The Browns are 2-2 four weeks into the regular season after their 28-3 loss to the Ravens on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium. They now head into their bye week in Week 5, looking to reset and prepare for the remainder of the season.
Let's look at three main takeaways from Sunday's loss.
Defense didn't live up to the same standard of first three weeks
The Browns defense knew the challenges that the Ravens brought, especially with how QB Lamar Jackson can run the ball. But they struggled to contain the run game, as Jackson rushed for 27 yards on three carries and two touchdowns, while RB Gus Edwards ran for 48 yards on 15 carries. The Ravens finished with 131 net rushing yards.
"Not like they were running anything we hadn't seen," DE Myles Garrett said. "It was just a matter of being where we needed to be, making our fits, making hits. There was a lot of missed tackles out on the field. If you're in the right place and you missing tackles, doesn't matter how well you're executing."
Garrett also added that they let Edwards break tackles, and that he was physical and aggressive in his runs. Garrett said that it needed to be a team effort to attack in the backfield. Garrett also felt like they were sometimes late when it came to tackling, and that played a big culprit in the Ravens' ability to run the ball.
Yet, it wasn't just in the run game. The Ravens were successful through the air, as Jackson threw 15-of-19 for 186 yards and two touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 142.5. The Ravens had 165 net passing yards. Both receiving touchdowns were to TE Mark Andrews, who finished with five receptions for 80 yards.
CB Greg Newsome II felt as a defense, they didn't do the little things necessary to be successful. While they started off the game on a great note, limiting the yards and forcing 3-and-outs, they slipped in the second quarter where the Ravens had explosive plays and broke through the defense.
"Definitely disappointing," Newsome said. "We got a standard that we set, and that's to be the best defense in the whole league. And I thought we played a good game, but it wasn't our standard. We're a great defense. So, we got to fix some of the little things up."
Rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson struggled in starting debut
With the news that QB Deshaun Watson would be out for Sunday's game with the shoulder injury, backup rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson earned his first start.
Thompson-Robinson preps each week like he is going to take the field. That process allows him to be prepared for any situation that could arise. Yet, when he heard he was getting the start, there was a level of excitement to take the field, especially because he didn't play in the first three games of the regular season.
But the rookie's debut wasn't as smooth as they would have hoped. He threw 19-of-36 for 73 net yards and three interceptions. The Browns had to punt on eight of their 13 offensive possessions.
"I tried to force some," Thompson-Robinson said. "All the picks, all force plays. Obviously, the last play of the game is the last play of the game. But those other two, you feel at times that you want to press, and you want to rush, and you want to try and score as fast as possible with how the game is going. And those are the times where you really have to lock in on your job and your job only. And those two times prior the last play game, I didn't do that."
Watson was on the sideline throughout the game, talking with Thompson-Robinson in between offensive possessions. Thompson-Robinson said that Watson was helping him see the other side of the field when he had to look elsewhere because of pressure. Watson passed along different details that he noticed, which Thompson-Robinson said helped him out later in the game taking more checkdowns.
Yet, Thompson-Robinson knows there are many different facets of his game to clean up to be ready as the backup quarterback for the Browns. But he sees the value of getting in-game reps and being able to look at the film from Sunday's game to help him improve.
Thompson-Robinson wants to prove to the Browns and his teammates though, that he can be the backup quarterback for Watson.
"That's the reason why I'm most frustrated," Thompson-Robinson said. "This organization, this team, everybody from the draft process on up has put their faith into me, especially being the number two. And today was not it. Today is not what the picture of a number two quarterback should look like. So that's why I said it's a collective thing. It's not just one or two people, one or two positions. This is all me as well as everybody else in the group. But a lot of that goes to me because I touch the ball every play. And so, there's, like I said, just a lot I have to clean up, so I'll leave it at that."
Browns continue trying to build their run game
The Browns run game also continues to have its ups and downs, as they rushed for a net 93 yards on Sunday. RB Jerome Ford led the Browns with nine carries for 26 yards, trying to move the offense down the field. Pierre Strong Jr. also had success with a 40-yard run in the fourth quarter to set the Browns up in the red zone, but they were not able to convert in the final seconds of the game. Strong finished with 49 yards on five carries.
But they also had some struggles, like when WR Elijah Moore had one carry for a loss of 20 yards in the first quarter.
LG Joel Bitonio said they couldn't find success in either the run or pass game on Sunday, and that it comes down to the blocking, executing and getting open. To Bitonio, it felt like a day where offensively, they did not play well enough across the board, and it translated to their struggles in rushing.
After losing RB Nick Chubb to the season-ending knee injury, the Browns run game was going to look different. Ford has stepped into that starting role and held his own over the last two games, rushing for 18 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown against the Titans in Week 3, and 26 yards on nine carries against the Ravens. Strong has done the same. Adding RB Kareem Hunt into the mix has helped with the depth and provided another option in the run game. Now, it's just about building that consistency over time for the running back room.