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3 Big Takeaways: Browns defense rallies but struggles to close against Seahawks

Browns turnover issues continue with late-game interception

Takeaways Week 8

The Browns were on the verge of winning for the first time in Seattle since 1989, with QB P.J. Walker leading the offense to victory.

Yet, that all changed in the final two minutes, as he threw an interception that set the Seahawks up with solid field position, and the Browns defense was unable to get the final stops necessary. They lost 24-20 in a disappointing and frustrating manner.

"We dug ourselves into an early hole, climbed out of it, and then we didn't close the ball game out. That's disappointing," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "I was obviously pleased with how we fought out of it, but we can't turn the ball over. That's continuing to hurt us. So, we got to find ways to not turn it over. And after early in the game, defense really settled in, but ultimately just didn't get the job done, and it's frustrating."

Let's take a look at three of the biggest takeaways from Sunday's loss to the Seahawks.

Defense rallied but struggled to close

After two early scores in the first quarter for the Seahawks, the Browns settled in defensively and held the Seahawks to just a field goal until the final minute of the game. They had two interceptions, one from CB Martin Emerson Jr. as he jumped the route in front of WR DK Metcalf and picked off the pass, and another from DT Maurice Hurst II after he tipped a pass and recovered the ball for the interception.

"Takeaways will come," DE Myles Garrett said. "Have to keep on playing the same technique that we did the first three games. The first three, four games we were in position, we just weren't finishing at the last moment. We had our hands on a couple would-be interceptions, a couple of plays that were almost strip sacks – even a couple this game – and just got to be able to finish. Got to be able to close it out from those plays to the end of the game. We have to be closers."

Garrett also sacked Smith with 6:40 remaining in the fourth quarter and recovered the ball to give the Browns possession. The Browns forced seven consecutive stops on third down, keeping the Seahawks from being able to score.

However, after the Seahawks intercepted Walker's pass with two minutes left in the play, Geno Smith was able to complete three passes to move the Seahawks downfield and into the red zone. Then, he threw a short pass to WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba who scored the game-winning touchdown for the Seahawks.

Stefanski said that while the Seahawks made a few plays down the stretch, the Browns also did not tackle their best.

"It's frustrating, but we needed one more stop," Garrett said. "Got to make those plays when we need them most. When we're out there, just got to make the most out of your opportunities. We didn't start off fast. We got down to a big deficit, and we fought out of it; but you have to fight the whole 60 minutes."

Continued issues with turnovers

Heading into Sunday's matchup, the Browns had committed the second-most turnovers in the NFL with 14 and ranked 29th in turnover differential with minus-6.

They only added to that number in the loss on Sunday, as Walker threw two interceptions, as well as a fumble. Walker was sacked in the first quarter and fumbled the ball, which the Seahawks recovered. They turned into a drive down the field, and QB Geno Smith then found WR Tyler Lockett in the end zone for a touchdown. Then, Walker threw an interception in the second quarter on a pass intended for TE David Njoku – but the Seahawks were not able to capitalize on the turnover offensively on their next drive.

Walker's second interception came just under two minutes as he was set on his first read and did not adjust, which set the Seahawks up for a game-winning drive.

"The second one hurt especially," Walker said. "The first one was a miscommunication between me and 85 (Njoku), and it's tough. It's tough. Especially in a crucial moment in the game, having the lead with under three minutes left in the game, we got to find a way to get that first down by any means, whether it's passing or running."

However, the miscues on Sunday – particularly Walker's interception in the final two minutes of the game – proved detrimental for the Browns. Stefanski said that they must find ways to not turn the ball over.

"Obviously some good moments, but we have to take better care of the football," Stefanksi said. "And he knows that."

Amari Cooper's continued success in the passing game

In Week 7 against the Colts, Cooper didn't get his first target until the third quarter. That changed in Week 8, as Cooper was a target for Walker's first pass attempt of the game on Sunday for five yards. Then he followed up that catch with receptions for 20, 22, 24, 10 and eight yards over the course of the game.

He had two critical catches near the sidelines, and also drew two DPIs.  Cooper finished with six receptions for a total of 89 yards. He was a target of 11 passes on Sunday, as Walker looked for Cooper to help the Browns get downfield and create spark plays.

Cooper leads the Browns pass catchers with 478 yards on 30 catches this season, averaging 15.9 yards per catch. His presence in the Browns offense is critical, especially when they look to involve the passing game.

"It's a great feeling," Cooper said. "When I'm off the field and I see the defense making a play, it's a spark. I assume it's the same thing when we're on the field and we're all making plays, it's a spark for the defense, and not only that, it's a spark for other guys on the offense to think, 'OK, we have momentum now. Let's start making plays. Let's go score.'"

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