CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns had plenty of adjustments to make when they lost 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas for the balance of the season because of surgery to repair a torn triceps tendon in his left arm, which was suffered against the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 22.
And one of those adjustments was to get the ball out of the hands of rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer against a Minnesota Vikings defense with one of the best pass rushers in the league, Everson Griffen, going up against a second-year offensive lineman, Spencer Drango.
For the first time in a month, Kizer played a full game, completing 18 of his 34 attempts for 179 yards with no touchdowns, as well as five carries for 18 yards and one score in a 33-16 loss to the Vikings (6-2). More importantly for the Browns, Kizer did not turn the ball over in the loss.
“There are definitely some game-plan things where you are trying to get it out, but also, a new mindset of understanding that once again, a check down or a quick pass is half of the time just as successful as throwing the ball down the field when you have the playmakers that we have,” Kizer said.
“I think moving forward, you will continue to see that. When you have Duke Johnson, David Njoku and Seth DeValve, those guys who can catch the ball, and then, make a guy miss and run another guy over, why not give it to them as fast as you can and take the pressure off of my hands and put it into the playmakers’ hands?”
The Browns retook a one-score lead over the Vikings on Kizer’s one-yard touchdown run with 40 seconds left in the first half. Kizer capped off the eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive with his team-leading third rushing touchdown of the season.
Earlier in the drive, the Browns faced a third-and-13 from their own 15-yard line when Kizer fired a throw down the left sideline for wide receiver Ricardo Louis, who created enough separation from defensive back Xavier Rhodes to secure the 38-yard reception.
Then, on second-and-seven from Minnesota’s 44-yard line, Kizer scrambled around the pocket and evaded the rush of several Vikings before flipping a pass forward to running back Isaiah Crowell. After securing the catch in space, Crowell turned upfield and gained 38 yards, which moved the ball to Minnesota’s six-yard line.
“I think the way that Coach installs his system is that he is going to give it to you all at once,” Kizer said. “We did that at training camp. We did a little bit of everything during training camp. That gives us the ability to dabble each week into something new. I think that is something that allows us to be a little less predictable.
“I don’t think it has been able to slowly grow on us, but you definitely can go and see a little thing that we did in training camp here and there that have come out each week. It is about doing something different every time to make sure that you keep the defense on their heels and we have been able to do that.”
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