Well they say all good things must come to an end. The preseason win streak for the Cleveland Browns has been snapped. The Buffalo Bills come to FirstEnergy Stadium and hand the Browns a 19-17 loss in preseason game number two.
So is there anything to be positive about despite having the preseason win streak ended at five? There absolutely is, but there are numerous things that needed cleaned up. Here’s what was good, bad and ugly for the Browns for preseason game number two.
Running Game – It took all over one offensive possession for the Browns to surpass their rushing yards total from preseason game number one. After gaining just 50 yards against the New York Giants, Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson tallied 61-yards on the ground.
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Hyde capped off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. Hyde finished with a game high 64-yards on nine carries and a touchdown. Johnson added 27-yards on four carries.
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In addition, Rookie Nick Chubb rushed for 53-yards on eleven carries.
“This week, we just put more emphasis on it,” Hyde said. “That was our mindset going into this game to get the run game going. The offensive line did a great job today creating some lanes for me to run through, and I was able to make plays.”
“Anytime you don’t run it the first game as well as you think you can, the next time you come out and you dig in a little bit. That is what our guys did,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “The runners made some good runs, strong runs – all three of them really. The line did a better job of pushing and getting after it.”
First String Defense – It’s still the preseason, but the first string defense looking in regular season form. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will be shouting out curse words for a good reason. Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, Christian Kirksey and the rest of the first string defense did not allow a first down on its first four offensive drives. The run defense on LeSean McCoy was terrific. Guys were not missing open field tackles. There was pressure on Buffalo’s starting quarterback A.J. McCarron. The Browns need to do all of those things to win games when they count.
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“We had the mindset of stopping the run,” defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah said. “First and foremost, we have to rush the passer. That’s something that we didn’t do such a good job of last year and that was the emphasis this year. I just felt like we did a good job stopping them.”
“Guys were playing,” Jackson said. “Myles Garrett, I can’t wait to watch the tape. I could just feel him on the field. I thought the communication was really good with the defensive players within the first unit. That part was really good.”
“We’re deep. You know in this league, guys get injured fast and having a lot of options is a very good thing,” defensive back Damarious Randall said. “There’s a lot of competition out here, and I feel like this is just making us better.”
The Quarterbacks – Don’t let the numbers fool you. Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield combined didn’t throw for 100-yards. The emphasis heading into the game was on the running game. Both quarterbacks guided the offense on touchdown scoring drives. In addition, neither signal caller turned the football over. Taylor played the first quarter. He finished four of seven for 22-yards. Mayfield played the second and most of the third quarter. The number one pick went seven of 13 for 75-yards with a sack.
“Still made some plays in the passing game,” Taylor said. “A couple of the passes were third down situations. Some miscommunication on one of the third downs. Some stuff that we can be better, but I still think that we are able to do some of the things that we wanted to do.”
“We did not have the personnel adjustment problems that we did last week,” Mayfield said. “I think in and out of the huddle, we were more efficient with our time. We were able to get some different cadence calls worked in there. Those are the kind of things that I kind of said during a week of practice that I wanted to eliminate, and you handle that stuff and then we will talk about the penalties and you get over that. Then you start playing consistent football, and you give yourself an opportunity to make big plays.”
Special Teams – The punt and kick off coverage teams need some work. With the exception of one punt that was downed inside the five, the special teams were not so special. Missed tackles, long returns were a key reason the Browns lost their preseason home opener.
The Officials – It’s not only the preseason for the players and coaches. It’s also the preseason for the officials as well. Referee Pete Morelli and his crew made some question calls in the game. The one that stands out is a non-fumble call on a Bills punt return. Replays showed what appeared to be a clear fumble and recovery by tight end Devon Cajuste. The officials did not rule it a fumble and would not grant coach Jackson the opportunity to challenge the call. In addition, three offensive pass interference calls on the Browns were questionable as well. The officials are learning the new rules just like the players, but missing calls that have been in the rule books for years is not acceptable.
Penalties – If special teams play was a reason the Browns lost to the Bills, then penalties are the main reason for the defeat. The total number and yards assessed were better in comparison to week one. However, the timing of the penalties were bad. Cleveland had seven penalties called on them for 70-yards. The miscues either stalled potential scoring drives on offense or kept scoring drives alive for the Bills.
“The penalty issue is something we have to get solved,” Jackson said “It is the discipline part of doing things right. We have to get that part of it squared away. All in all, I think it is going to be some good tape to evaluate our team on and find a way to get better over the next couple of weeks. That is our charge, and I am sure we will do that.”
“The last drive that I was in, penalties kind of hurt us,” Taylor said. “We were in the scoring zone. That is two weeks in a row that we have had penalties that have taken us out of the scoring zone. That is something that we have to clean up.”
So the Browns are 1-1 this preseason. Cleveland’s next preseason game is on August 23. The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles visit FirstEnergy Stadium for a nationally televised broadcast on Fox.
Scott Piker is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Browns. So follow him on twitter @ScottPikerSport