The Cleveland Browns beat their AFC North rivals on Sunday, in a game that saw the team comfortably take down the team that has caused so much trouble over the past 20 years. This game could be a tone-setter and a launching pad for this franchise going forward for a myriad of reasons.
11-42-1. That is the Browns’ record since 2010 versus all of their in-division rivals of the AFC North. Over that same time frame, the Browns are 3-15 against the Baltimore Ravens. The team has struggled in the division, which puts the prospects of making the playoffs almost impossible. The victory could set a tone within the division that the Browns are for real and ready to be real contenders in winning the division and being the head of the class. The Ravens have been one of the division torments for Cleveland, running rough-shod over the Browns for almost 20 years. Beating the Ravens, and in convincing and almost dominant fashion, is another show that that the tone is set for the Browns and how they will play versus their division rivals and the rest of the league.
The victory over the Ravens was not just a tone-setter to the rest of the division or the league, but also to the Browns themselves. The team saw what they could be. They set a level of play that will be a benchmark for the rest of the season. All three phases of the team were in sync and playing well. In the first three games, the Browns were not a complete team as the offense was limping behind the rest of the squad. On Sunday, the offense caught up to the rest of the team. Cleveland now knows what they are capable of when all three phases of their team are playing on or near their best levels.
Individually as each unit, the tone was set for what they much reach each game, especially on offense. The defense and special teams have performed well for the most part over the early part of the season, but the offense struggled. Sunday’s victory showed what it took for the offense to succeed. The offense must be innovative and varied with the play-calling allowing the players to be placed in their best positions. It showed that running back Nick Chubb is the centerpiece of the offense and must be valued as such. The offense was a smash-mouth run game machine that moved the ball behind that success. It saw Freddie Kitchens use his imaginative mind to illustrate play calls that were tough to defend. It saw an offense that was having fun. That is the tone-setter that the offense must emulate going forward.
The win is a launching pad for the rest of the season. It cannot be used as a top of the mountain-type win. This must be the beginning of the incline of success. The Browns were not perfect on Sunday. The offense still had their hiccups, questionable decisions, and mistakes. It is still not a finished product. On defense, the Browns performed well, but they were missing a few key players in the secondary and that will change the construct of the defense when they come back. The defense will need to be able to incorporate these players back into the depth chart without losing the level of play we have seen for most of the season. And on special teams, the team is relying on two rookie specialists. That means we will see some ups and downs and lots of developing. They must weather the storms and continue to improve even through the struggles. And overall as a team, there are still too many penalties derailing positive plays or pushing the team into deep holes that can be too tough to overcome. There are still many things to improve on throughout the roster.
This is where Freddie Kitchens comes in. He must show that this victory is just a beginning and that there is a lot of work still to be done. There cannot be complacency. That will cause the team to sputter and lose the tone it set versus the Ravens. Kitchens will need to find the right mix of praise and constructive criticism to keep moving this team forward and improving. Browns fans, this win was great, but we must expect this win to be a launching pad to even better things to come.