Browns Week 12 vs. Broncos: Summary Report and Player Game Balls

November 28, 2023

Andy Billman Tony Camino

Browns Reflections: A Look Back at the Brown’s Loss to the Broncos

1 – Was this one bad day in Denver or a sign of things to come for the Browns?

Andy –

Truthfully, just one really bad awful day in Denver.  And I mean awful!  Once or twice a year, you will have clunkers in the NFL, and the Browns had a complete clunker on Sunday.  What’s impressive is that they almost tied the game in the 3rd quarter and had the ball down 17-12, and as a fan, you felt the game was still winnable for Cleveland. Very few things went smoothly for the Browns on Sunday, and for whatever reason, the Browns never play well in Denver. NEVER!

Tony –

The Browns recently won five out of six games, including victories over the 49ers, Ravens, and Steelers. Everything seemed to go wrong in Denver, from injuries to drops to turnovers, and it feels more like a bad day considering how the rest of the season has gone. Bad games happen to all teams, and moving on to your third-string quarterback again mid-game while trailing is not a recipe for winning games.

Getting back on the right track while staying on the West Coast will be tough, even though the Los Angeles Rams are a very beatable team. They need to refocus fast and not allow one bad game to derail everything they’ve worked for up until this point. Hopefully, Dorian Thompson-Robinson can clear protocol to play in Los Angeles, and the defense can have a bounceback game against a pocket passer.

2 – Who’s to blame for the poor performance?

Tony –

Football is the ultimate team game, requiring everyone, including coaches, to contribute to success. The poor performance falls on everyone in the building, just as wins result from everyone doing their jobs well. The Browns faced significant challenges after Dorian Thompson-Robinson was knocked out, experiencing poor quarterback play. Additionally, the lack of playmaking from receivers downfield, the defense struggling against the Broncos’ trap runs and quarterback run game, and areas where coaching could have been improved all contributed to the disappointing outcome.

Thompson-Robinson displayed composure and confidence in the pocket, making some impressive throws. Although the Browns opted for a pass-heavy approach, seemingly surprising given the Broncos’ run defense ranking, the context changes when facing a fifth-round rookie quarterback. The Broncos’ game plan involved stacking the box to stop the run and force the pass game to win, something we saw often with Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb. The Browns needed to throw to open up running lanes, but the receivers fell short of making enough plays downfield.

In general, the game showcased few positive aspects, except for moments of promise from the rookie quarterback. Coping with injuries to key players, including the starting running back, right tackle, quarterback, and eventually a star receiver, backup quarterback, and star edge rusher, made winning nearly impossible. Without Dorian Thompson-Robinson, the Browns struggled to dominate the line of scrimmage or sustain any meaningful offense, lacking the energy to overcome these setbacks.

Andy –

I praised the coaching staff and head coach Kevin Stefanski for a great season so far, and they have. Then Sunday was a complete return to lousy preparation for the Browns.  Cleveland just looked off and was not ready for Denver.

The offense throwing the ball five out of six times, with rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who was playing his first-ever road game, was crazy.  It’s just not smart and sets a weird tone for the game.  The offense throwing the ball more on the road to start the game and carrying it throughout is just mind-numbing.  The running game never got going, and Denver took advantage, making their defense more aggressive.  The multiple-pitch play that ended with a Pierre Strong fumble was also awful.

The defense also did not play with a lot of confidence, and for the first time in 2023, the Browns’ defensive line did not impact the game. Jim Schwartz could never get the defense to be the aggressor; just felt like the Broncos were a lot of what they wanted to do, and not stopping the run was backbreaking.

Coaching got an F on Sunday.

3 – For the last six games, should the starting quarterback be Joe Flacco?

Andy –

With DTR likely to miss time and Sunday’s game against the Rams, the answer is simply yes, it is time for Joe Flacco.  DTR is getting a hard time from some and that is not fair as I did see some improvement, and the game plan on Sunday was poor; see above.  That said, this season can not be development time, and DTR will need to be cared for properly when he gets back. Time for Joe and going back and forth could be more suitable for the team or either player.  Flacco’s time is now and for the rest of 2023.

Tony –

In short, no, unless DTR is forced to miss time with his concussion. Joe Flacco, while a valuable presence, has had minimal time to learn the system, having been with the team for less than two weeks. Flacco would be the clear choice if DTR is unable to play, with PJ Walker waived and brought back on the practice squad.

DTR’s performance in the latest game provided a more accurate evaluation of his abilities. Previous games, such as his first game against Baltimore on short notice and facing a dominant Pittsburgh pass rush without both starting tackles, did not fully showcase his potential. In the recent game, the Browns allowed him to process defenses more comfortably, revealing promising moments.

While Flacco might offer a path to the playoffs if he starts, it shouldn’t be the desired outcome for Browns’ fans. Starting Flacco significantly limits the team’s potential unless he can rediscover the magic from his Super Bowl MVP run 11 years ago. The team’s decision to move on from Joshua Dobbs reflects their faith in DTR, and if he’s healthy, allowing him to showcase his abilities should be the priority.

4 – Will the Browns make the playoffs?

Tony –

The Browns still have a favorable schedule, providing a solid path to the playoffs unless injuries continue to accumulate. They’ve already overcome more injuries than most teams, surpassing the challenges faced by teams like the Jets and the Bengals without Joe Burrow. While quarterback injuries are prevalent across the league, few teams have also lost an All-Pro right tackle and possibly the best running back in the league.

The upcoming matchups against the Jets, Bears, and Bengals should offer opportunities for wins, and the team also has good chances against the Rams, Texans, and Jaguars. If they can secure average quarterback play to open up running lanes and return to their dominant defensive form, the Browns stand a good chance of clinching a wildcard spot.

Andy –

Yes, the Browns should make the playoffs, barring injuries.  Cleveland can only absorb so much on the injury front.  The schedule will be favorable down the stretch, which will also help.  One game rarely defines a season, and the Browns should be able to steady the ship by the end of the season to get into the playoffs.

My only concern is the need for offense at times and the coaching staff’s ability to remain patient with running the ball.  This is a run-first offense; even with Flacco, that should stay the same.

Game balls –

Andy – JOK was the one defender who played with an edge on Sunday.

Tony –  N/A

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