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Dropped passes lead to a dropped game for Browns in first divisional matchup with Steelers

Browns Steelers
Posted at 7:41 PM, Oct 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-31 19:41:06-04

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns are 4-4 on the season after a devastating loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers inside FirstEnergy Stadium. The defense had moments where it looked disjointed, but, ultimately, only gave up 15 points. The team drifted away from its strength of the run game in moments. They blew two more fourth down conversions, now 7-for-18 on the season so far.

But perhaps the biggest issue on Sunday was dropped passes.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield had some passes that could have been placed better, sure—and he knows that—but even more of his passes were catchable and the intended receivers let him down. Throwing 20-for-31, Mayfield may have had only four incomplete passes that were on him. Five, maybe even seven, were on the receiver, tight end or running back.

Jarvis Landry had two drops and a fumble, Rashard Higgins had a drop, Odell Beckham Jr. arguably had a drop (although the pass was slightly high and he is dealing with a shoulder injury), D'Ernest Johnson dropped two and Austin Hooper dropped what likely would have been a pass that led to a touchdown, despite it being a touch high.

The Browns have too many offensive weapons for them all to shut down in a game as important as this.

As for Landry—who is usually one of the most reliable weapons the team has—the team isn't concerned about his performance Sunday as they move on from the week.

“Jarvis is a veteran guy. He's one of our best leaders. It's unfortunate that it happened, but he is going to take ownership, he's going to get it corrected, and we know how he's going to handle it. We all have to take ownership," Mayfield said. "This doesn't just fall on him at all by any means. There were a lot of throws that could have been made today, and there were plays we should have had. Plain and simple.”

With Mayfield playing through injury, despite not using it as an excuse, his offensive weapons surrounding him needed to step up to the plate to make up for any decline he may have experienced, and the simple fact of the matter is, they didn't.

Now, sitting at the very bottom the AFC North, the Browns face a bit of a challenge ahead of them in order to work their way back up as they keep their sights set on a postseason.

Despite Sunday's loss, the Browns are not wavering from their goal and remain confident in their season.

"Nobody is happy with what we did on any of the phases, and so, we need to go back to the drawing board and keep on working. We have nine more games. At the end of the day, the crown of the AFC is still up in the air - at least in the AFC North,” Myles Garrett said after the game.

Other issues to address

The Browns had momentum-killing penalties that can be argued to have altered the outcome of the game.

An unnecessary roughness call on Ronnie Harrison in the second quarter offset a holding call on the Steelers that could have hindered their field position. Later in the game, a false start from Higgins on Pittsburgh's 25-yard-line with two minutes on the clock in a five point game was even more brutal.

“You have to play clean on all sides of the ball – offense, defense and special teams. I don't think we played clean enough. We had some costly ones. Those are little things, and all those little things add up to the big thing. We have to get better in that area,” Stefanski said after the game.

Fourth down conversions
The Browns are an analytics-driven team, and an aggressive one at that, which means they're likely going to want to attempt most of the fourth down and shorts they get. But the team has been downright awful on fourth downs this season. As mentioned before, the team blew two more fourth down conversions and are now 7-for-18 on the season so far.

The first came on a Nick Chubb run on 4th-and-1, which resulted in a 1-yard loss. The second came when the game was down to the wire and the Browns needed to score, falling back to 4th-and-12 after Higgins' false start.

Defensive unison
While the defense stepped up and only gave up 15 points, there were also moments that showed the same kinds of mistakes the Browns have been dealing with all season.

Communication and preventing blown coverage has been an area that the Browns have needed to work on. On Sunday, while the effort was improved, those missteps peeked in from time to time.

The defense has certainly shown signs of improvement, and they definitely have the individual talent on the roster this season, but the efforts to find cohesion should still be a focus moving forward.


Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.

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