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Cleveland Kids Ball Out: Cleveland Browns Week 9 Winners and Losers

Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs Kareem Hunt
John Sleezer/Kansas City Star

You just knew. The photos the Kansas City Chiefs social media folks posted depicted Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt walking off the team’s plane. The video vignettes that were aired showed Hunt’s mother handing tickets to the Willoughby South football team so they could come watch one of their own at the NFL level. And then there was Patrick Mahomes, a player the Browns had coveted only to have the Chiefs trade up and scoop the quarterback up right before they could hand in the card.

Factor in the fired head coach and offensive coordinator and a schedule that continues to provide body blows, and it almost felt like the Browns were lucky to escape with a 37-21 loss. Football fans saw what the Chiefs did against the New England Patriots. A week later, they did the same to the Cincinnati Bengals. Sure, the Browns had a better defense on paper, but paper flies out the window when reality sets in.

The Kansas City Chiefs are somehow ascending while the Cleveland Browns are spiraling. I was in person when Antonio Gates had a 72-yard touchdown in a blizzard as the Chargers beat Cleveland 21-0. That it was Hunt and Kelce to deliver most of the damage this past Sunday was as about as poetic as it gets.

WINNER: Baker Mayfield

Maybe I’m a bit biased here, but I felt like the kid played well. A passer rating of 95 isn’t ideal, but it’s not bad for a rookie who has yet to reach double-digit starts. The interception was ill-timed, but once again a product of game flow. He’s not forced to sling it downfield if the Browns defense doesn’t allow 37 points. His yards per attempt was acceptable. His two sacks taken was a vast improvement over the last few weeks. Consider this a win only because I refuse to call Mayfield a “loser” after this one.

WINNER: Gregg Williams, Head Coach

Facing arguably the best offense in the NFL during your first game as the head coach of a spiraling franchise isn’t e utopia by any means, but Williams appeared to largely hold his own. Going for two when he did were the right calls (spoiler: time remaining doesn’t factor into math), and shows an aggression and trust in an offense in desperate need of it. If we ignore the whole “I was offered 11 jobs!” thing heading into the game, Williams could have done much, much worse. Consider this one a function of expectations.

LOSER: Gregg Williams, Defensive Coordinator

Your top-five unit was torched for 37 points. Once again, a handful of plays were successful thanks to a defense that was missing tackles left and right. Pro Football Focus gave the Browns 15 missed tackles on the afternoon, fewer more egregious than Tanner Vallejo simply falling at Kareem Hunt’s feet during his 10-yard sweep touchdown. Gregg’s defense has certainly forced a lot of turnovers this season, but can’t seem to handle the fundamental aspects of the game. That’s an issue.

LOSER: Jamie Collins Sr.

The only person with more missed tackles on the afternoon that Mr. Vallejo (3) was a player who’s compensated to do much, much more. Collins was credited with four misses on the afternoon, and can be best seen missing Hunt during his screen pass scamper down the left sideline. For good measure, Collins also allowed his three targets to be caught for a combined 30 yards. Horrible day in the office for No. 51.

WINNER: Greg Robinson

While his run blocking was a bit suspect, the former second-overall pick stepped in for Desmond Harrison and delivered a decent afternoon, allowing just two pressures on 75 snaps. While this is two more than the guy who was there last season would have allowed, it’s a much-needed step in the right direction. If Robinson can hold down the left side of the line, it would do wonders for the Browns’ passing offense.

LOSERS: These Guys

You never want to be on that side of a viral video.

WINNERS: Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson

For those wondering if game flow would potentially take Nick Chubb out of the plan, the rookie answered with 85 yards on 22 attempts, including a touchdown, with yet another big play — this time, a 17-yard run. His counterpart finally got the nod, and rewarded his new offensive coordinator with nine catches on nine targets for 89 yards and two touchdowns. For an offense in dire need of big plays, DJJ was a breath of fresh air, notching a 23-yard reception and six first downs. Hopefully a sign of more to come.

LOSER: David Njoku

He blocked well and received a decent grade from Pro Football Focus because he didn’t drop any passes, but on a day where Travis Kelce is playing the way he did and the Kansas City defense can be exploited, I expected much, much more from one of Mayfield’s favorite targets year to date.

WINNER: Kareem Hunt

I remember my Uncle, who lives in Eastlake, telling me about this kid out his way who was just unstoppable on the football field. In 2011, that kid rushed for 2,500 yards and 39 touchdowns. A year later, it was 2,500 more yards and 45 touchdowns. Four years at Toledo and that kid totaled 5,500 yards from scrimmage, finding the end zone 45 more times. In what has been just one-and-a-half seasons in the NFL, that kid, just 23 years old, just eclipsed the 2,000 yard mark. Last year, deemed offensive Rookie of the Year, that kid tallied eight touchdowns. On Sunday against the Browns, he notched numbers five, six, and seven, doing so in front of his friends, family, and the players currently at Willoughby South. Hell of a story.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1059148428913995778?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

WINNER: Travis Kelce

One of my favorite moments of the year comes when the Kansas City Chiefs are on Sunday Night Football and they players introduce themselves by name and school. Travis Kelce, despite going to the University of Cincinnati, ties himself to Cleveland Heights High School. Much like Hunt, Kelce had a terrific season last year, hauling in a career-high eight touchdowns. On Sunday against the Browns, in front of friends and family, Kelce notched numbers five and six, well on his way to topping his carer year. Not bad for a Tiger.

https://twitter.com/Chiefs/status/1059173267401928705?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

LOSERS: Every Front Office Member to Pass up on Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt

James Harrison, I can understand. He was bounced around the league (and NFL Europe) before landing in Pittsburgh. Antonio Gates didn’t play a down of college football, and plenty of teams passed up on the chance to break the mold. Julian Edelmen went to Kent, but is from California so there’s some leeway. But that’s really where it ends. Ben Roethlisberger is from Lima and went to Miami of Ohio. Hunt is from Willoughby and went to Toledo. Kelce, along with his Pro Bowl brother, Jason, went to Cleveland Heights and went to Cincinnati. If those programs aren’t big enough, Michael Thomas went to Ohio State. Marshon Lattimore went there as well, and is from Medina.

This isn’t to say that every player who plays high school football in or around Cleveland is destined for greatness. It is to say if one is great, you should have a built-in advantage of knowing this before everyone else.

And now, the fans: