DENVER, Colorado -- The Browns cleaned up the penalties and minimized the turnovers Sunday, but struggles inside the red zone and back-breaking big plays surrendered on defense sent Cleveland to its fourth straight loss.
Cleveland had chance after chance to put up points on Denver’s stingy defense, but it came up short more often than not. Inside the Broncos’ 30-yard line with less than 4 minutes to play, the Browns turned it over on downs one last time to fall, 24-19.
The Browns entered the red zone five times and came away with a touchdown just once. Austin Seibert’s four second-quarter field goals kept Cleveland within striking distance, but the Browns never could quite overcome the early deficit they found themselves in just a few minutes into the game.
The Browns fell to 2-6 with the loss while the Broncos gave quarterback Brandon Allen a win in his first start to move to 3-6.
Baker Mayfield had one of his better games of the season and made a number of nice connections with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry to finish 27-of-42 for 273 yards. The Browns just needed a few more on this night, as Mayfield’s fourth-and-4 pass to Landry across the middle, with the game on the line, was batted away.
The game took a turn late in the third quarter, when a Mayfield sneak on fourth-and-1 from the Broncos’ 5 came up short. A challenge of the spot was unsuccessful, and the Broncos quickly capitalized.
Denver, leading 17-12 at the time, went 95 yards on seven plays, the last of which went the longest, as Phillip Lindsay ran 30 yards for the back-breaking touchdown with 4:10 remaining in the quarter.
Check out photos of the Browns against the Broncos
The Browns, mired in red-zone struggles through the first three quarters, responded with their best drive of the game to slice into the deficit. A 27-yard, highlight-reel, catch-and-run by Odell Beckham gave Cleveland a spark, a pass interference call induced by Beckham on third down extended the possession and Landry’s 9-yard touchdown catch capped it.
The Browns got the ball back with 7:21 to play and a chance to win, and they appeared on the verge of doing it before their drive stalled inside Denver territory. A 39-yard pass to Beckham got Cleveland rolling, but a loss by Nick Chubb on third-and-1 and the incompletion to Landry sealed it.
The Browns were playing from behind for most of the first half because of a couple of big plays by Allen and the Broncos offense.
Allen’s back-to-back passes to Courtland Sutton -- a 19-yarder on third-and-11 followed by a 21-yard fade in the end zone -- staked Denver to a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Denver extended the lead to double digits less than 3 minutes into the second quarter when Allen found Noah Fant over the middle for a modest gain that turned into a disastrous 75-yard touchdown that featured three Browns missing an opportunity to bring the rookie tight end down to the ground.
The Browns chipped away at the advantage three points at a time, as Seibert connected on four consecutive field goals to cap drives that came up short either inside or on the fringe of the red zone. His last capped a productive two-minute drill and sent the Browns into halftime trailing, 17-12.
The Browns return home next week for their first of three consecutive games at FirstEnergy Stadium. First up is the Buffalo Bills.