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Week 9 Game Recap: Cleveland Browns 19, Denver Broncos 24

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Cleveland Browns

The Browns finally found a way to cut down on the mental mistakes, committing just five penalties and no turnovers. That being said, they still found a way to lose what was a winnable game against the Broncos. The game came down to a failed quarterback sneak on fourth-and-one at the Denver five-yard line in the third quarter. The officials ruled that the ball was about six inches short of a first down. Cleveland challenged the spot but the call was upheld. The Browns had another chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter but were unable to convert a fourth-and-four from the Denver 28.

Denver Broncos

Brandon Allen led the Broncos to a victory in his first NFL start, tossing a pair of touchdown passes with no turnovers as Joe Flacco was placed on the IR this past week. The Broncos offense only ran a total of 40 plays, scoring three touchdowns and one field goal. Courtland Sutton found the end zone, as well as rookie tight end Noah Fant, who topped 100 yards receiving for the first time in his career. Phillip Lindsay only carried the ball 9 times, but managed to break two long runs of 30+ yards, including one touchdown.

Cleveland Browns

QB Baker Mayfield, 75 offensive snaps, Pass: 27 - 42 - 273 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 22 - 0
Mayfield was solid in the loss, although he did come up short in a few spots. He was unable to pick up a first down on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-one at the Denver five-yard line in the third quarter. The officials ruled that the ball was about six inches short of a first down. Cleveland challenged the spot but the call was upheld. The Browns had another chance in the fourth quarter but were unable to convert a fourth-and-four from the Denver 28 when Mayfield had a pass intended for Jarvis Landry batted away by a defender. Mayfield’s first pass attempt of the game was a catchable ball that Landry was unable to haul in. He then threw too high for Landry on third down, ending the first drive. Mayfield came back in the second quarter to find Antonio Callaway for a 41-yard gain. Callaway did most of the work after the catch, getting the ball at the line of scrimmage and racing down the left sideline for a big gain. Mayfield later kept that drive alive with a 16-yard run on third-and-14. He came close to throwing a touchdown on the fifth drive of the game, finding Demetrius Harris at the back of the end zone. Harris made the catch but ran out of room at the back of the end zone and was unable to get both feet down inbounds. On the final drive of the half, Mayfield got the ball in scoring position again but couldn’t convert, throwing too high in the red zone for Landry to catch. In the third quarter, Mayfield had Nick Chubb open on a short screen to the left but threw too high again. Chubb had a blocker in front of him and could have ripped off a long gain. The failed quarterback sneak play on fourth-and-one came on the second drive in the third quarter on what wound up being a game-swinging play. Initially it looked like Mayfield got enough yardage for the first down but the officials did not agree. Mayfield’s only touchdown was a nine-yard completion to Landry in the fourth quarter. Landry caught a short pass to the left and put a nice move on a would-be tackler to make it to the end zone. Mayfield had his team moving on their final possession of the game on what could have been the game-winning drive but was able to connect with Landry on fourth-and-four from the Denver 28. The Broncos offense got the ball back and was able to run out the clock, sealing the sixth loss for Cleveland.

RB Nick Chubb, 45 offensive snaps, Rush: 20 - 65 - 0, Rec: 4 - 26 - 0 (5 targets)
The Broncos did a good job limiting Chubb as there were often several defenders waiting to tackle him on his carries. His usage was a bit puzzling in this one as the team decided to take him off the field on two separate third-and-threes in Denver territory, instead opting to give the ball to Dontrell Hilliard. It was some questionable decision-making to ignore Chubb, who has been the team’s best offensive player by far this season. Chubb’s first run was a nice, seven-yard gain where he displayed excellent vision to cut back from right to left to find a hole in the line. He saw a few red-zone looks in the second quarter, gaining three yards down to the Denver 14 and then another two yards on a delayed handoff down to the Denver 12. The following drive saw another pair of red-zone looks, with a five-yard run up the middle down to the Denver four and then a five-yard loss on first-and-goal from the four-yard line where he attempted to go left and was swarmed by several Denver defenders. He was set up for what would have gone for a decent gain in the third quarter but Baker Mayfield overthrew him on a short screen. Chubb had a lead blocker in front of him and likely would have picked up a long gain. He saw a red zone carry at the end of that drive, gaining one yard down to the Denver 13. In the fourth quarter, Chubb fought hard for a first down on third-and-one where he carried a defender on his back for an 11-yard run. Chubb continues to see plenty of red zone looks but he just wasn’t able to find the end zone in this one.

