The Cleveland Browns offense had a number of standout performances, which shouldn't be a surprise as that side of the ball carried this team to what could have been a victory. Unfortunately, there are three phases of the game and the Browns simply weren't good enough on the other two to maintain the lead, resulting in one of the most embarrassing late-game collapses in NFL history.
Jacoby Brissett, Quarterback
Brissett is not a star nor will he ever be, but the Browns got a good performance out of their journeyman backup. The Jets were determined to make Brissett beat them and he did enough to win the game. He was decisive and efficient for the vast majority of the game.
Brissett's accuracy and ball placement was on point when he operated on time. With only a few exceptions, he made good reads that allowed the offense to move the ball and score touchdowns. Eventually, the Browns running game found its way and allowed Nick Chubb to make a significant impact with the hopes of closing out the game.
Brissett made a few key plays with his legs, including deftly avoiding the pass rush long enough to find a wide open Harrison Bryant for a 30-yard gain. The first drive of the game, Brissett scrambled for 13-yards to help extend the drive.
There were potentially some open opportunities down the field he was unable to find just like against the Carolina Panthers. He also took a bad sack late in the game and threw the interception that sealed the Jets victory. In the case of the interception, maybe the Browns could've gotten their second potential game winning field goal attempt in back to back weeks, but he was put in that position due to ghastly failures by other areas of the team. Brissett may never blow a team out, but he did more than enough to win this game, which is exactly what the Browns want from him.
Brissett finished 22 of 27 for 229 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver
Against the Panthers, Amari Cooper was often open but was rarely found. Against the New York Jets, Cooper had what would've been a game announcing himself as a legit threat for the Browns if not for the meltdown that gave the Jets the game.
Cooper caused problems for the Jets defense consistently. He was able to shake man coverage and found holes in the zone, making it easy for Brissett to get him the ball. Cooper operated on the boundary as well as from the slot. The coaching staff was able to manipulate the Jets coverage to leave him uncovered for his first touchdown as a member of the Browns.
Beyond that, he caught passes in traffic and made diving catches on comebacks which kept drives alive. Cooper caught nine passes on his first nine targets for 101 yards and the touchdown.
Nick Chubb and the Offensive Line
The Jets came in with a game plan designed to make Chubb earn every yard he got. If they were going to lose the game, it wasn't going to be as a result of Chubb. And threw quarters into the game, they were successful.
The fourth quarter, Chubb and the offensive line were able to find vulnerabilities in the defense and started imposing their will. After being held to 3.7 yards per carry on his first ten attempts in the first half, Chubb ran for 50 yards on seven carries in the fourth. He also three receptions including a 15-yard screen pass and scored both of the Browns fourth quarter touchdowns.
The offensive line made key blocks through that period. Their All-Pro guards led the way with important plays, but Jedrick Wills and James Hudson III chipped in contributions that kept drives allowed and helped result in scores. The quick screen in particular featured three well-executed blocks so Chubb was untouched for most of the run after catch.
Harrison Bryant, Tight End
Unfortunately, Bryant left the game with a head injury that was being evaluated for a concussion because he had a few important plays. He opened the game with back to back receptions that started the first touchdown drive and then was the beneficiary of Brissett's magic to avoid being sacked when Bryant was wide open.
Bryant also made several important blocks and one of those is what resulted in the head injury.
Offensive Play Calling
The Cleveland Browns weren't dominating on offense, but they were able to move the ball and get in the end zone on drives in no small part to the offensive play calling.
While head coach Kevin Stefanski is the one credited with calling plays, it's a collaborative process that helped the Browns end up in good position on a consistent basis.
The touchdown pass to Amari Cooper was a great example.
Initially, David Njoku and Amari Cooper were lined up on the right side of the formation. Njoku motioned across the formation to the left and Michael Carter, the defensive back followed him. Then Kareem Hunt motioned to the right. No one followed him. When the ball was snapped, rookie corner Sauce Gardner went with Hunt even though a linebacker was trying to get and cover him in the flat. That left Cooper wide open for an easy touchdown.
Brissett deserves credit for his execution, but he got a helping hand from the offensive design. Between shifts and motions, the Browns are able to identify what coverage the Jets played and created advantages in terms of numbers and angles, allowing them to score 30 on the afternoon.
There's so much to be critical of with this unit that entered the season with so much hype. Joe Flacco deserves credit for how he played in this game. He did a great job of not only reading the Browns defense but made throws that found the holes in their zones.
However, whether it was zone or man, Browns defenders were routinely beat in coverage. No one was spared as Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome II and M.J. Emerson all took turns getting beaten in both man and zone coverages. Even if that's all that happened, the Browns would've given up a survivable 17 points. The Browns still could have won the game.
Just like last week, 14 points came as a result of busted coverages. The Jets scored a touchdown late in the first half when Michael Carter II was completely uncovered out of the backfield despite the Browns having eight in coverage. Denzel Ward was lined up over the receiver and looked like he should've taken Carter, but opted to stay with the inside receiver despite having two defenders inside of him for help.
Painful, but not fatal. After the Browns scored the touchdown to give them a 30-17 lead, Flacco was able to find Corey Davis wide open for a 66-yard touchdown. Fans in the stadium were closer to him than any Browns defensive back.
The Browns played two-high in a basic quarters look. For whatever reason, Ward stands pat waiting for Tyler Conklin to attack the flat and go up the seam on the boundary. The safety, Grant Delpit, is supposed to keep up the inside seam, which is Corey Davis. Instead, he goes to the middle of the field and Corey Davis goes uncovered.
The Browns tried to run a number of different blitzes and coverage concepts. Some worked well, but Flacco was never confused. Instead, too often the Browns defense was chaotic and had players running around not knowing what they were doing.
There were multiple situations where players were calling each other out for missed assignment, which prompts a number of questions.
Is this a player to player communication issue?
Is it the defensive play caller being unclear or simply too slow for players to relay calls and get aligned correctly?
Are players just not doing the jobs they are prescribed, which boils down to alignment and assignment?
The Browns defense got their share of stops this game, but most of them required the Jets to make a mistake, often a drop.
The bottom line is it took a miracle for the Browns to avoid losing to the Carolina Panthers for as a result of the same issues. Whatever the issue is, the Browns must get to the bottom of it immediately or the season could be over before November. Should that happen, fairly or not, the expectation will be that heads roll on the coaching staff because they aren't going to get rid of players they are so heavily invested.
The Cleveland Browns special teams, a unit, which has finished bottom five each of the past two seasons, once again finds itself on the losing end of this game. The New York Jets were clearly the superior unit in this matchup and were critical in enabling them to come away with the victory.
The Jets converted a fake punt which was part of a touchdown drive and recovered an onside kick, which cleared the way for the game-winning touchdown. On the fake punt, the corner fell down allowing an easy completion from the punter to the gunner. Cade York, a hero last week, missed an extra point this week. It proved the difference between it being a 31-31 game, likely going to overtime versus a loss.
The Browns did get some positive contributions from punter Corey Bojorquez and Jerome Ford as a kick returner. Demetric Felton had a better day this week returning punts but still made everyone nervous when the ball came loose on his final return. Fortunately, he was already down.