The Cleveland Browns started slow and eventually fell to the Carolina Panthers by the score of 17-13. The Browns defense bent early on but did not break as they allowed 10 first half points. The Panthers consistently won at the point of attack as they gashed the Browns up front in the run game, and gave Cam Newton ample time to throw the football. The Panthers utilized multiple trap plays and quick timing routes to move the football down the field.
Johnny Manziel was able to lead his team on a 10 play, 55-yard drive, which culminated in a field goal. Unfortunately Manziel left the game late in the second quarter as a result of a hamstring injury and would not return. Manuel spoke about the injury post game.
“It was actually on the third-and-one that got reviewed … my foot slipped out three-four-five inches and I ended up falling down. I got up and it felt a little tight. It felt like I was cramping, and as I kept walking more and more I figured I needed to get it checked out.”
With the Panthers up by the score of 10-3 at the half, Brian Hoyer entered the game as the Browns’ quarterback. The momentum of the game shifted in the Browns favor when Karlos Dansby deflected a pass from Newton, which was intercepted by Billy Winn. The Browns added another field goal to make the score 10-6. Early in the fourth quarter, Hoyer connected with Jordan Cameron on an 81-yard touchdown to take their first lead of the game.
Newton took the field with his team down 13-10 and led his team on a seven play; 2:52 drive which ended in a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Stewart. Newton’s pass to Stewart gave the Panthers the win by the score of 17-13. While the Browns have the better record between the two teams at 7-8, they are now last place in their division and the Panthers are now in first place in their division at 6-8-1.
-Pierre Desir played exceptionally well, and his confidence grew as the game went along. He finished the game with seven tackles and deflected two passes on the afternoon. Desir also kept rookie Kelvin Benjamin in check the majority of the game. Benjamin finished with just 5 receptions for 47 yards.
Browns’ head coach Mike Pettine spoke about Desir after the game.
“I thought he made some plays. He had a better week [than Justin Gilbert] and we had a little more confidence in him.”
-Jordan Cameron looks like he’s returned to form following his last concussion as he finished the game with three receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown. Cameron showcased big-play speed on his 81-yard jaunt to the end zone as he outran the Panthers entire secondary. “That’s probably the first time I smiled on the football field in the last month,” Hoyer said in reference to the touchdown pass to Cameron.
-Brian Hoyer did throw the interception to Panthers’ standout cornerback Josh Norman when he underthrew Travis Benjamin; however he did at least put his team in position to win the game. Hoyer came into the game in the second half and accounted for 134 yards and a touchdown through the air. The offense was stagnant prior to Hoyer being inserted into the lineup. His contributions on the day should be commended.
Areas for Improvement
-The Browns run defense has been hamstrung by injuries, and subsequently has not been able to get on track all season. The Browns allowed Stewart to run for 122 yards on 24 carries. Newton chipped in with 63 yards on 12 carries despite the two transverse process fractures in his back. The Browns must sure up their run defense if they have any hopes of contending next season.
-It is clear that Isaiah Crowell is a talented running back, but there isn’t much he can do if he’s being hit in the backfield on a regular basis. Inconsistent play at the center position has left the Browns unable to routinely execute their offense due to pressure up the middle. Hopefully Alex Mack can make a difference for them next season if healthy.
-Continuity on offense has been essentially unattainable for the Browns offense this season and Sunday’s game was no different. The Browns offense had just eight first downs while the Panthers collected 27. The Browns must figure out a way to sustain drives, or their defense will continue to give way to talented offenses across the NFL.
The Browns will face the Baltimore Ravens in their final game of the season. The Ravens just came off of a 25-13 loss to the Houston Texans. The injury riddled Browns will have to stop the Ravens’ offense, which has a rushing offense that is rated eighth in the NFL with 126 yards per game. The Ravens offense is also ninth in the NFL in points scored per game with 25.9. Do the Browns have enough to contain the Ravens high-powered offense? We’ll find out in week 17.
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