CLEVELAND – In a game that offered the potential for big fireworks thanks to the wealth of offensive talent on each list, Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns engaged in a defensive fight at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday night. Visitors emerged from a rather sloppy ride with a win of 20-13 after surviving a last second charge from the Browns.
This Cleveland impulse ended in an interception of Baker Mayfield in the end zone.
The Rams improve to 3-0, while the Browns fall to 1-2.
Here are three things that stood out in Sunday night's game:
1. Defensive pressure, offensive adjustments – Both Rams and Browns began to slow offensively, thanks to the pressure waves that each defensive unit brought from the beginning. You would never know that Cleveland was missing out on his junior high, as the Rams struggled to find a rhythm, thanks to the fast pass led by Myles Garrett, which made life easier for the supportive defensive backs that were in service.
Similarly, the Cleveland offense fought outside the gates. The Browns really had two ugly things, as Aaron Donald and the seven Rams players beat the Cleveland lineup and quarterback Baker Mayfield. In their third inauguration, however, the Browns made a fast-paced attack, with Mayfield's fast shooters coming out of the shotgun that helped them beat the fierce Rams pass. The Browns moved to the field and in goal position, but the move stopped within the 10-yard line and they had to settle for a draw goal within minutes of the second quarter.
Garrett recorded a strip and Cleveland recovered with 37 seconds remaining at halftime, setting up a basket that gave the Browns a 6-3 lead at halftime. The offensive Rams adjustments were evident early in the third quarter, including a healthy dose of Todd Gurley to make the game action work. The Rams stepped out of range and scored an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Cooper Kupp. But the defensive pressure did not subside and finally decided the outcome, as Mayfield was under pressure when his final end zone pitch was intercepted by Rams security, John Johnson III.
Irregular Night for Goff – Sometimes he played lasers, diagnosed what the defense gave him, and attacked accurately. But in other cases, Goff took a risk and forced play that he should not. Goff's blind side guards betrayed him in the mess of the bag. Then, with the pressure coming, he threw a wandering pass along the sideline and T.J Carrie – starting in Denzel Ward's place – made a dive capture for the interception. Goff had other moves that seemed to come out a little late, but the Browns' defensive backs didn't take the chance to skip the receiver's routes for interceptions.
Goff was at his best when Sean McVay prioritized the racing game, while the Browns repeatedly bit into play-action. The quarterback remained resilient, ignoring a foul or setback to provide meaningful plays for their team. But his chance to freeze the game with an authoritative pass ended in a Juston Burris interception after a tip with 2:54 left.
3. Headstart of the Night – In Rams 40's fourth and 9th with 9:19 left, the Browns followed – calling Nick Chubb – and only won 2 yards. It would have made sense to postpone the penalty of the game to give gambler Jamie Gillan more room to work so that Cleveland could trap visitors deep into his own territory. The Rams got just three points from this casualty loss, so it could have been worse.
Jarvis Landry's role, or lack thereof, is among the other scratching heads. With only three catches for 62 yards, the magnification looks like an afterthought on this offense. The game's official book listed it with nine targets, but a handful of them came in desperate releases rather than planned opportunities. With Odell Beckham Jr. commanding so much attention, Landry apparently should have the opportunity to make a bigger impact.
Follow Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.
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