The Cleveland Browns ended their west coast trip in Los Angeles California last Sunday afternoon after taking on the Los Angeles Rams. Going into the game the Browns held the 6th AFC Playoff Seed with a 7-4 record. The Rams were 5-6 and in 3rd place in the NFC West Division. The Rams had the 17th-ranked offense in the NFL and the 16th-ranked defense. The Browns still had the top-ranked defense in the NFL and their offense was 20th.
The main reason for the Browns’ lower ranking on offense was injuries and that the Browns were starting their fourth different quarterback this season.
Former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco was called upon to start after Dorian Thompson-Robinson was placed in concussion protocol following last week’s loss to the Denver Broncos in Denver. The game plan was similar over the last three games. Don’t turn over the ball, be productive on offense, play quality special teams and leverage the league’s best defense. This was the same plan for this game and the reason why Flacco was starting over PJ Walker. PJ Walker did win two games for the Browns this season as a starter, but he has the propensity to turn over the ball.
The score was close until the last seven minutes of the game. After Browns Kicker Dustin Hopkins uncharacteristically missed an extra point, the Browns trailed the Rams 20-19. The Browns defense got off the field forcing a three-and-out. The Browns started their next possession on their 21-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Joe Flacco threw an interception to former Browns safety John Johnson III and he returned it to the Browns 24-yard line. That turnover led to a quick Los Angeles touchdown. On the next Browns offensive series, the Browns turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert a 4th down and five on their own 30-yard line. The short field for the Rams offense led to another quick touchdown. The Browns were then down by 15 points, 34-19. The Rams defense was then able to pin their ears back and rush Joe Flacco after an intentional grounding penalty and a sack. The Rams scored a safety with 42 seconds left in the game. The Browns lost to the Los Angeles Rams 36-19 and fell to a 7-5 record for the 2023 season.
To say that I feel disappointed in this West Coast trip is an understatement. What bothers me the most is that I know this Browns team is better than the late fourth-quarter performance in this game. Joe Flacco had a good game with 254 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He had a quarterback rating of 75.4. The Browns are still the 6th seed in AFC Playoff Standings and next week’s home game against Jacksonville becomes much more important. The Browns have played much better football at home this season. Three out of the last five games in 2023 are at home.
The Browns finish the season in Cincinnati without Joe Burrow. So, the season is far from over for the Cleveland Browns. They have at least three out of the last five games considered to be winnable for this team. And it feels like next week’s game against the Jaguars will be much-needed home cooking.