WR Jarvis Landry, 71 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 51 - 1 (13 targets)
Landry has been heavily targeted in this offense, having seen 23 targets over the past two weeks. Landry continues to show nice chemistry with Baker Mayfield, which leads to the quarterback looking his way when he needs a big catch. Landry saw two targets on the first drive, with the first a catchable ball that he wasn’t able to haul in. The second target was forced into double coverage and was deflected by a defender before Landry could get his hands on it. Landry drew an end-zone target in the second quarter but he was tripped up by the defender. The pass appeared to be too high for Landry to catch, even if he had remained on his feet. Landry was leaned on heavily on the final drive of the first half. He caught a five-yard pass on second-and-two and then had a big 13-yard gain on third-and-eight. He drew another end zone target at the end of that drive but the pass was too high. Landry caught three passes on the first drive of the third quarter, one that went for minus-one yard, a fantastic 19-yard gain on a play where he was closely covered by the defender, and a six-yard gain down to the Denver seven-yard line. Landry found the end zone for the first time all season on a nine-yard reception in the fourth quarter. He caught a short pass and made the first tackler miss before racing into the end zone. Landry was the intended target on the Browns’ final offensive play of the game but the ball was deflected by a defender before it got to him.

WR Odell Beckham, 71 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - -5 - 0, Rec: 5 - 87 - 0 (6 targets)
Beckham was on his way to another slow day before he ripped off two long gains in the fourth quarter. He spent much of the afternoon tangling with star corner Chris Harris who did a decent job of limiting him. Beckham’s first grab came on the second drive and was a six-yard gain on a third-and-two. He came back with a seven-yard gain for another first down on second-and-six. He finished off that drive with an incompletion as Baker Mayfield threw too high for Beckham to catch. His next touch came in the second quarter on a rush attempt. He received a pitch and was swallowed up for a five-yard loss. On the final drive of the first half, he made an eight-yard grab. Beckham didn’t see any work in the third quarter but made up for that with a big fourth quarter. He made a great, contested grab down the right sideline and followed that with a slick spin move to evade a tackler to tack on some extra yardage after the catch. On the following drive, he made another impressive catch where he evaded a tackler at the catch point, bobbled the ball, hauled it in, and galloped for a 39-yard gain. His lack of touchdowns has been disappointing but Beckham is still every bit as explosive as he was in his New York days. The Browns just need to find a better way to optimize the talented play-maker in their offense.

WR Antonio Callaway, 36 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 56 - 0 (5 targets)
Callaway had his best game of the season. The second-year receiver’s first catch was a 41-yard gain in the second quarter. He did most of the work as he caught the ball at the line of scrimmage and sprinted down the left sideline. On the following drive, Callaway saw an end zone target that was deflected at the last second. Credit goes to Denver for excellent coverage on that play. Callaway then caught a nine-yard, back-shoulder pass down the left sideline. His final catch lost three yards on a screen in the third quarter.

TE Demetrius Harris, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 25 - 0 (4 targets)
Harris was busy in the first half, catching two passes, a 12-yarder in the first quarter and a four-yard gain in the second. He also came close to scoring a touchdown in the second quarter as Baker Mayfield found him at the back of the end zone. Unfortunately, he was too deep in the end zone and ran out of room when he landed. Harris came back to catch a nine-yard pass in the third quarter. Fellow tight end Ricky Seals-Jones took a direct hit on the knee during the second quarter and did not return. If Seals-Jones winds up missing time, it would benefit Harris.

TE Ricky Seals-Jones, 22 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 12 - 0 (2 targets)
Seals-Jones got off to a fast start, catching three balls in the first half. He had a five-yard gain on second-and-third in the first quarter. He was quiet until the final drive of the first half where he had a five-yard catch and a seven-yard catch in the red zone. He took a direct hit on the knee on that final catch and left the game. He did not return to action.

