The Cleveland Browns may have given their fanbase a collective heart attack, but they still managed to pull out a victory over the Dallas Cowboys by a final score of 49-38. There was a lot of good, as well as some bad, but the biggest concern for the Browns right now is the health of superstar running back Nick Chubb, who suffered a knee injury late in the first quarter.[sv slug=mocksim]
Nick Chubb’s injury puts a dampener on Cleveland Browns victory
Chubb was injured while in pass protection, as Browns guard Wyatt Teller drove Cowboys defensive tackle Trysten Hill to the ground. Hill rolled over, and Chubb’s foot was caught underneath the Dallas defender. Chubb appeared to be in serious pain but did walk off the field under his own power, albeit with a noticeable limp. He went straight to the locker room and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. Hopefully, that was due to an abundance of caution with the score the way it was, and thanks to the excellent depth Cleveland has at the RB position.
Even without Chubb, the Browns dominated on the ground
Matched up against one of the NFL’s most potent offenses, the Browns had to get out to a fast start and put up plenty of points. That usually means throwing the ball a lot, but quarterback Baker Mayfield had to attempt just 30 passes, completing 19 of them for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Mayfield was efficient and accurate, making key throws when his offense needed them.
In Chubb’s absence, Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, and Dontrell Hilliard more than picked up the slack. The Browns finished with 307 rushing yards, led by Johnson’s 95 on 13 carries. Odell Beckham Jr. had his best game in brown and orange, carrying the ball twice for 73 yards and a score, including a 50-yard dagger late in the fourth quarter after Dallas had made the game close. Beckham also caught five passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
With 31 first-half points, the Browns have now scored 30 or more points in three straight games for the first time since 1968. It was a masterful offensive performance, with head coach Kevin Stefanski calling a brilliant half. Things got far too conservative in the second half, as the Browns allowed the Cowboys to get back into the game. Cleveland was unable to extend drives and left its defense on the field too long, meaning they ended up gassed.
The defense played well before fatigue sets in
Speaking of the defense, Dallas scored 14 points in the first quarter and then zero in the second and third. Myles Garrett had two sacks, one of which was a strip-sack. The Browns forced two first-half turnovers and scored touchdowns off both of them.
Then, once the offense took its foot off the accelerator, the defense found itself unable to provide much resistance. The Cowboys came roaring back with 24 points in the fourth quarter. Dak Prescott threw for a total of 502 yards and four touchdowns. The Cleveland defense dropped multiple potential interceptions before Denzel Ward finally picked off Prescott on Dallas’ final drive to seal the game.
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There was very little pressure on Prescott throughout the second half, and the defense was noticeably tired. The offense needed to do a much better job of giving the defense time to rest, and hopefully, that will be something that Stefanski learns from moving forward.
In the meantime, the Browns await the results of an MRI on Nick Chubb’s knee injury. Stefanski’s scheme is very running back-friendly, and it’s not hard for a back to gain yardage behind the Cleveland offensive line, but losing their offensive centerpiece for any period of time would be devastating to the Browns offense. Hopefully, Chubb will be just fine and back to shredding defenses in no time.