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Revisiting five Cleveland Browns to watch at the Buffalo Bills

Buffalo had a plan and executed it on defense

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

It feels strange to write that the Cleveland Browns played “at” the Buffalo Bills this week given that the game took place in Detroit, MI at Ford Field. Whether the game was at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, NY or at Ford Field, it was going to go down as a Buffalo home game. The Bills were able to defend their home turf away from home, winning for the second time in franchise history as a home team in Detroit.

The Bills won a 31-23 game that was ugly for much of the contest. The Browns started fast, fizzled in the middle, and nearly mounted a comeback at the end. Buffalo sleepwalked through most of the first half, but they found their stride on the last possession before intermission en route to their seventh win of the year.

Buffalo had a clear plan on defense, and they executed it fairly well all throughout the day. There were some hiccups, for sure, but Buffalo broke a two-game losing streak by shutting down most of Cleveland’s top players.

Here’s how our five Browns to watch performed on Sunday.

RB Nick Chubb

It was pretty clear that Buffalo’s game plan was “do not let Nick Chubb beat us.” In that regard, they were successful, as the commitment to stopping the run led to Cleveland gaining half their average yardage on the ground. Cleveland had 80 yards rushing on Sunday, when they entered the game averaging 167 yards per game on the ground. Chubb came into the game as one of three players averaging 100 yards per contest rushing. He rushed 14 times for just 19 yards, gaining 12 yards on his longest run of the day. He did catch three passes for 48 yards, salvaging my fantasy team his yardage total for the afternoon; however, Buffalo’s front-seven did a bang-up job slowing him down in this one.

RB Kareem Hunt

The second of the two-headed monster was no better than Chubb was, as Hunt gained just 32 yards rushing. He did, however, do that on just five carries, so it’s fair to wonder whether they should have given Hunt more touches than they did. Of those 32 yards on the ground, he gained 21 of them on one drive. He had but one rush after halftime, and it was an 11-yard carry when Cleveland trailed 28-10. Buffalo’s ability to score was another piece of their run defense, as they were able to put enough distance between themselves and the Browns that the run was rendered moot for much of the second half. Hunt added two receptions for 22 yards, as well.

WR Amari Cooper

For the second straight week, the Bills faced a team with one excellent receiver and a subpar group outside of that one top option. For the second straight week, the top option absolutely torched Buffalo’s makeshift secondary, as neither Christian Benford nor Dane Jackson (but mostly Jackson, if we’re being honest) could handle Cooper. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett targeted Cooper a game-high 12 times, and Cooper caught eight passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t quite the beatdown that Justin Jefferson gave the Buffalo secondary last week, but it was Cooper’s season-high in receptions, and it was also his second-highest output in receiving yards on the season. Kaiir Elam and Tre’Davious White can’t get ready to play soon enough.

DE Myles Garrett

The monster edge rusher notched a sack on the day, but in a game where Buffalo was able to establish the run and continue gashing Cleveland’s defense on the ground, Garrett’s pass-rush prowess wasn't a big factor in the game’s outcome. Garrett had three tackles, that one quarterback sack, a quarterback hit, and a tackle for a loss on the afternoon. Buffalo was able to neutralize him through a quick, check down-oriented passing attack, as well as by running the football. Buffalo’s running backs combined for 30 carries, 164 rushing yards, and one touchdown on the day.

CB Denzel Ward

Buffalo struggled to involve wideout Stefon Diggs in the passing game for the first time this season, and part of that is because Ward was in bracket coverage on Diggs for much of the day. (Another part of it, I think, is that Allen was hesitant to force the ball given his recent streak of turnovers, but I digress.) Ward didn’t break up a pass on the day, but he managed three tackles. On the touchdown pass from Allen to Diggs, Ward started off on Diggs, but he jumped Gabe Davis coming across, passing Diggs off to... well, to nobody, as Diggs romped freely in the back of the end zone for an easy touchdown. Everyone stuck with their men except for Ward. It’s hard to say whether Ward was at fault, given that I don’t know the call, but this view of the score posted to YouTube by Mafia Sports Report is a great angle to dissect it nonetheless.