Browns Playoff Hopes Melt In South Florida Sun

There was no room to run for Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt as the Dolphins' defense shut down the Browns' ground game. (

There was no room to run for Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt as the Dolphins' defense shut down the Browns' ground game. (

Browns playoff hopes melt in South Florida sun

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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.


Instant takeaways from Browns’ 39-17 loss to Miami Dolphins …

1. Waiting for Watson: Two games before Deshaun Watson is reinstated – and one day before he is allowed to practice -- the Browns are cooked. They were basted like turkeys under the hot South Florida sun by the Miami Dolphins, 39-17. At 3-6, the Browns aren’t mathematically eliminated, of course. But they’re getting closer with games against Buffalo and Tampa Bay before Watson makes his debut.

2. D is for domination: Aside from Kevin Stefanski’s opening game play-script, the Dolphins dominated the game on offense and defense. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was razor sharp as usual and Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel used former 49ers backs Jeff Wilson (119 yards and one touchdown) and Raheem Mostert (65 and one TD) to perfection in the running game. For that reason, they didn’t even need monster games from receivers Tyreek Hill (five catches, 44 yards, one TD) and Jaylen Waddle (four catches, 66 yards) to pull away. Miami got touchdowns from four different players, including fullback Alec Ingold and receiver Trent Sherfield. Hill, who was quiet most of the game, scored on a 2-yard pass in the second half. Defensively, the Dolphins held Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to a combined 39 yards on 17 attempts until Chubb broke off a 33-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. At 7-3, the Dolphins look like a viable player in the AFC playoffs. The only thing they did wrong was miss two PATs.

3. No happy return: Jacoby Brissett’s return to his native South Florida and first game against his most recent team was not a happy one. Without a running game, Brissett was ineffective beyond the first scripted series. A key series was at the end of the first half when the Browns had 2:08 and two timeouts to make up a 10-7 deficit. But they had to punt after four plays. Brissett was 22 of 34 for 212 yards and one touchdowns. He was sacked three times, hit often and was tackled seven times after keepers for 40 yards.

4. Double dip: The Dolphins completed the double-dip set up by deferring the opening kickoff with a too-easy touchdown drive of 70 yards after the second-half kickoff. Mostert was hardly touched on a 24-yard run to the end zone. The Dolphins did not even face a third down in six plays in extending their lead to 24-7.

5. Killer sequence: The Browns had a chance to score last in the first half with a great defensive stop. But the offense failed and then Miami went 53 yards in 50 seconds to take a 17-7 lead at halftime.

6. Situational failures: After the defense stopped the Dolphins three downs in a row on 1-yard attempts, the Browns took over at their 15 with 2:08 to go. Plenty of time to reduce a 10-7 deficit. After a first-down completion of 12 yards, the Browns’ offense wilted in three plays and they punted. Tagovailoa zipped 53 yards in 50 seconds, getting the touchdown on a 14-yard pass over M.J. Emerson to Sherfield in the deep left corner. The 17-7 Miami lead also gave the Dolphins a chance for the double-dip bonanza because they deferred the opening kickoff.

7. Beautiful script: As usual, Stefanski’s opening drive of plays worked like he and his staff scripted them. Bolstered by a 48-yard kick return by Jerome Ford, Stefanski came out throwing. Brissett’s 38-yard completion to Donovan Peoples-Jones took it to the Miami 15. The Dolphins contributed with an encroachment penalty on third down and then a pass interference in the end zone. Harrison Bryant got the 1-yard TD on a Brissett play-fake out of jumbo formation. The problem was the Browns’ hastiness consumed only 2:47 off the clock on a hot, humid day under the sun.

8. This is how you do it: The Dolphins, more accustomed to using their weather to their advantage, were more conservative on offense to begin the game and responded with a methodical, 10-play drive that at 6:00 off the clock. They scored the touchdown on a Tagovailoa short throw to fullback Alec Ingold after a pump-fake. Ingold rumbled in for a 13-yard touchdown.

9. Stop the presses: Chubb lost a fumble for the first time this season on the Browns’ second possession. The Dolphins was very physical in tackling Chubb to start the game. On a second-and-10 handoff from the Miami 34, tackle Zach Sieler pried the ball loose chasing Chubb and cornerback Xavien Howard recovered. The Dolphins turned it into a 39-yard field goal and 10-7 lead.

10. Teller out: Right guard Wyatt Teller’s first game back after a three-week calf injury didn’t last long. Teller left on the Browns’ second possession. He was replaced by Hjalte Froholdt. Even though Teller stayed out through the first half, the Browns said there was no injury.
11. Get well: Browns radio voice Jim Donovan did not make the trip after testing positive for COVID-19. Jeff Phelps of 92.3 the Fan filled in as play-by-play voice on the radio broadcast.

12. Pre-game notes: The Browns had no surprises on their inactive list. Tight end David Njoku (high ankle) and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (knee) were declared out on Friday. The activation of kick returner Jerome Ford resulted in Demetric Felton on the inactive list. Others deactivated were guard Michael Dunn, cornerback Thomas Graham, defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey and QB3 Kellen Mond.