Browns Week 13 vs. Rams: Summary Report and Player Game Balls

December 6, 2023

Andy Billman Tony Camino

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

1 – There have been some positive vibes even after a loss with Flacco’s performance. Is this false hope, or will the Browns turn around on offense?

Andy –

Joe Flacco played well for a quarterback off the street, only being in the building for two weeks, and looked great in moments.  After that, I am pausing on the excitement, as there is a long road ahead for the team and the offense.  The truth of the numbers is that Flacco played to a QBR number of 51.8, an average rating, which I believe gives an accurate account of his performance.  Flacco had exciting moments, and the deep throws were like fireworks; very fun to watch, but he also made a bad throw in a critical part of the game that was backbreaking.

The running is still a work in progress, as it has struggled to get going in the past three games.  I am in let’s see what happens mode, and I’m not one to champion a loss; the Browns lost on Sunday, and they had opportunities to win and blew it.

Tony –

Joe Flacco demonstrated that he still has something left in the tank after Sunday, showcasing ample arm strength. However, his decision-making wasn’t perfect, occasionally missing an open receiver to take a shot down the field. The offense, whether led by Dorian Thompson-Robinson or Flacco during this West Coast trip, regained efficiency, with both quarterbacks making impressive NFL-level throws to move the ball despite an inconsistent run game.

I believe the Browns’ offense will be effective enough down the stretch to secure victories with either Flacco or DTR at quarterback. However, they need the defense to return to a high level of play. The run game will be the determining factor in whether this team can make a serious playoff run. Fortunately, both quarterbacks who have started in the last three weeks have demonstrated their capability to lead the offense with significant NFL throws.

2 – Should we be concerned about the defense?

Tony –

Yes, for a potential playoff run, but not so much for the rest of the regular season. The recent games against the Broncos and Rams highlighted issues that have haunted the Browns throughout the year, resulting in two of their worst defensive performances. Key injuries, particularly the absence of Denzel Ward and Cameron Mitchell, have exacerbated problems in the secondary.

The concern stems from opponents identifying the defense’s vulnerabilities, notably against motions, quarterback option runs, play-action boots, and jet sweeps. Teams have exploited these weaknesses, combining basic concepts with strategic schemes to put the Browns in difficult positions and use their defensive approach against them. Addressing this requires the Browns to create more adjustments against plays stressing the defensive linemen.

Despite the expectation that players will regain health and deliver better performances, the challenge remains in facing experienced coach/quarterback duos that are likely to pose significant challenges, particularly in a playoff matchup.

Andy –

Like the offense, I would pause on freaking out on the defense.  With that said, the Browns have to get Denzel Ward and Myles Garrett back on the field, and they need to start seeing better play from Za’Darius Smith and Greg Newsome; both have fallen short in the past two games and need to make more of an impact on the game. 

This is also a big stretch for Jim Schwartz, he needs to find the energy and fight that the Browns defense has not shown since Thanksgiving. Schwartz has gotten exposed in moments and needs to find his groove.

This defense has hope with the return of Ward, and hopefully, Garrett will start feeling better soon so he can find the energy to put pressure on the quarterback.  The defensive line has been terrible the past two weeks, and they need to find their edge.

3 – Can the Browns have Elijah Moore lead the group if Amari Cooper can’t play?

Andy –

Gulp, this is an interesting question. Thankfully, Elijah Moore succeeded in numbers when he played with Flacco in New York, so there is proof that he can put up good numbers.

Moore will have to get help from his fellow receivers, and David Njoku will have to hang on to the ball and be reliable for Flacco.  The drops for the Browns are very concerning, and the trade the Browns made for a draft pick for Donovan Peoples-Jones is a capable receiver the Browns currently need.  This is a reason for a pause about the offense just exploding with Flacco, and it is asking a lot from Moore and the receivers.

Tony –

Elijah Moore has demonstrated the potential to lead this group effectively if the Browns continue utilizing him in his typical role as a downfield route runner on the outside. In the recent game, he led the team in both yards and targets, consistently outplaying the Rams’ defensive backs. While Moore might not be the go-to for accumulating catches and yards like Amari Cooper, he can certainly take the lead if others contribute.

The responsibility now falls on rookie Cedric Tillman and David Njoku to step up, and the return of Marquise Goodwin could provide valuable help. The connection between David Bell and Flacco, stemming from their shared understanding of the soft spots in zone coverage, suggests potential success. With Cooper sidelined, Moore emerged as the top option for Flacco and delivered. However, he cannot carry the load alone, and achieving success will require a collective effort from the entire group, and there must be a significant reduction in drops.

4 – Will the Browns make the playoffs?

Tony –

Yes, but they need to get and stay healthy for the team to have success. Trevor Lawrence suffered an ankle injury last week, and there’s uncertainty about his availability for the upcoming game against the Browns in Week 14. Even if he does play, the fact that he won’t be at 100% makes the matchup against Jacksonville more favorable, especially with the absence of receiver Christian Kirk.

Looking ahead, the games against the Bengals, Bears, and Jets seem very winnable, providing an opportunity for the Browns to regain their dominance. It appears that facing less formidable coach/quarterback duos in the coming weeks should work in favor of the Browns, allowing them to bounce back from the challenges of the previous matchups.

Andy –

Yes, but the Browns must get Cooper, Garrett, and Ward on the field as soon as possible.  And the tough defense and the suffocating running game must be found.  Neither have been seen in two to three weeks.

Game Balls –

Andy – Sadly, no one gets one. It was a rough west coast swing.

Tony – N/A

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