Welcome to the inaugural Four Downs with the Cleveland Browns. In this weekly report, I will examine four takeaways from the previous game action, which will include any pertinent developments.
The Cleveland Browns have won only one Week 1 matchup in twenty seasons. They are 1-18-1 in the first week of regular-season action.
The most anticipated Browns season opener since 1999 quickly turned into one of Cleveland’s most deflating losses. The Browns were the most disappointing team in Week 1, who followed an offseason of hype with a humiliating 43-13 home loss to the Tennessee Titans.
1. Reality Bites
— 92.3 The Fan (@923TheFan) September 8, 2019
A massive dose of reality was given to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Maybe the Browns were reading all of their preseason hype and felt all they had to do is show up.
They showed up for the first three quarters.
The game was competitive late in the third quarter, with the Browns trailing only 15-13, but they fell apart over the final 17 minutes, allowing four touchdowns. The biggest play was Titans running back Derrick Henry taking a screen pass 75 yards in the third quarter to the house on a misdirection that fooled the entire defense. It seems that the Browns never recovered from that heart-breaking play.
Baker Mayfield got sacked five times, including a safety in the second quarter and threw three interceptions, all in the fourth quarter with one returned for a touchdown. Mayfield didn’t play well and got beat up by the Titans defense all game. This margin of defeat was the largest of his career, either in college or the pros.
Titans tight end Delanie Walker and the rest of Titans were tired of the hype the Browns were receiving and had his thoughts on the Browns:
”You all can crown them if you want to crown them,” Walker said. ”We still have to play football.”
2. Freddie Kitchens feeling the heat
“It’s one game. I don’t care how it counts on the scoreboard.”
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) September 8, 2019
The Browns looked like a team out of control. They were sloppy, undisciplined, and bullied in the trenches.
The Browns not only committed 18 penalties for 182 lost yards, but several were personal fouls that cost the team 15 yards on every penalty.
The 18 penalties were tied for the second-most ever in franchise history and the most since 1951.
On one Titans possession alone, the Browns awarded them 45 yards in penalties. That lack of discipline led to Tennessee covering 87 yards en route to its first touchdown of the game.
The offensive line was atrocious. Left tackle Greg Robinson got disqualified for kicking a Titans defender in the head. His backup Kendall Lamm suffered a knee injury and was lost for the game. The Browns were down to their third-string left tackle Justin McCray to try and help in the Browns comeback.
The offensive line woes might be more of a problem than anticipated. The Titans defensive line spent the afternoon in the backfield including veteran Cameron Wake, who produced 2.5 sacks at age 37. The line racked up six penalties against an average Titans pass rush.
Freddie Kitchens will feel the heat now with his inability to make the correct calls and lead the Browns to a win. The offseason was full of talking about playoff aspirations, but the team came out completely flat in this loss to the Titans. His ability to lead this group has to come into question. Kitchens wants everyone to pump the brakes:
“What we have to refrain from doing right now is overreacting,” Kitchens said in his opening statement. “It is one game in a 16-game schedule. We are very disappointed in the lack of discipline that we showed, the loss of composure that we showed at times and just overall not doing a good enough job from a coaching perspective and a player perspective to get the job done in a positive manner.”
3. Positive Vibes
NFL Sack Leaders after Week 1:
Devon Kennard 3
Cameron Wake 2.5
ALL TIED with 2
— Jayson Braddock (@JaysonBraddock) September 10, 2019
There were positive signs for the Cleveland Browns in their Week 1 matchup loss to the Tennessee Titans.
The Browns took the opening kickoff and marched right down the field: 8 plays, 73 yards, and a touchdown to open up their first game of the 2019 season. The drive included four straight plays of double-digit yards plus a long 35-yard pass to Rashard Higgins. Cleveland missed the extra point, which is troubling, but this is the kind of start that Browns fans wanted.
Defensive end Myles Garrett was great in this one and took advantage of the Titans having a backup left tackle in the game. Garrett started the season on the path to winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award as voted by PFN. Unfortunately, he marred his performance by losing his cool and took a shot at Titans tight end, Delanie Walker.
Running back Nick Chubb rushed for 74 yards on 16 carries, but he had only six rushes for 24 yards over the first half of play.
Even with all of the penalties and offensive line troubles, the Browns had more yardage and ran more plays than the Titans. Mistakes and turnovers will kill your chances to win.
Second-round pick cornerback Greedy Williams earned his first NFL start and drew solid reviews from his head coach.
“I thought Greedy played pretty good,” Kitchens said. “He had a penalty on special teams as a gunner, but overall, I thought Greedy challenged the wide receivers and competed every play. I thought he did well.”
4. The most encouraging news
The best thing that can be said about this game is that’s Week 1. The season is a marathon and not a race.
Starting 0-1 doesn’t mean that the Browns will not have a successful playoff season. This defeat will be a great test for Freddie Kitchens and his staff after getting punched in the mouth by the Titans.
In Week 2, the Browns visit the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. I know Browns fans remember the last time the Browns took on the Jets. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield comes off the bench and leads the team to their first win since December 24, 2016.
Now that the team was fed some humble pie, hopefully, they stop listening to the hype and show what kind of team they can be on Monday night.
I predict that they will win come back with a vengeance on Monday night and have a lopsided win against the Jets. Maybe that’s the homer in me, but a fan has to believe.