Tough loss puts Browns in the hole with a tougher schedule ahead.
Instant takeaways from Browns’ 20-13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams…
- Not to be: Undermanned with five starters missing on defense and two on offense, the Browns were in their comfort zone as underdogs against the defending NFC Champions. They held a 13-10 lead after three quarters before an error-prone fourth quarter did them in. The Rams prevailed, 20-13, despite three Browns defensive takeaways, as the Browns fell to 0-2 at home and 1-2 overall. The Rams’ final points were set up by a failed Browns gamble on fourth-and-9. An unnecessary roughness penalty then prolonged the Rams’ field goal drive. An interception by newly signed safety Juston Burris off a deflection by Joe Schobert with 2:46 to play gave Baker Mayfield a chance to pull off a dramatic ending. He took the Browns to the Rams’ 4-yard line. But on fourth down, Mayfield’s frantic pass for Damion Ratley was intercepted in the end zone by safety John Johnson.
- What was that: Freddie Kitchens called a headscratcher that turned the ball over on downs with 9:14 and the Rams ahead, 17-13. From the Rams 40, Kitchens went for it on fourth-and-9. From the shotgun, Mayfield handed off to Nick Chubb on a draw play. A draw play. The Rams buried him after a 2-yard gain.
- Kupp of plays: Rams slot receiver Cooper Kupp was the star of the Rams’ go-ahead touchdown drive that concluded in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. Kupp made a third-down reception of 21 yards (against a three-man rush) to take the ball down to the Browns’ 20. Then Sean McVay rolled out a high school reverse with Kupp coming around for a handoff and then flipped to Robert Woods for a 17-yard gain. Three plays later, Kupp beat Jermain Whitehead, who may have been picked, for a 6-yard TD. That put the Rams ahead, 17-13, with 12:48 to go.
- Back and forth: The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter on almost identical offensive drives. The Rams moved 75 yards in 10 plays, getting the touchdown on a Jared Goff pass of 11 yards to Cooper Kupp in the left corner. The Rams’ drive consumed 4 minutes, 20 seconds. The Browns responded by moving 75 yards in 11 plays. The touchdown came on a Mayfield pass of two yards to tight end Demetrius Harris. It consumed 4 minutes, 37 seconds. It would have came sooner, but a 1-yard TD run by Nick Chubb was wiped out when Odell Beckham Jr. was called for an illegal shift. Mayfield hit Harris on a quick slant to the back of the end three plays later.
- Dynamite defense: Despite missing five starters, the Browns’ defense had a tremendous first half. It was the reason the Browns led at halftime, 6-3. The big play was shared by Myles Garrett, who finally broke through constant holding and forced a fumble of Jared Goff with :18 left. The ball squirted 10 yards and linebacker Joe Schobert scooped it up at the Browns’ 45 and returned it 38 yards to the Rams’ 17. Austin Seibert’s 35-yard field goal came as the clock struck all zeroes. The state-of-the-art Rams’ offense managed only 144 total yards and was 0 for 8 on third downs.
- Money: Seibert also had a 23-yard field goal after the Browns’ best offensive series ended at the Rams’ 5. This was more vintage Mayfield, zipping quick passes to Odell Beckham Jr. (three for 29 yards) after Nick Chubb loosened up the Rams (four rushes, 23 yards). Mayfield consumed 7 ½ minutes on 13 plays. That was just as important as the three points the possession netted.
- Guessed wrong: Rams coach Sean McVay challenged a non-call on the Browns’ defense when safety Jermaine Whitehead deflected a pass for Brandin Cooks. The deflection was almost intercepted by linebacker Mack Wilson. It looked like Whitehead made contact before the ball arrived, but the call was not reversed.
- Terrible start: The Rams won the pre-game coin toss and deferred, putting the Browns offense on the field first. In six plays, it committed three penalties – ineligible receiver downfield on right tackle Justin McCray, false start on left tackle Greg Robinson and an illegal shift, which was declined.
- Clay on Clay: Browns linebacker legend Clay Matthews was inducted in the Ring of Honor at halftime. The Matthews’ name and No. 57 was unveiled between Len Ford and Bill Willis on the stadium’s northwest corner inner ring. Clay’s speech lasted long enough for the Rams to enter the field after their halftime adjustments. Clay III couldn’t resist joining his family on the makeshift stage near the west end zone. He took off his helmet, jumped on the stage and gave his dad a big hug for a poignant conclusion to the ceremony.
- Sunday night blues: Boy, the Jets must have done a number on the Browns last Monday. When all was said and done, seven Browns starters were out against the Rams because of injuries. The sick call included the entire starting secondary, plus linebacker Christian Kirksey, tight end David Njoku and right tackle Chris Hubbard. Also out was third receiver Rashard Higgins. The replacement starters were: cornerbacks Terrance Mitchell and T.J. Carrie, safeties Jermaine Whitehead and Eric Murray, linebacker Mack Wilson, receiver Damion Ratley (for Njoku), and right tackle Justin McCray. With Hubbard not active, the emergency third tackle for the game was Austin Corbett, who was active for the first time this season. Also, safety Juston Burris, who was just re-signed on Friday after being cut in August, was the extra safety in the defense’s 4-2-5 alignment. Eric Murray moved inside to cover the slot receiver.