3 Takeaways from Browns' Week 12 Loss
It's not often you see a team's defense intercept an opposing quarterback four times in a loss, but that was the case for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night.
Even though the Browns made things difficult for Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, they couldn't capitalize on their quartet of takeaways. Instead, Cleveland lost 16-10 at M&T Bank Stadium, falling to 6-6 with its fifth loss over the past eight games.
The Browns cut the Ravens' lead to 13-10 on Baker Mayfield's 20-yard touchdown pass to David Njoku with 39 seconds to go in the third quarter. However, Cleveland was blanked in the final quarter, while Justin Tucker's 49-yard field goal with 1:10 remaining sealed the win for Baltimore.
Here are three takeaways from the Browns' Week 12 loss.
The Offense Is Running Out of Time to Fix Issues
The Browns scored only seven points in a Week 10 loss to the New England Patriots and just 13 in a victory over the winless Detroit Lions in Week 11. And their Week 12 performance in Baltimore wasn't any better, as there continue to be major issues slowing the Cleveland offense.
Mayfield has been struggling, and he completed only 18 of his 37 pass attempts on Sunday night. The running game didn't do much to help him, as the Browns had only 40 rushing yards on 17 attempts, an average of 2.4 yards per carry. Kareem Hunt had seven carries for 20 yards in his return from a calf injury, while Nick Chubb had eight carries for 16 yards.
Cleveland went 4-for-13 on third downs and 0-for-1 on fourth downs, with that lone attempt coming on its final drive. The Browns trailed by six points and had the ball at their own 25-yard line with 1:10 to go. Then, Mayfield threw three straight incompletions before his seven-yard pass to Njoku wasn't enough to pick up a first down, giving the ball back to the Ravens to kneel out the rest of the clock.
When Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski was asked after the game whether the team would consider a QB change, he said: "No, we're not doing that."
That means Mayfield and the rest of the Browns offense will need to use their Week 13 bye to correct their issues and find ways to perform better over their final five games of the regular season.
The Defense Impressed Against Strong Ravens
Grant Delpit, Denzel Ward, John Johnson III and Ronnie Harrison Jr. all notched interceptions against Lamar Jackson, as the Ravens quarterback struggled to get into a rhythm. Baltimore also wasn't quite as effective as it typically is on the ground, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry (148 yards on 43 attempts).
While Cleveland's offense couldn't capitalize when it got the ball following Jackson's errant throws, that doesn't take away from the strong showing the defense had against the AFC North leaders on the road. The Ravens had 303 total yards despite possessing the ball for 37:04, as the Browns had ample opportunities to take control of the game.
"[The defense] was outstanding," Stefanski told reporters. "[I'm] really pleased with how those guys played. They were relentless. I thought they were running to the ball all night."
Cleveland plays Baltimore again in Week 14, so it will need to capitalize on its recent momentum and try to shut down Jackson for a second time in three weeks. That may be a challenge, but the Browns have been playing well enough on the defensive side of the ball to do it again.
Playoff Push Is Challenging but Possible
Four of the Browns' final five regular-season games are against teams that have winning records. The only matchup against a non-winning team is in Week 17, when they take on the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1).
So, if Cleveland is going to finish strong down the stretch and get into the playoffs for the second season in a row, it's going to have to beat some tough opponents. Otherwise, it may end up falling short.
"We've got to get to this bye week, fix some things, get healthy, unplug for a minute and then we've got Baltimore again for a stretch run," Stefanski said.
A week off is coming at the right time for a Browns team that hasn't won consecutive games since three straight victories through Weeks 2-4. But if Cleveland is going to get into the postseason, it may need to go on some type of streak over the final five weeks.