The Cleveland Browns not winning their season opener, a tradition unlike any other. Except this opener is unlike any other in the NFL. In fact, this is the first time we have seen an opening regular season game like this in the NFL in over half a century. The Browns did not win, but they did not lose either.
30 Quick Hits from the Browns 21-21 tie against the Steelers in the season opener
- A tie.
- Sports should never end in a tie. There is no other way to put it. Even though a tie is the worst possible finish in all of sports, the Browns did not lose a game for the first time since 2016.
- Four offensive drives in overtime led to no Browns points. All the team needed was three points to win and they had four chances to earn those three points.
- The final chance at three points came with 13 seconds left. In a monsoon, second-year kicker Zane Gonzalez lined up for a 43-yard field goal and it was blocked. Somewhat like the last time the Browns did not lose, the field goal was blocked — this time not in the Browns favor.
- Absolutely blasting Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio, Steelers defensive lineman T.J. Watt busted through the line and blocked Gonzalez’s field goal attempt, essentially ending the game in favor of neither team.
- Speaking of Watt, the second year defensive end was a problem for the orange and brown all afternoon. A problem would also be understood as an understatement. Watt finished the day with a team second-best 11 total tackles, four of those tackles coming for a loss, and four sacks. The way Browns rookie left tackle Desmond Harrison played today, earning four sacks seemed easy for Watt. Against Harrison or not, Watt’s pass-rushing performance was prolific and he made it impossible on Tyrod Taylor all damn day.
- Expanding on those pass rusher guys — the Browns have a pretty good one of their own. 2017 first overall pick Myles Garrett had himself quite the day, as well. Garrett orchestrated a Browns comeback late in the fourth quarter with two forced fumbles to put the ball back in the hands of the orange and brown offense.
- With less than half the quarter remaining in regulation, the Steelers lined up on their own 18, it first and ten. A two-score lead and the ball was in the hands of Ben Roethlisberger, one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL who up 14 points. He handed the ball off to running back James Conner. Off the edge comes Garrett, knocking the ball loose from Conner. Peppers picks it up, Browns have possession.
- Garrett concluded his debut in a season opener with five tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and a tackle for loss. The guy he stripped, James Conner, had an impressive performance as well. Conner rushed for 135 yards on 31 attempts and added two touchdowns — also adding five receptions for 57-yards.
- No Bell, no problem. In week one last year Bell ran for only 32 yards on 10 rushing attempts and caught three receptions for 15 yards. I do not think the Steelers are sweating his absence, the offensive line sure was not.
James Conner TD…and he was very happy hugging all his OL. Hidden message?
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) September 9, 2018
- The run game served to be more of a problem than the passing game, considering the team allowed two touchdowns off rushes. The pass defense was slightly better, even though they allowed 313 passing yards.
- New additions Damarious Randall and Denzel Ward (both former first-round picks), combined for three interceptions against Roethlisberger. The Browns only had seven interceptions all of last season, so the three total (which all came in the first half) is certainly a step in the right direction.
- Ward was incredible in his NFL regular season debut. The former Ohio State standout (one of many from the Buckeye secondary) picked off two passes in his debut. The interceptions were impactful and the pass breakups were superb. Ward was diving left and right against defenders, eliminating the Steelers from continuing their drives. The Browns found a good one in Ward.
- All around defensively, the Browns were not flawless. The six turnovers were great and kept Cleveland in the game all afternoon. Rating the run defense, it was poor and ultimately led to two of three Steeler scores.
- Offensively, there are many question marks that linger after today’s performance against the Steelers. Unfortunately, one of those question marks comes at the quarterback position.
- Taylor only completed 37.5% of his passes, throwing for 197 yards on 40 attempts. The weather conditions and poor offensive line play did not help the veteran quarterback, but with the first overall pick in his shadow, no excuse will ever be enough,
- To start the day Taylor was abysmal. Taylor was 5/11 passing for just 50 yards with over 2:43 remaining in the second quarter.
- When it significantly mattered Taylor was better. On the Browns’ second-to-last offensive drives, the Browns quarterback was locked in. On the opening play, Taylor found Rashard Higgins for 38 yards, setting Cleveland up in the red zone with an opportunity to tie the ball game. Following a dart to Higgins, Taylor found Josh Gordon in the end zone for a touchdown, which sent the game into overtime.
- Gordon’s touchdown reception was his lone catch of the day. Although Hue Jackson said he would not start, the Browns opened up the game on offense with Gordon on the football field — he started.
- Starting with Gordon was Jarvis Landry. In true Landry fashion, the Pro Bowl receiver quietly finished the day with seven receptions for 108 yards.
