The Browns fell to 3-6 on Sunday with a 39-17 loss to the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium
Here's three takeaways from Week 10.
1. Struggles against the run led to difficult day
All week, the biggest matchup the Browns appeared to have against a top-ranked Dolphins offense was against their WRs,Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
Instead, the Browns ended up getting gashed not by the pass, but by the run.
The Dolphins totaled a season-high 195 rushing yards against the Browns. Their previous season-high was 137 yards. Cleveland never had an answer for Raheem Mostert or Jeff Wilson, so the Dolphins didn't need Hill and Waddle to turn in a big game. Not on a day where they could average 5.9 yards per carry.
"We didn't stop the run," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "That's part of this game where they have two receivers you're obviously trying to stop, but a big part of that is we have to stop the run. We didn't do that enough."
The problems looked similar to what the defense experienced in the first month or two of the season, where inconsistent tackling and lack of executing proper gap assignments led to big gains — and few wins.
The Browns thought they were over that hump, especially after their commanding win over the Bengals in Week 8. But those issues returned in a big way Sunday against a run game that hadn't been spectacular before. Miami entered Week 10 ranked 29th in the league in rushing.
The fireworks, if the Browns allowed any, were expected to come from Hill and Waddle. Cleveland held them to a combined 110 receiving yards, but that number doesn't matter when the opposing run game was able to operate at a season-best pace.
"I have to look at the tape, but a lot of times it's just simple stuff, like getting off blocks and tackling and those types of things," Stefanski said. "We didn't do that today."
Check out photos of the Browns against the Dolphins in Week 10
2. A slow day from Chubb, Hunt didn't help, either
Not only could the Browns not stop the run — they couldn't run it themselves, either.
Cleveland totaled 112 rushing yards, its lowest since Week 6 (70 yards) and Week 7 (113 yards). Part of the low output was because the Browns needed to turn to the pass once the Dolphins began to pull ahead, but the Browns never truly found a rhythm in their run game — or any part of their offense, for that matter.
"We tried to get the run game going a few times," Stefanski said. "Tried to push the ball down the field a few times, but we didn't have those opportunities. We just didn't do enough early to score some points. It's frustrating, obviously. You want to start fast, but we didn't do enough as a football team early to score points."
Nick Chubb finished with 11 carries for 63 yards and one touchdown. Kareem Hunt had six carries for nine yards.
The Browns had just 30 yards on 14 carries in the first half. The longest run of the day was a 33-yard touchdown from Chubb to start the fourth quarter, but the game had already begun to get out of hand by that point.
By then, the Browns needed QB Jacoby Brissett to pass their way back, but the Dolphins' offensive success — they scored touchdown on seven of their nine offensive drives — was a pace the Browns couldn't match without success from their running backs.
"That's part of our game, to be able to run the ball," Brissett said. "We weren't as successful as we wanted to be in that area, but I know the guys in that room. I know the guys up front, and I know … the coaches in that room are going to watch the film, correct it and get better from it."
3. Browns have to correct issues before Deshaun returns
The Browns have two more difficult opponents ahead of them in the Bills and Buccaneers, and Myles Garrett didn't mince words about what the Browns need to do for them to be in shape for a playoff run when Deshaun Watson returns in Week 13.
"We have to win the next two," he said. "First, we have to beat the Bills, and then we get onto the next one, but if we're looking into the future, we have to win both of them."
At 3-6, the Browns' margin for error in the next two games before Watson's return are razor thin. It's not impossible for the Browns to make the playoffs, but they now have to win — at bare minimum — one of the next two games to be in an optimal position for a playoff chase.
That means quickly finding a way to eliminate all the errors that cost them in Miami. The Browns know they can do it because they played far better in Week 8 against a talented Bengals team, but they have yet to show they can repeat that success in consecutive games.
That has to change in the next two weeks.
"This season goes fast, but when it clicks, it clicks," Brissett said. "We have another opportunity next week, and we're looking to put a better performance out there."