For the second straight week, a blatant miscommunication by the Cleveland Browns on defense allowed an opponent to get back into the game.
In Week 1, it was a 75-yard Panthers bomb from Baker Mayfield to Robbie Anderson. The Browns got through that thanks to a late field goal, but they weren’t so lucky against the Jets on Sunday. Led by Joe Flacco, New York scored two touchdowns in the last two minutes and overwhelmed the Browns 31-30.
The main trigger of the comeback was a 66-yard connection between Flacco and Corey Davis that capitalized on inflated reporting. The Browns’ $100 million cornerback Denzel Ward was responsible for the mishap, according to The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd.
“Stefanski would not judge the blame, but a source with knowledge of the defensive play said Denzel Ward screwed up the reporting,” Lloyd wrote. “He was in misreporting. Given Ward’s recent $100 million contract extension, such mental blunders are simply unacceptable.”
Brown safety John Johnson III appeared to hint at this with some post-game comments, saying the defenders are not on the same page.
“Inexplicable,” said Johnson. “We just have to talk. Communication is sending and receiving. So there are people who transmit but some people don’t receive and that’s the problem.”
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski attributed the mistake to the team’s youth, although he also pointed out the fact that there had been a misunderstanding.
“Obviously the guys are not on the same page. It was very, very clear what we were doing. We talked about it on the sidelines before everyone went out and talked to the entire defense about what they would do, which was try to throw it over our heads,” Stefanski said. “We can not permit that. We have a young football team and unfortunately these youth have appeared here sometimes and we have to grow up very quickly.
While Ward recently received an extension, at 25 he’s still young. His peers are even younger, with Martin Emerson Jr. a rookie and Greg Newsome II a sophomore. Brown’s safety Grant Delpit is 23 and missed his entire rookie season with a torn Achilles tendon. At 26, Johnson is pretty much the unit’s senior statesman.
“I don’t believe it,” Johnson said. “It was 30-17, I thought it was over, some of the guys on their sidelines said they thought it was over. It’s incredible.”
In the fourth quarter, Chubb rumbled into the end zone for that third touchdown of the day in what appeared to be the final nail in the Jets’ coffin. However, by not going down and scoring a goal instead of ticking down the clock, it gave the Jets a narrow streak of life to capitalize on.
Stefanski took the blame for not communicating it more clearly to Chubb and the offense that milking the clock was the priority.
“That’s a scenario where I have to communicate that to the group,” Stefanski said. “We’ve done that before. Nevertheless, we have to finish this game.”
The Browns have a short week to shake off the loss and put things in order. They host the Steelers in their first AFC North tournament of the season on Thursday night.