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Giants-Browns: 5 plays that changed Sunday night’s game

Cleveland was the better team, but the Giants did have chances

Cleveland Browns v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The New York Giants offense stagnated for the second consecutive week as Big Blue fell to the Cleveland Browns, 20-6, on Sunday Night Football. New York was without offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, starting quarterback Daniel Jones, and star cornerback James Bradberry, but that’s not the reason they lost. The Browns are a well coached team with an effective identity, and a better roster than the Giants.

Former 2018 first overall selection Baker Mayfield completed 27 of 32 passing attempts for 297 yards and 2 touchdowns while leading an offense that went 9 of 13 on third-downs. The Giants did a good job shutting down the run, but had no answer for Mayfield’s arm. The Giants continued to run their zone coverage and received little pressure with the front four — a recipe for disaster. The score could have been much worse, but Browns Kevin Stefanski seemed to take his foot off the accelerator. Here are five plays that somewhat help define the game.

Play 1: What?

New York had a solid nine-play opening drive that was initiated by a very good Dion Lewis kick return. Joe Judge and Thomas McGaughey must have seen something on tape that would have inferred success from a converted tackle, now playing center, running a middle hook and a 33-year-old kicker doing his best Jerry Rice impression with the slant; all while the punter, Riley Dixon, throws the pass. I get trying to catch a team off guard, and it’s obvious the Giants practiced this play, but it’s too cute. The long snapper Casey Kreiter (58) is flashing his hands to bait linebackers who aren’t scared of him catching the football and making any of them miss, while a 300-plus pound offensive tackle runs a post. All this to distract from another 300-plus pound man who is running past two linebackers who are just watching the punter’s eyes and flowing to the routes they feel. It looked awkward and obviously did not work.

Play 2: Must convert

I like the aggressiveness here. The Giants are up against an offense that just scored 40 points in back-to-back games, so coming away from the red zone with a touchdown is paramount, but the execution just failed. Kevin Zeitler (70) gets bench pressed by Sheldon Richardson (98) while Karl Joseph (42) flies into the play to ensure that Wayne Gallman doesn’t pick up the two necessary yards to extend the drive. I really don’t mind going for it on either possession in this game, especially with how the secondary was playing. Converting both of these plays into touchdowns may have made the game a bit more interesting, but the Browns passing attack probably would have just continued through the second half instead of slowing down as the game became out of reach.

Play 3: There’s a tight end there

The Giants were selling out to slow down the Browns running game; in doing so, Cleveland’s play-action passing attack was successful. This is a third-and-goal on a 13-play drive where the Giants only saw third down once before this play. Devonte Downs (52) fails to feel the routes around him, has little clue that Hooper is in his vicinity, and doesn’t get the depth he needs to prevent the touchdown. It’s not until Mayfield hits his back foot that Downs realizes it’s a pass, but he doesn’t have the spatial awareness to feel the routes and know where receivers are located. This was the Browns first long successful drive since the Giants forced a turnover on downs on the previous drive.

Play 4: Browns capitalize again

Cleveland received the ball, after forcing the Gallman turnover on downs, at the Giants 5-yard line with 5:16 left in the second quarter. The Browns drove the entire field and kept moving the sticks while only facing one thirdrd down, which was a third-and-1. New York’s defense was helpless for the first time this season. Mayfield just kept getting chunk yardage plays: 18 yards here, 15 yards there, 14 yards, 22 yards, and then it was capped off by this Jarvis Landry touchdown against Isaac Yiadom, who was in solid position. That made the Cleveland lead 13-3 heading into halftime.

Play 5: Defensive stop

In the Browns first drive in the second half, the Giants forced a punt on four plays. Before this drive, Cleveland was almost doing whatever it wanted through the air. This sack by Dexter Lawrence put the Browns in a third-and-22 and helped force a punt. If the Giants could have scored on the ensuing drive, then the game could have gone differently, but New York ends up questionably punting at about midfield. That decision led to a long touchdown drive that was finished off by a Nick Chubb run. The lead was extended to 17 points, which basically ended the Giants hopes to win the football game. Nonetheless, this was a big sack by Lawrence to put the Giants into a position to possibly get back into the contest.

Final thoughts

The Giants lost to a much better team. It was quite obvious the team missed James Bradberry, and it affected the ability to stop the Browns’ passing attack, but there’s a reason Cleveland is 10-4 and the Giants are 5-9 in a poor NFC East. The division title seems unlikely with the upcoming schedule and the lethargic nature of the Giants’ offense. Could things have been different with a healthy Daniel Jones? Possibly, but sadly that’s not reality. Now the Giants get to travel and play another AFC North opponent in the Baltimore Ravens in a must-win game. It’s not ideal circumstances, and it’s another team that just dropped 40 points on the Jacksonville Jaguars.