The Cleveland Browns were an embarrassment in their 43-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the team’s most anticipated season opener since 1999. They were not embarrassed because of the lack of talent or being completely out talented by the Titans. No, they were embarrassed by their entire own doing. And, this week, it’s dawg check time.
Let’s begin with the most notable and game-changing part of the game. The Browns committed an outrageous 18 penalties for 182 total yards. Yes, there were some head-scratchers by the officials, but that does not diminish the complete lack of discipline the team showed on Sunday. The 18 penalties consisted of an array of unforced errors. Whether it was a dirty, complete lack-of-any-thinking personal foul, or whether it was an unforced error due to a lack of attention or whether it was just a mistake made by a player due to them getting beat on a one-on-one level, these 18 penalties were unacceptable. It showed a total team breakdown from the coaches to the players.
After we get past these 18 penalties, the Browns also suffered way too many breakdowns in a variety of areas. There were numerous mistakes by players on both offense and defense where they were in the wrong position or made the wrong decision. That’s a lack of detail. The coaches suffered breakdowns. On defense, the rotations were stagnant and forced the starters to play an exorbitant amount of snaps at positions that had the depth to use to spell these starters (i.e. the defensive line). On offense, the play calling was a mess. They deserted the run game. They made little attempt to help the struggling offensive line in any sort of schematic or personnel maneuver. And, the play calling and refusal to take quarterback Baker Mayfield out of the game in the fourth quarter, left the young quarterback out to dry to get unnecessarily beat up. It was another team-wide breakdown.
The final tally on the self-inflicted list that made this game an embarrassment was the quit I saw. This may be the most upsetting part of the game in my eyes. On defense, the unit looked like they quit early in the fourth quarter. After the first interception of Mayfield, the defense allowed the Titans to go 35 yards for a touchdown in just four plays and under two minutes. The unit abandoned ship again on the following series after Mayfield’s second interception, this time allowing Tennessee to score a touchdown after just a four-play, 34-yard drive that took just over two minutes off the clock. They looked disinterested and defeated. The offense also showed glimpses of that especially from some of the receivers, who looked like their cornerback in coverage was running the better route than they were. The fourth quarter was a sad showing by the Browns and their overall effort. That is inexcusable.
This week leading up to Monday’s prime time game versus the New York Jets will be the biggest test of this young team’s season to date. It could be the determining factor to where this season ends up. I am looking at two men, specifically, to see what they do in reaction to this embarrassment of a game on Sunday. The first man is Head Coach Freddie Kitchens. Kitchens needs to set the tone to make sure that it is known that type of performance we saw on Sunday can never happen again. He needs to address the personal foul and mental breakdowns with the team and go individually to likes of Greg Robinson and say that the way they acted versus Tennessee is not tolerated. This has to be nipped in the bud now. Kitchens is a player’s coach, but he cannot let his team overpower him. He must take control of the roster and set the team straight on how this has to be better. They have to be smarter, not just tougher.
The other man I am looking at is Mayfield. This is his team. He is the leader of the team. He must lead the ship and keep everybody from jumping off or trying to go on their own to do things. He must keep them together. But, he also needs to let them know that their standard is much higher than what they showed on Sunday. This team is expected to be better than that. Be the leader and keep this team together and focused to leave that poor play behind.
Almost every problem in the loss is fixable. They were mostly self-inflicted wounds that caused them to be shamed by the Titans. Tennessee did not outclass them in talent or overpower the Browns. The Browns gave them the game with their constant undisciplined mistakes. The team can fix them and I think Kitchens and Mayfield will be in the lead to helping fix these mistakes. This is not a death knell. The team can still be who we all hoped and believed they could be. They can turn this around by addressing these fixable issues.
The Browns are in a dawg check time already in this 2019-20 season. Their adversity came earlier than most thought. How they handle the embarrassment of the opener and how they play on Monday versus the Jets will tell the story of whether this team is actually a team to compete for a playoff spot. Every player and coach must check themselves and see who they truly are and what they must do be better than they were on Sunday. Dawg Check.