Last Sunday, the 7-3 Cleveland Browns traveled to Denver Colorado to play the 5-5 Denver Broncos. Denver had a 1-5 start to the 2023 season, but they have turned around their season winning the last four games in a row. In the past, Denver was never an easy place for the Browns to play. This game was not expected to be any different.
The Browns started a rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. This was his third NFL start and he won his first game as an NFL starter last week at home against Pittsburgh. The Broncos have the league’s 32nd-ranked defense by allowing on average 400.1 yards per game and 30 points per game. This data may be skewed because of the Dolphins game when they gave up 70 points on ten touchdowns in Week 3. The Broncos offense does rank better.
Denver has the 22nd-ranked offense in the NFL. Averaging 301.2 yards per game and 21.7 points per game. Denver’s quarterback Russell Wilson is doing a great job of not turning over the ball. He has 19 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. The main reason for the Broncos’ four-game win streak is they have won the turnover differential by being plus 11 in the last four games. The gameplan again was simple for the Cleveland Browns.
They had to implement the exact same plan they executed against the Steelers in the prior week. What they needed to do with the Broncos was not commit turnovers, play good special teams and leverage their NFL top-ranked defense to win the game. It seemed simple enough. But the Browns didn’t do it in this game. The Browns lost the game 29-12. They had three lost fumbles. The costliest fumble was early in the fourth quarter on an ill-fated reverse. The overall team execution was bad and out of character for this team.
Browns quarterback Donovan Thompson-Robinson went 14-29 for 134 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions for a much-improved quarterback rating of 73.1. He was again a victim of dropped passes including a failed two-point conversion from Amari Cooper. David Njoku and Elijah Moore dropped catchable passes as well. The loss and the lack of execution during the game wasn’t the only concern. The bigger concern is the players’ injuries for the remaining six games of the season.
Defensive End Myles Garrett left the city of Denver with his arm in a sling, he said he felt a pop in his shoulder. He will undergo further tests in Los Angeles. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson left the game with a bloody mouth and concussion after a penalized late hit. Wide Receiver Amari Cooper had to leave the game as well with an apparent rib injury. This was after another questionable hit from a Denver player’s helmet to his ribs. Even with the lingering injuries the Browns are still in control of their playoff fate.
This loss drops them to 7-4 for the season with three home games and three road games to play. They are the 6th seed in the AFC Playoffs standings. Next week they travel to Los Angeles to play the Rams. Things look bleak with a laundry list of injuries for this team. But in 2023 every time fans and pundits have counted out this Cleveland Browns team, they have found a way to win. We will have to see if this team finds a way to go 1-0 next week. Stranger things this season have happened.