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3 Big Takeaways: Self-inflicted errors lead to another costly loss

The Browns couldn’t overcome their own mistakes in critical moments, which led to another disappointing loss to an AFC opponent


DETROIT — The Browns lost 31-23 to the Bills on Sunday,, which marked their sixth loss to an AFC opponent this season and brought their record to 3-7.

Here are three takeaways from Detroit, where the game was played after the league relocated the matchup due to the snowstorm that struck Buffalo this weekend:

1. Too many errors in too many big moments

Much like some of their other losses to AFC opponents this season, the Browns were once again their own worst enemy and couldn't overcome several self-inflicted miscues early in the game.

A botched snap and fumble that led to a Bills field goal, dropped passes in the red zone and special teams errors were among the errors that cost the Browns in big ways against the Bills, who started slow and offered Cleveland a chance to build a sizable early lead.

After a touchdown on the opening drive, the Browns had all the momentum on offense and appeared to have something going against the Bills' defense, but that all came to a halt on the third drive of the game. Cleveland reached Buffalo's 8-yard line, but then lost six yards on a direct snap play to Nick Chubb and failed to complete two pass attempts to Harrison Bryant and Pharaoh Brown.

Both passes hit both of the tight ends' hands and would've been touchdowns had they been caught.

"They would tell you (they should catch them)," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "That's obvious. Whatever we do and whatever play we get called — run or pass — we have to come away with seven points there versus a good football team. We can't do that."

On the next drive, the Browns gained 42 yards on eight plays and were again driving into Bills' territory, but the momentum came to another abrupt end when Brissett mishandled a snap while he was under center. The Bills recovered at their own 48 and used the great field position to tack on their second field goal of the game, which triggered the start of 25 unanswered points.

Brissett said the mishandling was on him and not Hjalte Froholdt, who replaced Ethan Pocic at center after Pocic exited with a knee injury on the first drive of the game.

"I just have to be better in a couple of those key moments," he said.

The Browns entered the red zone again four drives later, but the sequence stalled due to a delay of game penalty on second down and incomplete pass on third down. The Browns still had a chance to come away with three points — and close the deficit from 12 points to nine — but Cade York's 34-yard field goal was blocked.

The block highlighted an especially poor day from special teams, which allowed 37 yards via two punt returns and 76 yards on three kickoff returns.

The full scope of the loss, however, was due to errors on all sides of the ball — including the defense, which allowed the Bills to score points on the seven consecutive drives leading up to their kneel-down drive to end the game.

"I think we win and lose as a team, and that is the truth," Stefanski said.

Check out photos of the Browns against the Bills in Detroit in Week 11

2. Offense can't build on early momentum

Hopes were high for the Browns after they opened the game with a touchdown, but it took them nearly 50 minutes to find the end zone again.

In those 50 minutes, the Browns struggled to find any sort of success in their run game or end drives with field goals to stay close with the Bills. RB Nick Chubb was limited to a season-low 19 yards on 14 carries, which set the Browns up for just an 80-yard output on the ground.

Brissett said the rough day wasn't because of anything special the Bills did on defense, but rather a lack of execution on Cleveland's end.

"You look at it on the sideline," he said. "We're looking at the pictures, and it's us. It's not them; it's us. That's what I mean shooting ourselves in the foot. Obviously, they're a good defense. Hats off to them. They came out and won. A lot of it was self-imposed."

The Browns did find success through the air in the fourth quarter, as Brissett found WRs Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones for touchdowns that prevented the score from appearing as a blowout.

Those plays, however, were needed much sooner in the game before the Bills began to slowly drain the Browns' odds of coming from behind.

"Especially when you get down in the red zone, we have to score touchdowns, especially versus a good team like that," Brissett said. "We got down there a few times. One time, we settled for a field goal or two. We just have to be better in those situations, and we have to find a way to execute better and finish better."

3. Playoff hopes take another big hit

At 3-7, the Browns' playoff hopes are fading, and Myles Garrett didn't hesitate to admit that at the podium after the game.

The season is still far from over — plenty can happen in favor of the Browns in the final seven games — but the margin for error is about as thin as possible.

"Things like this move our destiny out of our hands, but we just have to keep on fighting, keep on going forward and try to get in that win column," Garrett said. "We're not out of it. If we do what we're supposed to and get rolling, then we still have a way to make it. We just have to keep that in mind and keep that in the forefront."

The Browns are third in the AFC North own the tie-breaker with the last-place Steelers, who are also 3-7. Cleveland has a few positives to look forward to in December with the return of Pro Bowl QB Deshaun Watson and some possibly favorable matchups against the Texans (1-8-1), Saints (4-7), Steelers (3-6) and Commanders (6-5).

Those games, of course, will only matter if the Browns can find a way to win games against Buccaneers (5-5), Ravens (7-3) and Bengals (5-4).

And for any of those games to be winnable, the Browns first have to stop beating themselves with preventable mistakes.

"We're too good of a team to have this record that we have right now," Garrett said. "We just have to be better. It's frustrating."

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