Browns stumble late, fall to Vikings in London

TWICKENHAM, England — The Browns traveled overseas in search of their first win of 2017. 

They left the United Kingdom empty-handed.

Cleveland watched a lead at halftime evaporate in a 33-16 loss to the Vikings on Sunday afternoon at Twickenham Stadium. After an encouraging and spirited first half, the young Browns struggled on both sides of the ball and fell to 0-8 with the bye week approaching.

The Browns were outscored 21-3 in the second half, outgained 377-239 and seemingly ran out of gas in a game in which their defense was on the field for more than 37 minutes.

A turning point came when Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon scored on a go-ahead, 1-yard run that punctuated a long, backbreaking drive late in the third quarter.

Cleveland's defense, ranked ninth in yards allowed per game, turned in an impressive first half display but couldn't finish that way in the final 30 minutes. The group forced four punts and three field goals but was unable to contain Minnesota's playmakers in the second half. 

McKinnon combined for 152 yards rushing and receiving while wide receiver Adam Thielen found space in a shorthanded Browns secondary, catching five balls for 98 yards and a touchdown.

The Browns got off to a promising start when linebacker Joe Schobert intercepted quarterback Case Keenum on the first series of the game. Two plays later, running back Isaiah Crowell scored on a 26-yard run that gave Cleveland its first lead in the first quarter this season. 

Cleveland's defense was all over the field in the first half, flustering Keenum and bottling up the Vikings playmakers downfield. In the first quarter, the Browns allowed 73 yards on four drives, forcing two punts and a field goal after a muffed punt forced them back onto the field. [



Keenum and Co., though, bounced back as the game went on. The veteran quarterback passed for 288 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 27-of-43 attempts.

The Browns entered the game without five defensive playmakers, including rookie defensive end Myles Garrett and defensive backs Jason McCourty and safety Jabrill Peppers, who missed last weekend's game against the Titans.

Garrett, the first-overall NFL Draft pick who leads the team with four sacks in three career games, did not make the trip to London after being placed into the league's concussion protocol earlier in the week.

McCourty, who leads the Browns with three interceptions, was listed as doubtful (ankle) on Friday's injury report while Peppers (toe) was questionable.

Cleveland's offense, meanwhile, struggled against one of the league's best units, playing without Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas for the first time in a decade. Thomas, who suffered a season-ending triceps injury last weekend, was placed on injured reserve.

In his seventh start in eight games, rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer passed for just 142 yards but engineered a long drive he capped with a 1-yard touchdown run before halftime. The series gave Cleveland their biggest lead of the afternoon and sent its sideline into a celebration. 

Kizer, who has struggled with turnovers this season and been benched at times because of them, emphasized moving past those giveaways in interviews this past week. He made good on that Sunday, committing zero turnovers for the second time this year.

But the Browns continued a season-long battle with self-inflicted wounds in the second half. Crowell fumbled on the first drive after intermission and Gonzalez missed a 35-yard field goal that squandered a 71-yard kick return by rookie running back Matt Dayes.

Those miscues proved to be the difference in London.

The Browns play at Detroit Nov. 12.

The Browns play the Minnesota Vikings in London in Week 8.

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