Browns Get Reality Check Earlier Than Expected, But Hope Not Gone... Yet

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#DawgCheck turned into #RealityCheck for the Browns on Sunday, there’s no doubt about that.

I had a ton of personal hype for the season, so yesterday was a bummer. Despite what Big Cat says…

…my expectations were reasonable (10-6), but, obviously, many fans were thinking too big. The loss actually reminded me of the Cavs 2014 squad losing to the Knicks in LeBron’s first game back in Cleveland.

Tons of hype. Crazy crowd. Dud.

Sunday’s loss to Tennessee was an ass-kicking, but one largely brought on by three-quarters of self-inflicted problems. Luckily, somehow, for now, the Browns issues can (mostly) be fixed.

I guess we should look at the problems and see if they’re actually fixable…

ALMOST 200 YARDS IN PENALTIES

This was the biggest problem the Browns faced all day long.

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That is just flat out unacceptable. They were penalty two extra times but those were declined, so, in the end, the Browns were flagged 20 fucking times against the Titans. It’s hard to beat someone when you just beat yourself all day. Look how many downs the Browns faced longer than 10 yards…

DRIVE #1: Twice (TOUCHDOWN)
DRIVE #2: Three
DRIVE #3: None
DRIVE #4: None
DRIVE #5: Three
DRIVE #6: Three
HALFTIME
DRIVE #7: Two
DRIVE #8: Four (TOUCHDOWN)
DRIVE #9: Two (INTERCEPTION)
DRIVE #10: None (INTERCEPTION)
DRIVE #11: Four
DRIVE #12: None (INTERCEPTION)
DRIVE #13: None
TOTAL: 23 times the Browns face a down and distance over 10 yards

I’ll get into the Browns being grossly outcoached in a second, but one of Mike Vrabel’s plans was to play conservative and let the Browns beat them. Once they achieved that, the Titans put the clamps down.

You can kick people. That just seems like the most obvious rule in the book.

The drives above don’t even paint the picture for the defense, which helped extend multiple Tennessee possessions, including their first touchdown.

It’s never a good sign when you can remove any questionable calls and still have 15-plus legitimate penalties levied against you.

(SIDE NOTE: There were some pass-interference calls called holding yesterday and my tin-foil hat theory is that referees want to avoid challenges… not a complaint, just an observation across multiple games)

FIXABLE? Yes. Discipline starts at the top with teams and fixing this problem for sure isn’t “easy,” but it is one that is in total self-control. Eliminating even just the personal foul penalties is a start and if the Browns can cut that shit out, they’ll already be in better shape. Let’s chalk it up to just having been an over-amped, out-of-sync opener, I guess…

COACHING AND GAMEPLAN

As I mentioned above, the Browns got outcoached. Mike Vrabel had a better gameplan and Freddie Kitchens and the Browns seemed to overthink everything all day.

The sack to put the Titans up 12-6 was a great example of this…

Just stupid, self-inflicted decisions.

Not running the football was also another problem.

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How do you only run Nick Chubb SIX times in one half? Dance with the one who brought you, Freddie. This drive right here…

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No, just no. It’s shocking because Freddie did such an incredible job at adapting everything to the talent and personnel the Browns had last year. He took an “okay” offensive line last year and transformed it into a formidable one in front of Baker due to his play-calling and scheming.

FIXABLE? Yes. There is a chance Freddie may not be able to handle the job, even I can admit that, but, for now, there’s no reason to believe he won’t scale back and go back to what worked with calling plays.

OFFENSIVE LINE

I view the first two points as something to just shrug off after accepting it is only Week 1. Moving on from the offensive line issues? That isn’t quite as easy.

While I don’t totally agree with the sentiment, since there was a multitude of issues, the Browns certainly had a glaring weakness entering the season.

Greg Robinson may not be great, but he was more than serviceable last year, so to lose him to an ejection for kicking a player is terrible.

Not only did that penalty ruin a drive after a momentum-changing sack from the Browns defense, but Greg Robinson was out of the game and in came Kendall Lamm, the backup. Guess what happened not long after…

Somehow it got even worse…

They replaced the backup with a guy playing a different position and then slotted in a guy they traded for last week into that open slot. It was a musical chairs of sorts on the offensive line and you just simply can’t win that way, especially when the line has problems to begin with.

Ugly.

FIXABLE? Yes.

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But if that isn’t possible, then my real answer is “maybe.” I have hope. They did lose a huge piece in Kevin Zeitler, but if Freddie can cater the offense to their talent like they did last year, there is a chance the line can be fixed. It isn’t really a question that this is the biggest concern, though, and it is quite a big one.

THOUGHTS ON BAKER AND THE DEFENSE

I have no concerns over Baker Mayfield.

The three interceptions in the 4th quarter were bad, especially the first one. But once they went down two scores and the air left the building, Baker had to enter come-from-behind force-it mode and it did him no favors. He wasn’t awful, but he still had bad throws even before the fourth quarter that he needs to clean up.

He may have to fix some things, but Baker was hardly the reason the Browns lost on Sunday.

I also felt as though the defense was better than the score showed. They only allowed 15 points going into the 4th quarter, with two of those coming off of the first half safety. Even those late touchdowns were aided by Baker throwing interceptions that gave the Titans great field position in Browns territory.

Don’t get me wrong, they had two significantly bad moments, first on this long reception by rookie A.J. Brown…

Poor tackling, bad angles. Not good.

The back-breaker and game-ender came with this 75-yard touchdown on a screen to Derrick Henry…

This came immediately after the Browns cut the deficit to 15-13 and Baker caught a pretty nice groove. Mike Vrabel’s staff dialed up the perfect play and flipped the momentum back to the city of the Music City.

Even so, they have seven tackles for loss, four sacks and held the game together, amidst disastrous penalties, for three quarters. Much like Baker, they weren’t great, but the defense is not why they lost the game.


That fucking sucked. No two ways about it. I fired off my tweets and have moved on. I won’t give up hope until four-to-five weeks into the season if they still stink.

We are on to New York.

Go Browns.