Biggest Plays

6 plays that changed the Browns' loss to the Buccaneers

TAMPA -- The Browns are no longer perfect in the preseason, which concerns very few people at this stage. The regular season is the important part of the calendar.

There was still a game to be played and viewed, though, and we indeed viewed it. Here are the six plays that changed Cleveland's 13-12 loss to Tampa Bay.

1. Olivier Vernon's and Sheldon Richardson's consecutive sacks

We've seen the Browns' defensive line wreak havoc against any and every opponent it has faced during this preseason, but no performance was more impressive than the defense's first possession.

After Jameis Winston moved the chains for the Bucs with a third-down completion to Breshad Perriman, the Browns promptly refused to allow a yard to the Buccaneers. Cleveland stuffed a run on first down, and Olivier Vernon's burst off the line and brief hesitation got tackle Demar Dotson off balance, allowing him to rush through him directly into Winston for a sack on second down. Sheldon Richardson joined the party on third down, breaking through the middle of the offensive line for a sack on third down to end Tampa Bay's opening drive.

This sequence of defensive victories set the tone for the night, which was riddled with takedowns of Winston. Those watching at home were quick to tweet in amazement at the Browns' defense. In total, the Browns finished with seven sacks, and 5 of them came from starters.

2. Austin Seibert's 54-yard field goal

We entered Friday's game with little clarity on where the two kickers stood in their competition. Greg Joseph got the night off, and rookie Austin Seibert took advantage of the opportunity.

Seibert started the game with his longest attempt of his preseason, from 54 yards. He drilled it with plenty of room to spare, kicking off the night with a much-needed jolt of confidence.

From there, he accounted for the remaining nine points scored by the Browns on Friday, with field goals from 36, 35 and 30. After a rough start to his first season in the NFL, Seibert finally produced a night that reflected his selection as a fifth-round pick -- and make this kicking competition a whole lot more interesting.

3. Ndamukong Suh's roughing the passer penalty

The Browns' offense, which seemed to be stuck in second gear for most of the night, was facing a third-and-10 near midfield when Baker Mayfield rolled right, evaded a would-be sack from Carl Nassib, and threw a 3-yard pass to Kareem Hunt along the sideline. That would've been another failed third-down conversion in a game full of them, but Ndamukong Suh's shove of Mayfield after he threw drew a flag from a nearby official. The call: roughing the passer, which gave the Browns a fresh set of downs deeper in Tampa Bay territory.

Mayfield later converted a fourth-and-2 on a pass to Rashard Higgins, and the drive eventually produced 3 points via a 30-yard Seibert field goal after the Browns failed to score in the red zone.

Check out photos of the Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers by team photographer Matt Starkey

4. Jamie Gillan's tackle of Bobo Wilson

In a game that turned monotonous (unless you're a fan of punting), a punter made a key play. In fact, we welcome Jamie Gillan back to the six plays that changed the game, because he made another game-changing play Friday in Florida.

Gillan handled punting duties all night and sent one to the left third of the field, where it was caught by shifty return man Bobo Wilson. Wilson appeared to catch the corner and was about to break out into a full sprint in a race to the end zone when Gillan, aware of the dire situation, sprinted up field to cut off Wilson.

Gillan's rugby background immediately showed as he cut through the return team with full momentum headed directly for the man in red wearing No. 85. Gillan fearlessly dove at Wilson and upended him, limiting a return that very well could have produced a touchdown to just 14 yards.

Did the ensuing drive produce the next play? Yes. But it was a demonstration of how the Browns' special teams units have improved significantly since 2018.

5. Ryan Griffin's 20-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Leggett

Blaine Gabbert's exit due to a shoulder injury expedited the appearance of Griffin, who has managed to hang on with the Buccaneers as a backup or practice squad player for the last few years. He proved with his play that his experience on the sideline is paying off.

The fairly mobile Griffin extended plays with his feet before making his best play of the night. While back to pass from the Browns' 20, Griffin looked to the very congested right side of the field before turning to his left, where he found Jordan Leggett open with a blocker ahead of him and only one man to beat.

Griffin connected with Leggett, who navigated around his teammate and through the futile tackle attempt by Lenzy Pipkins for a score that gave Tampa Bay a 10-9 lead.

6. Matt Gay's game-winning chip shot field goal

This one is simple, because it determined the outcome of the game and also completed a 16-play, 72-yard drive that bled 7:17 of the final 7:32 left in the game.

Gay knocked one off the right upright midway through the first quarter, which would have given the Bucs the eventual points to lead earlier than they ultimately did. He made up for it, though, by knocking a 21-yard field goal through the posts with just 0:15 to play in the game.

Gay has drawn plenty of attention for his strong leg during this Buccaneers camp, and though he missed early, he made it when it mattered most (in a preseason game).

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