1. Alex Smith's scrambling puts Browns in early hole
Browns veteran safety Donte Whitner shook his head Sunday as he lamented the Browns defense's struggles to contain Alex Smith as a runner.
Nobody on Cleveland's defense knows this unheralded wrinkle in Smith's game better than Whitner, a former teammate of Smith's in San Francisco. In the wake of Sunday's 17-13 loss, Whitner remembered a scrambling touchdown Smith delivered in the playoffs a few years back against the Saints and relayed it as an example of what the veteran is capable of.
On Sunday, it was Smith's ability to find wipe open holes in Cleveland's defense to pick up a number of key first downs during Kansas City's 17-point first half.
"Even when we had him covered up, he was still breaking through going for 10, 20, 30 yards," Whitner said. "He's always been dangerous. He's just utilizing his feet more now."
All 54 of Smith's rushing yards came in Sunday's first half. Half of his six attempts went for a first down, including a 9-yarder on fourth-and-5 on Kansas City's second drive of the game, which ended with a field goal.
The Browns have surrendered 100 rushing yards to quarterbacks in their last two games. Seattle's Russell Wilson was similarly effective at picking his spots and compiling yards in chunks at key moments against the Browns.
Smith's last run was his longest, as he kick-started a key Chiefs possession near the end of the first half with a 29-yarder up the gut of Cleveland's defense. The Chiefs found the end zone just a few plays later to extend their lead, 17-3.
Whitner said there was disappointment among Cleveland's defenders because they practiced specific plays the Chiefs ran but couldn't execute. That changed in the second half, as the Browns prevented Smith from scrambling and held the Chiefs scoreless.
"We came out and stuck to our game plan and we understood what they were trying to do with their formations," Whitner said. "That's why we didn't give up any points in the second half."
2. Injury update
The Browns lost two key special teams players to injury early in Sunday's game, as kick returner Raheem Mostert went down with an ankle injury and wide receiver Marlon Moore suffered a concussion.
Mostert was replaced by rookie Darius Jennings, who re-signed with the team earlier in the week. Jennings also saw an increase in snaps at wide receiver after Moore's injury.
All six of the players listed as questionable heading into Sunday's game – DB K'Waun Williams, OL Alex Mack, OL Joe Thomas, OL Cameron Erving, RB Duke Johnson Jr. and Moore – were active and played.
3. Gutsy time for a fake
The Browns waited until a pivotal moment in Sunday's game to unleash their first trick special teams play of the season.
Trailing 17-10 and faced with a fourth-and-8 at their own 22-yard line, the Browns lined up in their traditional punt formation. The snap, however, never reached punter Andy Lee. The up man, safety Jordan Poyer, took the direct snap and plowed forward for a 10-yard gain. It wasn't easy, as Poyer had to drag a defender to reach the 30-yard line.
The play extended what would be Cleveland's longest drive of the season and the longest, in terms of plays, the NFL has seen since 2012. The 21-play, 62-yard drive that consumed more than 12 minutes ended with a Travis Coons field goal.
4. Big day for Orchard
Nate Orchard's continuous improvement was on display Sunday, as the rookie linebacker snagged the first interception of his NFL career and added to his sack total.
Orchard's interception put a halt to a promising Kansas City possession during the second quarter. Orchard and Craig Robertson both converged on the pass, the rookie came away with it and he was off to the races. Orchard showed some nifty footwork to return the pick 46 yards and into Kansas City territory.
Orchard's third sack of the season was another drive-killer. He was the beneficiary of a solid overall Browns pass rush and pounced at the opportunity when it presented itself, dropping Smith for a 3-yard loss on third-and-long midway through the third quarter. It was the sixth and final offensive play Kansas City ran in the third quarter.
5. Another block
Coons added to his field goal total with two Sunday, but he had another long attempt blocked.
Coons' 51-yard attempt at the end of Sunday's second quarter never had a shot, as Kansas City's Daniel Sorensen burst through the right side of Cleveland's line and got a hand on the attempt.
Coons is 24-of-28 on the season with all four of his misses coming on blocks. The blocks have occurred in four of the last five games.