a 3rd-and-13. He later saw a deep target down the middle of the field but the defender made a nice play to deflect the ball at the last minute. Njoku drew an end zone target early in the second quarter but Mayfield was rushed and threw way too high for Njoku to make the catch. In the third quarter, Njoku made a diving catch for a first down on 4th-and-three. His final catch was a five-yarder on 3rd-and-six. It appeared he stretched to get the first down but a bad spot coupled with inconclusive camera angles on the replay challenge forced the Browns to punt on fourth down instead of being awarded with a new set of downs. Njoku remains one of the top athletes at the position but his inconsistent usage has cut into his production this season.


Denver Broncos

QB Case Keenum, 73 offensive snaps, Pass: 31 - 48 - 257 - 0 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 2 - 1 - 1
Keenum and his depleted receiving core killed the Broncos with inaccurate passing and a couple of turnovers. The running game stalled out from the beginning of the contest, and Keenum proceeded to miss receivers all over the field. He was forced to run a touchdown in after the Browns sniffed out a play action pass attempt on the goal line in the 1st quarter. Keenum's receivers were bracketed in coverage, so he rolled out right and dove into the end zone for the score. Keenum was intercepted at the end of the 1st half as he launched a jump ball to Courtland Sutton in the end zone between double coverage. He was under duress and the decision to throw was a bad one. Keenum chucked up another deep ball into double coverage later in the 3rd quarter, resulting in a second interception as he looked for Hamilton deep. Keenum peppered Hamilton out of the slot with a team-high 12 targets, followed by Patrick with 8, and LaCosse, Sutton, and Lindsay with 6 apiece.

RB Phillip Lindsay, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 24 - 0, Rec: 4 - 20 - 0 (6 targets)
It's hard to say if he's hit the rookie wall or if Denver's coaching staff is using him the wrong way, but Lindsay had another poor showing for the second week in a row. Lindsay's longest run of the day was an 11 yard tote right up the middle at the end of the 1st quarter. Lindsay took a loss on his first target, a swing route out of the backfield that was snuffed out quickly by the defense. His second catch looked like the same play but managed to pick up a few yards later in the 1st. Lindsay caught a play action pass from the backfield for another short gain in the 3rd quarter. He picked up most of his receiving yards on a checkdown pass that he broke for a 16 yard gain right up the middle in the 3rd quarter.

RB Royce Freeman, 18 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 7 - 0, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (1 targets)
Freeman was used sparingly, and couldn't muster much on his few touches. He got a carry from the 3 yard line but was stuffed at the line of scrimmage in the 1st quarter. Freeman caught one pass for one yard.

RB Devontae Booker, 15 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 17 - 0 (3 targets)
Booker lined up as a WR and got a red zone target that he couldn't corral in the 1st half. He caught a checkdown pass for a 15 yard gain and another short pass to convert 4th and 2, keeping Denver's final drive alive in the 4th.

WR DaeSean Hamilton, 72 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 46 - 0 (12 targets)
Hamilton drew a team-high 12 targets as he continued to fill in as Keenum's security blanket out of the slot. He made a nice catch on a pass that was thrown behind him on a 2nd quarter crossing route. He lined up in the right slot and connected with Keenum up the right seam later in the 2nd. Hamilton caught a swing route from the left slot for a short gain at the end of the 1st half. Hamilton had a step on his defender in the 3rd quarter, but Keenum overthrew him in the end zone for a potential touchdown. Hamilton hauled in another out route and turned it up the left sideline for a nice gain on the Broncos final drive.

WR Courtland Sutton, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 42 - 0 (6 targets)
Sutton appeared to be hampered by a leg injury, but managed to secure 5 of 6 targets total. His first target was a quick pass at the line of scrimmage that didn't go anywhere. Sutton drew defensive pass interference call in the end zone late in the 1st quarter on a deep ball from Keenum. Keenum found Sutton open on a deep curl route up the right hash for a solid gain to start the 2nd quarter. Sutton pulled in an out route to convert 3rd and 3 later in the same drive. Sutton made another highlight reel catch over a defender at the end of the first half, lining up wide left and beating his man up the left sideline again. Sutton remains behind Patrick and Hamilton for targets and yards.

WR Tim Patrick, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 65 - 0 (8 targets)
Patrick led the team in receiving yard again for the second week in a row since Emmanuel Sanders' injury. Patrick lined up wide right and caught a quick curl with room to run in the 1st quarter. He followed it up with a beautiful back shoulder catch up the right sideline on the next play for a 15 yard gain. Keenum hit him on a short crossing route in the 2nd quarter for a minimal gain. Patrick had a bad drop near the end of the 1st half. His biggest play of the day was a shallow crossing route from the left WR spot that he broke up the right sideline for a 24 yard gain early in the 2nd half. Patrick caught a curl route and shook off a tackler for another nice gain later in the 3rd.

WR Andre Holmes, 8 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (1 targets)
New receiver Holmes played sparingly and picked up a few yards with a WR quick screen in the 2nd quarter.

TE Matt LaCosse, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 43 - 0 (6 targets)
LaCosse had a fairly productive week compared to his other outings since being elevated to the number 1 tight end spot. He converted 3rd and 10 with a play action crossing route in the 1st quarter. He picked up another first down with a strong run after the catch up the right sideline on a curl route in the 2nd quarter. LaCosse split out wide left and made a nice move on a quick slant later in the 2nd, picking up another gain. LaCosse pulled in one last target for a 14 yard gain up the right seam in the last minute of the 4th quarter.

TE Brian Parker, 13 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 (2 targets)
Parker worked behind LaCosse as the number two tight end. He caught a short out route on play action and broke a tackle for a solid gain in the 1st quarter. He picked up a first down with an 11 yard catch and run on a curl route in the 2nd quarter.