- Shifting gears, the Browns offensive line play was horrific. It was quite amazing that the team was able to get anything going on the offensive end from the performance inside the trenches.
- Left Tackle Desmond Harrison was horrible and it is not even exactly his fault. The fact that Harrison was the starting left tackle against one of the league’s best defensive lines speaks in itself. Two false starts and illegal formation penalties were the most remembering parts of his professional debut.
- The left tackle position needs to be addressed next week. Harrison is just not ready to protect the quarterback’s blind side just yet.
- Apparently, Austin Corbett is not ready to block in a regular season game either. The 33rd overall pick in the 2018 draft was a healthy scratch for the season opener.
- Unlike Harrison, Corbett was unable to contribute any penalties in the match. As a team, the Browns finished the day with 11 penalties for a loss of 87 total yards. Cleveland will not win football games like that.
- On the other end, Pittsburgh contributed to 12 penalties which cost the Steelers 116 yards.
- In a game filled with flags, surprisingly out of the 23 total yellow’s not one really seemed to shift the game in the direction of either team.
- My favorite drive of the day came on Cleveland’s first scoring drive of the game. The Browns ran for 76 yards on their scoring drive that compiled 86 total yards of offense. When you run the ball effectively, you win football games.
- Both teams ran the ball effectively, combining for 336 rushing yards in the contest for four of the six total touchdowns.
- When both teams run the ball with success, both teams win. Or lose? Aka Tie.
5 Favorite Tweets from During the Browns Game
Browns CB Denzel Ward is the first player with two interceptions in his first career NFL game since fellow Browns CB Selwyn Jones did so in September of 1993.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 9, 2018
Big day indeed for the Browns rookie cornerback. A cool stat here.
Bradley Chubb wouldn’t have picked that off!!!!!!!!!!!!
— Ken Carman (@KenCarman) September 9, 2018
Ken’s right, he would not have.
#Browns captain and LB Christian Kirksey said this week team is personally closer than it’s ever been. Dinner at players’ homes, fishing outings, etc. Told me: “The more you know a person, the harder you play for a person… Blood makes you related, loyalty makes you family.”
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) September 9, 2018
The Browns are becoming an actual team, which has not exactly been seen for quite some time. The little things like this are important, and should help the team improve on the field too.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) September 9, 2018
The Browns apparently tried to trade for every quarterback in the league over the last year. I applaud Sashi Brown for at least inquiring about one of the league’s top passers.
The Browns have a turnover chain now, apparently.
— Zac Jackson (@AkronJackson) September 9, 2018
I am not a fan of the turnover chain. Mostly because the Miami (FL) ruined Notre Dame’s season last year… but anyway the Browns introduced their own against Pittsburgh.
Quotes of the Day (courtesy of Browns official):
Head Hue Jackson
- On Gordon starting despite saying he would not start:
“The personnel group got him out there. The personnel group got him out there in the first play. I saw it just like you did. Not what I wanted, but we will get through that, too.”
My thoughts: Does Hue Jackson know what is going on at all times? He is the head coach…
- On if OL Desmond Harrison struggled in his first start, particularly in the first half:
“I would like to see the tape. I think there were some other areas too that we have to do better at, too. It was not as well as we could play on offense, and the guys know that. We will go back, watch tape and get better.”
My thoughts: Jackson does not need to see the tape to know that Harrison played poorly.
- On the team’s penalties:
“Disappointed. Disappointed. Our team has got to get better. That is what I told them after the game. It is not good enough. You take the turnovers, and the penalties that we had and our inability to do some things early offensively, those are huge keys to a tie game. We have to do some things better.”
My thoughts: The Browns are undisciplined and they need to fix that if they want to win football games.
On Gordon only having three targets:
“They did a good job of taking him away on certain things. We also knew that we had a chance to take the ball deep with him, and we were able to come up with a big touchdown. We tried another shot towards the end zone on the post route that did not end in our favor but have to continue to keep finding ways to get him the ball. Of course, he is a special playmaker, but sometimes the ball rolls like that.”
My thoughts: Only three targets but not lots of snaps. The biggest target came when it mattered most.
On his fourth quarter touchdown reception:
“We have been practicing fade balls all week, the offseason and training camp. It was called multiple times throughout the game. We had enough time in the pocket and he (QB Tyrod Taylor) was able to get it up in the right spot. I felt my feet get down. I just was not sure if I was in the end zone or at the one yard line.”
My thoughts: For his first catch of the season, not a bad one from Gordon.