Denver Broncos

QB Brandon Allen, 50 offensive snaps, Pass: 12 - 20 - 193 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 13 - 0
Allen led the offense to a victory on an efficient day that saw the Broncos run just 40 plays total. He dropped a couple of beautiful dime passes to Sutton on the Broncos first scoring drive in the 1st quarter. The two first connected on a deep post that picked up 19 yards, then Sutton beat his man down the right sideline and made a leaping grab over a defender for the score. Allen put the ball where only Sutton could grab it. Allen's second touchdown was all Noah Fant, as the rookie tight end caught a short crossing route and broke several tackles before he turned up the left sideline and housed the 75 yard score. Allen led the Broncos to a field goal in the 2nd quarter and another scoring drive that ended in a Phillip Lindsay touchdown in the 3rd quarter. Allen's mobility isn't elite, but it's certainly an upgrade over Flacco. Allen picked up a 3rd and long conversion with an 11 yard scramble around right end in the 1st quarter. Allen was lucky to escape the day without an interception. Myles Garrett tipped a 2nd quarter pass at the line of scrimmage and nearly gathered it for a pick.

RB Phillip Lindsay, 23 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 92 - 1
Lindsay got limited work with just 9 carries as Denver ran very few offensive plays. Fortunately, he was able to pick up big chunks of yards on two long runs. He made a nice cutback in the backfield to break his longest run of the day off right tackle for a 40 yard gain in the 2nd quarter. Lindsay scored on a beautiful 30 yard run off right tackle in the 3rd quarter, following great downfield blocking by his offensive line and receiver Diontae Spencer. Fellow back Royce Freeman was barely an afterthought with 5 carries and one target.

RB Royce Freeman, 26 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 15 - 0, Rec: 1 - -1 - 0 (1 targets)
Freeman posted a dud with just 15 yards on 5 carries. Denver did not run a lot of offensive plays in this one, and Phillip Lindsay got most of the work in the backfield. Freeman lost a yard on his lone target in the passing game.

RB Devontae Booker, 1 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 (1 targets)
Booker returned a few kicks and made his first offensive appearance of the year, hauling in his only target for a 15 yard gain.

WR Courtland Sutton, 47 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 7 - 0, Rec: 5 - 56 - 1 (8 targets)
Sutton started his day off with a diving grab for a short gain in the 1st quarter. He had two big receptions later in the 1st quarter as he pulled in a 19 yard gain on a deep post route, then made a leaping catch over a defender in the end zone for a 21 yard touchdown on the very next play. Allen looked for him on another deep ball in the end zone late in the 2nd, but couldn't connect against tight coverage. Sutton had a couple more short receptions on an out route and a slant during a 3rd quarter drive that ended in a Phillip Lindsay touchdown. Sutton finished with a team-high 8 targets on a day that saw the Broncos run just 40 offensive plays. Sutton also carried the ball once for 7 yards on an end-around play.

WR Diontae Spencer, 25 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 0 - 0 (3 targets)
Spencer returned punts and kicks as well as mixing into the receiver rotation. He lined up in the right slot and caught a bubble screen in the 2nd quarter, picking up a few yards before fumbling the ball upon being tackled. Spencer nearly had a deep ball for a huge gain in the 3rd quarter, but he let the pass slip through his hands.

TE Noah Fant, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 115 - 1 (4 targets)
Fant topped 100 yards receiving for the first time in his NFL career, picking up most of it on a lengthy touchdown. He caught a short crossing route in the 1st quarter and broke no fewer than three tackles, turning up the left sideline for a 75 yard score. Fant made a nice play with a sliding catch on an out route for a 16 yard gain in the 3rd quarter. A few plays later in the same drive, he picked up 20 yards with a big catch up the right seam.

TE Troy Fumagalli, 9 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (1 targets)
Fumagalli worked as the second tight end behind Fant with Jeff Heuerman sidelined with a knee injury. He caught a short out route in the 1st for a 9 yard gain.