It was a long day for Jacoby Brissett after a perfectly executed opening script. (MiamiDolphins.com)
Dolphins dominate Browns with brawn, not speed
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.
MIAMI GARDENS, FL
A blood bath.
That’s what Joel Bitonio called the 39-17 domination of the Browns administered by the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins have an intimidating passing offense with a lot of speed. They can run by you. You don’t expect the Dolphins to out-physical you. But that’s exactly what they did to the Browns on both lines of scrimmage.
Except for a 33-yard touchdown run by Nick Chubb in garbage time, the Dolphins’ defense shut down the NFL’s best running back to 30 yards on 10 attempts, and they hit Jacoby Brissett 14 times, three for sacks.
“I feel bad for Jacoby. We didn’t protect him well enough,” Bitonio said.
By the end of the game, guards Wyatt Teller and Hjalte Froholdt, and left tackle Jedrick Wills, were on the sideline – perhaps as much for performance as for minor injuries.
“We just got our ass whupped today,” said Brissett (22 of 35, 212 yards, one TD, three sacks). “That's frankly what happened.”
Defensively, the Browns never forced a punt. The only times the Dolphins did not score on their nine possessions were because of failing on a fourth down and then kneeling down at the end.
While the Browns succeeded in limiting receivers Tyreek Hill (five receptions, 44 yards, one touchdown) and Jaylen Waddle (four receptions, 66 yards), their pre-occupation with the speedsters opened things up for coach Mike McDaniel’s offense.
Backs Jeff Wilson (119 yards, one TD) and Raheem Mostert (65 yards, one TD) resembled Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris in their prime. Playing with house money, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (25 of 32, 285 yards, three TD) spread his passes to eight targets and included TD throws to unheard-of fourth receiver Trent Sherfield and fullback Alec Ingold.
“It is tough knowing that their speed changes the game,” said Myles Garrett, who had two measly tackles and no pressures of Tagovailoa. “You know at any given time they can really strike and make a big play. We got beat in other ways. They made throwing plays, but everybody really chipped in on their side of the ball.”
While the Browns were whupped all over the field, the Dolphins hardly broke a sweat under the hot South Florida sun. Team officials estimated temperatures on the field at 101 degrees under the sun and 81 in the shade. Tagovailoa joked afterwards that his white uniform was perfectly clean after the game.
The Browns seemed pooped after an opening touchdown drive that consumed 2 minutes, 47 seconds. Why they were so hasty was puzzling. Order of the day was to possess the ball and tire out the defense. Miami did that on its ensuing first possession, grinding out 10 plays over six minutes on the way to a tying touchdown.
The turning point came with the Browns down just by 10-7. A defensive stand on three straight downs gave the Browns the ball at their own 15 with 2:08 to play and two timeouts to use. Scoring even just three points on that possession would have prevented McDaniel from “double-dipping” after he chose to defer the opening kickoff.
But the Browns lived down to their terrible selves in situational football again. Brissett threw for one first down, then went three-and-out after a third-down sack.
After the punt, Tagovailoa effortlessly sped the Dolphins 53 yards in 50 seconds for a touchdown and 17-7 lead.
Then he slapped the Browns to the ground with a 70-yard TD jaunt to open the second half to go up, 24-7.
“Ultimately just they beat us,” said coach Kevin Stefanski. “They beat us in a bunch of areas, coaching included. Players, coaches, we're all on that.”
The Browns have now lost 11 of their last 16 games dating to last year. They are 3-6 after losing four of their last five this year.
They’re all but mathematically out of the AFC playoff hunt two weeks before Deshaun Watson even gets on the field. The $230 million quarterback is allowed to rejoin the team for practices on Monday, but he won’t be able to play until Dec. 4 in Game 12 in Houston.
By then, the Browns could be eliminated. They play Buffalo in Orchard Park, NY, and Tampa Bay in FirstEnergy Stadium in Brissett’s last two games.
“It's difficult, but it's not impossible,” Garrett said. “We're going to go out and play every game like it's our last, because it might as well be.”
Late in the game, Dolphins fans serenaded Tagovailoa with chants of “M-V-P. M-V-P.” The Dolphins are 7-3 and in first place in the AFC East. And the Browns are in a place they haven’t been in the Stefanski era