ATLANTA – It was a weird game, with a weird ending and a weird beginning that eventually came back to bite the Browns.
A solid game for Nick Chubb, who returned to his homeland and finished with 118 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Solid play by Browns defenders, including Grant Delpit’s multiple breaks and Denzel Ward’s first interception of the season. Being able to keep the score low without Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett.
None of that mattered in the end, a 23-20 defeat that puts Cleveland at 2-2 of the season, a defeat that burns more after the Browns left 3 points on the field at the end of their first drive.
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Cleveland was making its first drive. The Browns had a good mix of involving several goals early on, with Jacoby Brissett finding Donovan Peoples-Jones and David Njoku for big gains and Nick Chubb getting down. Cleveland arrived at Atlanta’s 2-yard line and looked set to take a 7-point lead.
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The Browns were rolling, but eventually the unit stopped. On the third and 1, Chubb was knocked down and lost two yards. Then, the fateful play on fourth-and-3, Kevin Stefanski decided to try rather than kick a basket, without even looking up from his call sheet to discuss it.
However, there seemed to be some confusion as the players lined up. Eventually, Brissett escaped down the scrimmage line and threw the ball out from the bottom of the end zone, no target nearby.
The Browns continued to drop 10-0 in the first half, a hole they somehow managed to get out of, but it wasn’t an easy fight and the drive came back to bite them. In the age of analytics, it’s understandable why 7 is better than 3. Most players would say that’s what they prefer. I would be more inclined to appreciate the call especially if there was a clear direction and if they were passing the ball to Chubb or Kareem Hunt.
But in this 11-game stretch of the season without Deshaun Watson, offensive points are valuable no matter how you get them.
Obviously if the Browns shoot for the basket, there is no guarantee that everything will go exactly the same for the rest of the game. It is an even more easily criticized decision in hindsight.
But 3 is still greater than 0, especially when you lose by 3.
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