The Cleveland Browns had the opportunity to essentially lock up a spot in the expanded NFL playoffs with a victory over the Las Vegas Raiders Sunday. Heading into a bye week and with an easy schedule ahead, Cleveland laid down for their opponent. The Raiders were more physical at the point of contact and ran all over the Browns defense to the tune of 206 yards on 44 carries as Las Vegas earned a 16-6 win in Cleveland.
The Browns missed tackles, dropped passes and committed boneheaded penalties. They were terrible in every facet of the game, and it is difficult to identify a player that might have done well. The play-calling from Cleveland defensive coordinator Joe Woods showed an incredible lack of situational awareness. Las Vegas possessed the ball for 37:43 and limited big gains from Kareem Hunt.
It was not exactly pretty but, in a battle against another potential AFC playoff team, the Raiders imposed their will on the Browns.
Why Las Vegas won
Las Vegas was more physical at the point of contact. The team did a better job of limiting big plays by the opposing running back while creating some of their own. The Raiders surpassed 200 rushing yards on the day on 44 carries while possessing the ball 15 minutes longer than their competitor.
Penalties were an issue in the first quarter but the mistakes were cleaned up over the course of the game. Las Vegas had a +1 turnover differential on the day despite a -5 turnover differential coming into the afternoon.
Why Cleveland lost
Where does one begin describing a defense filled with professionals that displayed anything but professional play on Sunday? In 3rd and long situations, defensive coordinator Joe Woods either did not foresee screens or just did not care. The lack of awareness was exacerbated by the inclement weather. Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker ran through arm tackles and exploited the team's poor run fits all game. With Myles Garrett off the field with a knee injury, Cleveland was unable to hold the line of scrimmage.
Baker Mayfield did not play poorly but his receivers did him zero favors. Tight end Harrison Bryant was responsible for the only turnover on the day and several other passes were dropped. Opportunities to extend drives fell helplessly to the turf.
Play of the game
Hunter Renfrow's 4-yard touchdown reception to start the fourth quarter essentially served as the nail in the coffin. At no point did it feel likely Cleveland's offense would be able to put the ball into the end zone. Renfrow's catch was a bit controversial. The ball definitely hit the ground but there was never a camera angle showing a loss of control. The call stood after an official review.
The Browns are headed into a bye week with a 5-3 record yet searching for answers. The good news is that the back half of their schedule features some of the worst teams in the league: Jaguars, Jets, Giants, Texans and Eagles. Their postseason fate is still very much in the air.
Las Vegas is now 4-3 with two games apiece coming against the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos. The Chargers await next weekend.