Every game has key plays and big moments when a team has a chance to seize momentum and even take control. Each week I’ll be breaking down several momentum swinging moments in the Browns game.
1:49 First Quarter: Browns 3rd and goal on NY 14
The first momentum swinging play should be obvious. In the first quarter, the Browns took possession of the ball on their own nine-yard line and marched on a 17-play, 90-yard drive eating up just under ten minutes of clock. On a scramble up the middle on 3rd and goal, quarterback Josh McCown was knocked out of the game with a concussion, fumbling on the play.
The Browns came away from the drive with no points, and losing their starting quarterback. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Alex Mack moved the ball to the Jets 35-yard line.
Fortunately for the Browns, they were able to hold the Jets scoreless on their drive, and Johnny Manziel was able to come in and be effective on his first drive, throwing a 54-yard touchdown to Travis Benjamin.
Manziel of course has had elbow trouble causing him to miss the last two preseason games and not throw during practice until this week. With Austin Davis inactive, Manziel was the only option at quarterback, no matter how his elbow was feeling or how many reps he got in practice. Manziel didn’t fare well after his first drive, throwing an interception and fumbling twice.
10:07 Second Quarter: Jets 1st and 10 on CLE 37
Following the Browns touchdown drive, Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a deep ball for Brandon Marshall that was intercepted by Tashaun Gipson at Cleveland’s 20, but Marshall tore the ball away from Gipson and gave the Jets a first and goal on the nine. Two plays later the game was tied when Chris Ivory ran through the Browns defense (and specifically a poor tackle from Donte Whitner) for a ten-yard score.
Had Gipson held on to the ball there, the momentum stays with the Browns, as does the lead.
9:30 Third Quarter: Jets 3rd and 2 on CLE 20
In the third quarter, after a Johnny Manziel interception, the Jets faced a 3rd and short. They threw to Brandon Marshall with Joe Haden covering. Marshall made a catch on the sideline dragging his feet just inside the boundary for a 17-yard gain and a first and goal on the three. Replay showed that Marshall was bobbling the ball as he was going out of bounds. Had the Browns challenged the play, there was a good chance that the Jets would have been forced to attempt a field goal.
Marshall would score a touchdown three plays later to give the Jets a 21-10 lead.
13:28 Fourth Quarter: Browns 3rd and 8 on CLE 34
Alex Mack was called for a holding penalty erasing a 20-yard scramble for a first down by Johnny Manziel. The penalty was questionable, but this play was more a representation of the Browns shooting themselves in the foot. Instead of a first down in New York territory, the Browns were backed up and faced a 3rd and 18. Manziel was sacked and fumbled on the next play.
The Browns were flagged for 12 penalties for 109 yards. Those penalties continually put the Browns in bad situations, and when combined with five turnovers, were way too much for the team to overcome. The Jets scored 21 points off those turnovers, which was the margin of victory.