LANDOVER, MD. -- Whew and yeesh.
The Washington Redskins (2-2) defeated the Cleveland Browns 31-20 Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field. That's the good news. At one point in the second half, the game flow screamed disaster loss after a 14-0 lead turned into a 20-17 hole with the Browns (0-4) set for another score. Then the Redskins' defense, which looked lost for much of the game, came up with turnovers on three straight drives. The offense, fueled by running back Matt Jones, turned two of the opportunities into touchdowns.
The Balanced Diet -- The Redskins passed on running much during the 0-2 start. After 30 attempts in the Week 3 win, Washington stayed with the ground game even after a 14-0 lead turned into a 20-17 hole. Flashing a needed physical approach, Jones finished with 117 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries. Chris Thompson's speed helped and he caught the go-ahead score with a 5-yard pass from Kirk Cousins. Washington finished with 26 carries for 145 yards (5.6 yards per rush) while Cousins went 21 of 27 for 183 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
The missed tackles -- Whatever the final tally reveals, it felt worse in the moment. Browns running back Isaiah Crowell (15 carries for 112 yards) gashed Washington's defense repeatedly, and Cleveland consistently converted third-down chances (8 of 12), regardless of the length. The run defense remains a major problem.
The Turnovers -- Linebacker Will Compton forced Cleveland's first fumble and recovered the second, neither of which came from Crowell. Josh Norman had his roughest day with Washington as 6-foot-5 Terrelle Pryor (5 catches, 46 yards and one touchdown) caused havoc in the first half, but the cornerback made a diving interception in the fourth quarter. Jones scored from 1 yard out five plays later.
The Injuries -- Ryan Kerrigan (left elbow) didn't return after leaving during the first half, and Washington's pass rush largely went away with him. Inside linebacker Su'a Cravens (concussion) and strong safety David Bruton (concussion) were both ruled out in the second half.
The Florida man destroying defenders -- Red zone issues? Nah, that was so long ago. Jokes aside, targeting Jordan Reed (9-73-2) early and often fueled a resurgence. The tight end capped the opening two drives with touchdown receptions of 8 and 9 yards. Overall, Washington turned five red zone drives into four touchdowns and 31 points after entering Sunday ranked 31st in the NFL with only 21.4 percent of its red zone trips resulting in touchdowns.
The reality -- The good news is the Redskins recovered from their 0-2 start. The bad news is this performance won't cut it against legit NFL teams. Cleveland is scrappy, but it used a rookie QB in Cody Kessler and doesn't have much depth anywhere. Without those turnovers, both teams might have ended the day 1-3. Washington plays at Baltimore next Sunday, and a much cleaner performance will be required.