CLEVELAND, Ohio – Scribbles in my notebook after the Las Vegas Raiders beat the Browns, 16-6, on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
One of the messages is this: The Browns defense has forced the opposition to punt only once in the last two games. That’s right, ONE punt in TWO games. OK, let’s scribble:
1. “We were just getting knocked back. That’s something we have to look at,” said Kevin Stefanski after the Raiders rushed for 208 yards on 45 carries against his team.
2. “Late in the game, they were running it,” said Stefanski. “We knew they were running it. We were not able to stop it. That’s something we will have to look at long and hard to find a way to get better.”
3. I quoted the Browns coach extensively on his team’s failure to stop the run because rarely is he critical of anything in his Zoom calls…except when he takes the blame for something. He was very upset by “getting beat at our own game,” as Browns running back Kareem Hunt called it.
4. The team that ran the ball the most and the best would win this game on a day when the average wind was 35 mph gusting over 50 mph, and it kept changing directions. TV could not show how much the wind impacted the game. As Raiders coach Jon Gruden said: “You were going one direction (thinking) you were with the wind, then you were against the wind. The wind was against everybody.”
5. The Browns defensive line was supposed to be a strength. But when Myles Garrett entered the game with a sore ankle – and then hurt his knee – it showed how vulnerable the Browns are upfront without their star defensive end. Garrett will have an MRI today on his knee.
6. The Andrew Berry front office knows it needs to do something about the secondary, especially the safeties. Ronnie Harrison is an emerging starter. Harrison had a chance in this game to make a key interception.
7. But Stefanski was sounding the alarm about the defensive line with his “we were just getting knocked back” comment. Until this game, the Browns had played reasonably well vs. the run, ranking No. 6 in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Raiders were not a power running team, ranking No. 22 in running the ball.
8. On a wild windy day, Las Vegas knew it had to run the ball, and run it did: Josh Jacobs carried it 31 times for 128 yards (4.1 average). Jacobs had been averaging only 3.4 yards per carry entering the game. He chewed up the Browns.
9. Jacobs said: “It feels so good to be that dominant…we had 13-play….15-play drives. That showed our dominance running the ball very physically.”
10. Garrett admitted: “We (the Browns defense) could not get off the field. They were better and stronger upfront.”
11. When a defense has forced only one punt in two games, the problems are deeper than injuries. The line needs help, as does the secondary. I don’t know how much is schematic. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods has had to deal with missing key players (other than Denzel Ward and Garrett) every game this season. But the Browns also knew they’d be thin at linebacker and safety entering the season.
12. Some fans will focus on the Browns scoring only six points. Losing right guard Wyatt Teller for the last three games combined with Kareem Hunt playing with very sore ribs (and who knows what other injuries) has stalled the running game.
13. Hunt has started four games since Chubb hurt his knee. In those four games, he’s rushed for 244 yards, averaging 3.9 per carry. His longest run is 19 yards. He doesn’t seem to have his usual burst. The blocking has not been as strong minus Teller – who has emerged as an elite run-blocking guard.
14. The hope is Teller and Chubb will be back after the bye week, as will tight end Austin Hooper. I’m not especially worried about the offense.
15. But the defense is one of the worst in the NFL and that probably won’t change unless some moves are made.
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