The Browns’ decision on a crucial third-down play against the Seahawks should have aligned with their strengths, but instead, it displayed a lack of sound risk assessment from the outset.
With the Browns facing a third-and-3 on their own 41-yard line and just 2:04 left in the fourth quarter, the circumstances made attempting a pass to extend the drive a plausible option. If successful, it would have been a bold gamble that paid off. However, in this particular situation, it not only failed but also highlighted poor judgment from the beginning.
P.J. Walker targeted Amari Cooper on the play. The pass ricocheted off the helmet of Seahawks safety Jamal Adams and remained airborne. Safety Julian Love intercepted the ball, and Seattle capitalized, marching 57 yards down the field to score the go-ahead touchdown with 38 seconds left, resulting in a 24-20 loss for the Browns.
The key takeaway is that this was not the right moment for Cleveland to take such a risk, considering they were relying on a backup quarterback who may have already reached his peak and has struggled with turnovers.
It wouldn’t be fair to place the blame solely on Walker, who has played with determination but was put in a challenging position with that call. He joined the Browns just recently on August 30 and is prone to interceptions. After throwing two interceptions on Sunday, he now has a total of five across his three games in Cleveland, along with one lost fumble and one touchdown. Expecting him to make a high-pressure decision with the game on the line is a considerable demand, and it’s evident that he stuck to his initial target, Cooper.
What further adds to the perplexity is that the Browns had been effectively running the ball on Sunday, a commendable feat considering the Seahawks’ robust run defense. Before this week, the Seahawks were allowing an average of 87.2 yards per game, ranking sixth in the NFL, and permitting opponents to average just 3.49 yards per carry, the third-best mark in the league.
It’s also worth noting that the Browns achieved this without their star player, Nick Chubb, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 against the Steelers.