On the blocked field goal:
“He broke through so there was not much we can do about it.”
My thoughts: Offensive line was terrible today and they cost the Browns a win.
On if it feels like a loss to him:
“Does not feel like a win.”
My Thoughts: Garrett says it best.
Key Stats of the game:
- WR Jarvis Landry: 7 receptions, 106 yards
- CB Denzel Ward: 2 interceptions, 6 total tackles
- DE Myles Garrett: 6 total tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles
- RB Nick Chubb: 3 rushes, 21 yards
- QB Tyrod Taylor: 8 rushes, 77 yards, and a touchdown
- LB Genard Avery: 4 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble
- QB Tyrod Taylor: 15/40, 197 yards, an interception, 51.8 rating. (Had a touchdown)
- RB Carlos Hyde: 22 rushes, 62 yards (had a touchdown)
- LB Christian Kirksey: 5 total tackles
- TE David Njoku: 3 receptions, 13 yards (had two drops)
Stock Up/Stock Down
- PLAYER OF THE GAME: Denzel Ward, In his first career game as an NFL player, Ward totaled two interceptions. The rookie also covered the league’s best wide receiver Antonio Brown well. He covered and tackled Brown on a crucial 3rd down with 1:37 left in the game.
- Myles Garrett, The second-year defensive end came up with two key forced fumbles, one which resulted in the following touchdown from the Browns. Garrett also registered four tackles.
- Damarious Randall. The former Packer corner turned free safety played well in his debut in orange and brown. Randall notched an interception on an overthrown pass from Roethlisberger.
- Rashard Higgins, Late in the game Higgins caught a 38-yard pass to position the Browns inside the red-zone.
- Josh Gordon, For just the second time in his career Gordon, was on the field for week one. “Flash” had a huge touchdown catch to tie the ball game with under three minutes to go.
- Tyrod Taylor, Aside from the late touchdown pass to Gordon, Taylor’s first regular season performance as a Cleveland Brown was underwhelming.
- Desmond Harrison, Was almost put in a position to fail from the get-go. It seemed like on nearly every play Taylor was pressured from his blind side.
- David Njoku, Had a pair of drops in the contest, only finishing with 13-yards on three receptions.
- Terrance Mitchell, While covering Juju Smith-Schuster the majority of the afternoon, Mitchell did not have the best of day’s. Smith-Schuster finished for 119-yards on five touchdowns. Mitchell did make a key pass breakup on Brown in overtime.
- Emmanuel Ogbah, It was pretty much all Garrett from a pass rushing end against Pittsburgh. In addition, Ogbah only added one tackle.
10 Concluding Hits from Around the NFL:
- This one seems obvious, but the Bills really stink. Failing to even earn a first down in the first half on offense and the defense made Joe Flacco look like an elite quarterback as the Raven finished with three passing touchdowns to three different receivers.
- Deshaun Watson was not the impressive rookie quarterback he was last season. In his return from an ACL injury, he cost the Texans a turnover early on with a fumble on a poor exchange with running back Lamar Miller. Watson finished completing only 50% of his passes for 176 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
- The Kirk Cousins era in Minnesota is off to a good start. Cousins earned a 24-16 win against an impressive San Francisco 49ers team. He threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns in the debut.
- Will the Saints crush everyone’s Super Bowl predictions like they have done in year’s past? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lit up New Orleans by scoring 48 points on the black and gold. A Ryan Fitzpatrick led Bucs team tied the team record for most points scored in a game.
- Talking about Fitzpatrick, there is some belief that the 14-year veteran could hold-off Jameis Winston as the starting quarterback in Tampa Bay. Fitzpatrick threw for four touchdowns and 417 yards against a Saints defense that was projected to be one of the league’s best.
- Andrew Luck is back. It was reported that in 2015 the Colts quarterback injured his throwing shoulder in a snowboarding accident — yikes. In his return to the regular season playing field in over 600 days, Luck threw for an impressive 319 yards and two touchdowns.
- That Patrick Mahomes guy is for real. The quarterback that Browns general manager John Dorsey traded up for and drafted in Kansas City is a good one. Mahomes threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns. Pretty good for a second career start.
- Mahomes throwing passes to Tyreek Hill is a cheat code. Hill caught seven passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Expect to see those stat lines from Hill frequently this year. Oh, and he had a 91-yard punt return touchdown.
- Case Keemun is really interesting. Keenum threw for three touchdowns and 329 yards, completing 64.1% of his passes. He also threw three interceptions. I can not figure him out.
- Congratulations to Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper on his first win as an NFL owner.