The Cleveland Browns had a short week as they hosted the Denver Broncos on Thursday night. The huge storyline heading into this matchup was Baker Mayfield would not suit up due to a nagging left shoulder injury. Luckily, the Browns have a reliable quarterback on their depth charts in Case Keenum. Remember the Minneapolis miracle? Keenum played a major role in that game, and he led the Vikings to a deep playoff run back in 2017, due to an injury to former quarterback Sam Bradford. To make matters worse, both running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt were sidelined due to injuries.

The Browns’ offense started strong, as the stout offensive line gave Case plenty of time to throw the ball. As a veteran quarterback, Case Keenum is as prepared as it comes for whatever a defense might throw his way. A pleasant surprise in this game came from running back D’ernest Johnson, who came out of nowhere. Two years ago, Johnson was playing in the AAF a.k.a the Alliance of American Football League and more times than not, players in that league do not get the recognition and come up short in their pursuit to play in the NFL. The Browns delievered the first blow, as Johnson barreled over defenders into the end zone for a 4- yard touchdown run for his first rushing touchdown of his career. Browns kicker Chase McLaughlin made the extra point which put the Browns up early 7-0.

The Browns defense forced the Broncos to punt on their very next possession. Keenum continued to do his part in the passing game, as he started out a perfect five out of five completed passing attempts as he threw a missle in the direction of wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Landry, bobbled the pass but was able to haul it in before getting knocked to the ground. There were no qualms in the Browns play calling, as they had their way early on. The Browns concluded their drive on a 52- yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin who bended the ball like Beckham and drained the kick to push the lead to a 10-0 Browns lead. Under the 3 minute- mark in the first quarter, the Browns defense gave up an astounding 6 passing yards.

At the start of the second quarter, the hobbled Broncos quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater underthrew his receiver and was picked off by safety John Johnson III in the end zone. The Browns continued to dominate in time of possession and were moving the ball down the field. Cleveland was unable to get into the end zone and had to settle for a 41- yard field goal attempt. Denver blocked the field goal attempt but came up empty prior to halftime. Denver had a significant loss to their defense, as captain of the defense Von Miller would suffer an ankle injury and not return to the game. At the start of the third quarter, it appeared on the sidelines that Broncos head coach Vic Fangio would have quarterback Drew Lock suit up due to the ineffectiveness of Teddy Bridgewater. Instead Bridgewater headed out onto the field and looked to redeem himself, which he did as he tossed an 8- yard pass to running back Melvin Gordon who dove and extended his right arm across the pylon to cut the lead to 10-7 Cleveland.

The offensive line continued to protect Keenum as he was given plenty of time to step back and throw the ball over the middle of the field. Denver had to respect the Browns run game, as the success of the run made it easy for the defense to bite on play action passes. Cleveland made their way into the red zone and although they were staring at a 4th and 3, they went for it and due to the mobility of Case Keenum they continued the drive. Case Keenum rolled out to his left and flicked a 1 – yard pass to his full back John Stanton, which pushed the lead to 17-10 Browns. At the beginning of the 4th quarter, the Browns defense continued to give the Broncos headaches as the Broncos rushed for 31 yards. D’ernest Johnson continued to own the Broncos defense as he ran to his right and seemed that he was stuck in his tracks but dodged defenders and ran for positive yardage.

Towards the back end of the game, Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater showed perserverance despite being injuried. Bridgewater made some nice plays on the run as he linked up with his receivers. Bridgewater found running back Javonte Williams on a 10 – yard screen pass who motored past the Browns defense and was tackled into the end zone for a touchdown. This cut the lead the Browns lead down to three, 17-14. Fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief as D’ernest Johnson put the game on ice, as he had the bulk of the workload. Johnson seemed unphased by the amount of punishment that a running back endures throughout the course of a game and did not let the big moment get the best out of him.

Case Keenum did a serviceable job as he completed 21 out of 33 passing attempts, threw for 199 yards, and 1 touchdown. Despite the sample size of one game, Browns fans are ecstatic about D’ernest Johnson who had 22 carries, 146 yards, 1 rushing touchdown, and averaged 6.6 yards per carry. Any sports fan craves for the underdog story and D’ernest Johnson is one. When discussed about in the postgame press conference, head coach Kevin Stefanski stated “D’ernest Johnson to me is just a warrior, a great teammate”.¬†Teams rally behind this type of guy and can re- energize a team that can alter a season within a blink of an eye. The Browns defense was impressive and for now defensive coordinator Joe Woods’s job is safe. It is vital that the Browns consider giving Keenum the keys to the offense until Baker Mayfield is near fully healthy so they can keep their season alive. The Browns are hopeful that they will have running back Nick Chubb and starting offensive tackle Jack Conklin return from injury. Next up on the schedule, the Browns host divisional rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Halloween.

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