Browns lay massive egg in opener

Penalties galore, Baker Mayfield under siege, lack of discipline everywhere

September 9, 2019
Sep 8, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) is sacked by Tennessee Titans linebacker Cameron Wake (91) during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – No team sucks the life out of their fans quite like the Cleveland Browns do.

Following an active offseason of hype and expectation, FirstEnergy Stadium was as packed and electric at kickoff as it’s been in years.

Hours later it was as empty in the fourth quarter, well, as it always is.

Sunday’s 43-13 debacle was a pathetic, embarrassing performance for a team that has the talent to compete at the highest level in the NFL.

It let the Titans of Tennessee leave Cleveland laughing.

“They were who we thought they were,” Titans tight end Delanie Walker, who caught a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns, said. “Y’all can crown them if you want. Crown ’em. Still gotta play football.”

He wasn’t the only one clowning the Browns.

“Same old Browns,” chuckled a Titans assistant coach as Tennessee’s staff headed for the elevators as they exited the press box with the game in hand late in the fourth quarter.

They didn’t even look like the same old Browns, who are now 1-19-1 in season openers since 1999. They looked worse.

Freddie Kitchens and his team looked overwhelmed and unprepared as the Browns suffered their worst Week 1 loss since a 34-7 thumping by the Steelers in 2007 that saw starting QB Charlie Frye traded to Seattle the very next day – an NFL first.

Following the game, the theme from Kitchens, quarterback Baker Mayfield and the locker room was simple, resolute and consistent.

“Everybody is going to throw us in the trash,” Mayfield said. “I think that is good. I know what type of men we have in this locker room. Quite frankly, I do not give a damn what happens on the outside. I know how we are going to react. I know what we are going to do. We are going to bounce back.”

Like endorsement deals and magazine cover stories, criticism comes with the territory of being a pro athlete, especially when you lay a 30-point egg in your home season opener.

If you’re looking for an olive branch of optimism, we have one for you – in 2007, after the 27-point beatdown and Frye trade, the reigns were turned over to Derek Anderson, who led them to 10 victories in the final 15 games and made the Pro Bowl while setting a franchise record for points scored in a season.

This Browns team has the talent to repeat the feat, but they’ve got a pretty big mess to clean up first.

They committed 18 penalties, had their starting left tackle – Greg Robinson – ejected for kicking a defender in the head, were fortunate Myles Garrett didn’t get tossed for an open-handed punch and Devaroe Lawrence told an official very colorfully to have a nice day during an exchange between them that saw the two bump into each other.

“I did not see that coming,” Kitchens said.

No kidding?

Neither did anyone else in the stadium Sunday.

Fun fact, the Browns were flagged 20 times, but because two plays featured two penalties, only 18 of them were enforced for a whopping 187 yards. So, they had that going for them.

Fun fact No. 2, the last time the Browns were charged with 18 penalties in a game – 1951. The club record for penalties in a game is 21 – also set in, you guessed it, 1951.

Odell Beckham Jr. caught seven passes for 71 yards in his Browns debut, which was turned into a dud thanks to the volume of yellow laundry that included a controversial offensive pass interference penalty against him that wiped out a 22-yard gain.

“To be honest, I do not know how many penalties there were,” Beckham said. “I remember looking up at one point and seeing how many there were. You are not going to win many games starting off drives with 1st-and-20s to go and 1st-and-30s to go or getting a big play to see it called back.

“We need to be more disciplined. It is the first game so whether we lost by one point or 40 points, it still says an L on the records. It is nothing to panic about. Adversity has to come at some point in the season so why not right now?”

The offensive line was not great, but it’s difficult, if not unfair, to completely place all the blame on them.

With Robinson ejected, backup Kendall Lamm suffered a knee injury on the play that resulted in a safety and did not return forcing Chris Hubbard, who struggled at right tackle, to play left tackle and Justin McCray to sub for Hubbard on the right side.

Mayfield was sacked five times, including a safety, and he was drilled seven more times resulting in him having his first of what portends to be many X-rays this season after the game. Luckily the right arm and hand is still in one piece.

Garrett had two of the Browns four sacks, but the defense ran out of steam in the final quarter thanks to the three interceptions in four possessions that sent the paying customers home early.

There’s not much positive to take from the opener other than to throw this one in the trash and forget about it.

“Adversity is hitting early,” Kitchens said. “We are going to find out what kind of team we have now.”

On to New York where the Jets await next Monday night.