The injury bug continues to follow the Browns, as they were hit once again in Sunday's game against the Broncos with an injury to their starting quarterback in QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Yet, it wasn't the only factor in Sunday's 29-12 loss to Denver, as they dealt with issues on both sides of the ball.
The Browns defense struggled to limit the Broncos in the run game, as they rushed for 169 net yards. The Browns offense also fumbled the ball five times, which the Broncos recovered three and gave their offense another chance on the field.
"Didn't play how we set out to play," HC Kevin Stefanski said following the loss. "Just didn't play clean. We punted the ball around five times [and] got penalties. We didn't stop the run like we expect to, so we have to learn from it and then we've got to play a lot better, coach a lot better next week, but disappointed obviously with that result."
So, let's take a look at three takeaways from Sunday's 29-12 loss.
Browns deal with more injuries to key players
The Browns have already handled their fair share of injuries this season, and they dealt with even more on Sunday. Thompson-Robinson was hit by LB Baron Browning in the third quarter as Thompson-Robinson threw away a pass. He walked off the field on his own to the medical tent, and eventually headed to the locker room with a towel draped over his head. It was announced that he was being evaluated for a head injury, and with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, was officially ruled out for the remainder of the game.
Stefanski said that Thompson-Robinson sustained a concussion on the hit late in the third quarter.
"He] took a shot there unfortunately, and you never want to see a quarterback get hit like that, but he battled," Stefanski said.
WR Amari Cooper exited the game in the fourth quarter after he also took a hit. He sustained an injury to his ribs, and he did not return to the game. Stefanski said that the x-ray on Cooper's ribs were negative. DT Jordan Elliott is also dealing with an ankle injury.
They didn't stop there. DE Myles Garrett's left arm was in a sling following the game and said it was a left shoulder injury. He was unclear on exactly when it happened in the game, but said he was trying to snatch off the block and he remembered feeling "a pop" in his shoulder.
"I'm not going to come out unless it's falling off," Garrett said. "It's already falling off. I want to win just as much as the rest of these guys want to win. I see the determination on their faces every time we go out there, and I'm not here to let them down. I'm going to give it every ounce of effort that I got. I don't care how I'm feeling."
Offensive turnovers were "momentum killers"
Entering Sunday's game, the Browns knew the importance of protecting the ball and not allowing turnovers. Entering Week 12, the Broncos had forced a total of 14 takeaways in their last five games.
The Broncos were able to do so early on against the Browns from the first quarter.
"The ball on the ground is never something that you want to do," G Joel Bitonio said. "On the road you're on a silent count, so there's a couple little mishaps on that. Those kinds of things add up and kind of snowballs on you."
With 4:40 left in the first quarter, TE Harrison Bryant fumbled the ball on a direct snap, and the Broncos recovered the ball. The Browns defense answered with a fumble recovery of their own on the Broncos next offensive drive.
Then, in the second quarter, Thompson-Robinson fumbled the ball, but RB Kareem Hunt recovered to keep the offensive possession alive.
In the beginning of the fourth quarter, WR Elijah Moore fumbled the ball on shotgun play that was recovered by Denver and set up their offense in good field position that they turned into a touchdown. The final turnover came with 8:28 left in the game when P.J. Walker was sacked for a loss of nine yards and fumbled the ball, which Denver recovered. The Broncos then marched down the field and ended their offensive drive with a field goal.
In total, the Browns gave up three takeaways with three fumbles that the Broncos recovered. They had five total fumbles on the day.
"The reverse, big momentum," Bitonio said. "I thought we had a good drive, we were on another good drive. Obviously DTR got banged up on that one, and that one hurt a lot. And then the quarterback sneak, we're usually probably hit like a 90-something percent rate on those; to fumble that one wasn't great either. They are momentum killers. Our defense stepped up. The offense has to do more to take care of the ball."
Browns relied on the passing game more than the run game
The Browns turned more to their passing game on Sunday against the Broncos instead of their run game. They finished the day with 107 net rushing yards, compared to 162 net passing yards. Thompson-Robinson threw for 14 of 29 and 134 yards, while Walker thew for 6 of 13 for 56 yards. Their only touchdown of the game came on a two-yard reception from Bryant on a short pass from Thompson-Robinson in the red zone.
RB Jerome Ford led the Browns in rushing yards on Sunday with 65 total yards on nine carries. Thompson-Robinson also used his legs early in the game and ran for 21 yards on five quarterback keep plays. They had 24 total rushing attempts throughout the game.
However, the Broncos are last in the league in rushing yards allowed this season with 1,707 total rushing yards. They give up an average of 5.4 yards per carry.
"We're always looking at ways to move the ball, any which way you can," Stefanski said. "A lot of it is predicated on what the defense is doing from a personal standpoint, from a front standpoint, so those are all things we're constantly talking about."
As the Browns fell behind early and then were down two scores late in the game, it forced the Browns into more passing situations. Walker recognized that when he took over at quarterback in the fourth quarter when they were trailing by 12 points, there is a tendency to try and drive the ball downfield in those situations.
"They know you have to pass the ball, so it is hard to do it," Walker said. "You have to take advantage of the opportunities when they do present themselves. I was not able to do that today."