When you break down an NFL game, many times you can point to a couple of key plays that swing the momentum. In the Browns’ loss to the Rams on Sunday you can really pin it down to a back-to-back series in the third quarter.
Third Quarter, Browns 1st and 10 on CLE 25
The Rams took a 10-3 lead into halftime, but those 10 points were a gift from the Browns offense. A fumble on the Browns third play of the game was scooped up and run back for a touchdown. Another fumble on the Browns second possession gave St. Louis the ball inside Browns territory, which they only converted into a field goal.
The Browns defense managed to contain Todd Gurley in the first half, and the Rams were not able to do anything offensively. While struggling to hold on to the football, the Browns were at least able to drive a little on the Rams and could have taken the opportunity in the third quarter to take charge of the game. Instead, this horrific drive ensued.
On consecutive plays, the Browns drew penalty flags, first a false start on Jim Dray, and then a holding penalty on Gary Barnidge that wiped out a 10-yard Turbin run. The Browns were now backed up to the ten, with a first and 25.
On second down, Josh McCown threw down the middle of the field under heavy pressure and connected with Gary Barnidge, who made yet another great catch, this time leaping and tipping the ball to himself before hauling it in and getting a first down at the 42-yard line.
The next play brought about a third penalty on the drive, and another holding call, this time on Cameron Erving giving the Browns a first and 20.
After a Barnidge catch, McCown threw a sideline pass to Travis Benjamin deep into Rams territory for a 36-yard gain. But you guessed it, wiped out by another holding penalty. This one was on Joe Thomas.
On third and 19, McCown found Duke Johnson, but he only picked up 14 yards, not enough to overcome the penalty and the Browns were forced to punt.
That’s four penalties for 35 yards on the drive, wiping out first down gains of 10 and 36 yards.
Third Quarter, Rams 1st and 10 on STL 12
On the ensuing Rams drive, it took just five plays for the Rams to take control of the game by going the length of the field for a score. Nick Foles found Kenny Britt deep twice, one that was incomplete but a pass interference flag gave the Rams 26 yards, and then a deep pass for 41 yards against Jordan Poyer.
Todd Gurley ran for the touchdown to put the Rams up 17-6. Gurley tore the Browns up in the second half and iced the game for St. Louis. Well, that and another pair of fumbles by the Browns.
These two drives were back-breakers for the Browns. This is where the game swung and was lost.