That is what every Browns’ fan expects of their favorite team’s players. After Sunday’s 38-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, one of the league’s worst teams who had just three wins and was in the midst of a six-game losing streak, fans are curious where the accountability on this ballclub rests.
Running back Kareem Hunt is also concerned about the accountability of his own teammates. He had plenty to say about the subject after the loss in the desert; a defeat that all but squelched Cleveland’s final hopes of making a post-season appearance.
According to an article by Mary Kay Cabot on cleveland.com, Hunt is frustrated and disturbed with the play of his teammates. He is quoted as saying:
“Yeah, I feel like there were some plays that everybody didn’t leave their 110% out there the whole play through the whole play, through the whole whistle. And we’ve all got to do that if we want to be successful.’’
If you read this week’s “Brownies and Frownies” post-game write up, “playing to the whistle” was one of the Milk Bone bad points that the Browns exhibited in Sunday’s loss.
The last place Cardinals posted 445 yards of total offense on Cleveland’s defense including a four touchdown performance from Cardinals’ running back Kenyan Drake. A victory over hapless Arizona was one of the sticking points of how the Browns could still make the playoffs. But now, only the slimmest of hopes remain.
Hunt continued that he witnessed teammates “taking plays off” during the game. When asked to be more specific of which players he referred to, or if he meant every player on the field, he alluded to:
“I mean, yeah, I guess so but it’s everybody. You can’t point out one person or nothing like that. It’s everybody, and everybody’s got to do their job. We’ve got to finish and we’ve got to come out strong, and that’s usually our thing. Usually you get off to a hot start, and shoot, we wait for them to -- they hit us in the mouth first.’’
Then when probed if “everybody” also meant himself included, he interjected:
“No, I just go out there and play football. I’m one of those guys that’s going to go out there and lay my body on the line each and every play. I ain’t going to worry about everything else. I’m just going to control the things I can control and if that’s making a block, or running a route, catching a pass, I know what I’m able to do when I get my opportunities running the football.’’
And not “everybody” was actually on Hunt’s mind. He had high praise for running mate Nick Chubb who ripped off 127 yards against the Cardinals despite not being utilized in the first half much against the league’s worst defense. On his opinion of Chubb, the NFL’s current rushing leader with 1,408 yards, Hunt explained:
“We’ve all got to be on the same page and Nick’s doing a great job. The dude’s a freak and we’ve got to just play together as a team and let everything else take care of itself.’’
When asked about the team’s leadership as a reference to head coach Freddie Kitchens, Hunt passed on a response:
“I’m not answering that. I just worry about myself, so I don’t know.”
Past Browns’ teams have been known for just going through the motions in the month of December. But this year, the atmosphere was different. Cleveland had a legitimate chance of making the playoffs especially while riding a three-game winning streak just before they met the Pittsburgh Steelers a few weeks ago. The Browns did not display any sort of intensity against a Steelers club that was missing several of their key offensive players and was in fact starting their third-string quarterback.
On the team’s effort against Pittsburgh, Hunt replied with:
“We pretty much waited for them to punch us. At halftime we came out fighting and stuff like that. But you can’t wait that long. You’ve got to be ready as soon as the freakin’ kickoff starts, that’s what we’ve got to do. We can’t come out flat and then something makes us mad and everybody wants to start playing hard. We can’t wait for somebody to hit us to start playing hard.’’
There is no doubt this franchise has the talent to compete against the tougher NFL clubs. This year alone they beat the Baltimore Ravens, Steelers and Buffalo Bills, all playoff teams. Cleveland also should have beaten the Seattle Seahawks and lost to the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots by just 14 points who scored two touchdowns off of Browns’ turnovers. However, this roster also lost games to bad teams such as the Cardinals and Denver Broncos - both of which were eliminated from playoff contention early.
Hunt said this about his role and the current team:
“I’m one of those guys who leads by just playing. Just going out there, honestly it’s not about having leaders. We’ve got leaders here and we’ve got people who love the game of football. It’s just we’ve got to stay together and come out ready to play. The most (Kitchens) can get us ready to play is just make sure we’re detail-sound and physically healthy to be out there. really don’t need much to get me prepared. Give me the playbook and all that stuff. If you don’t come out ready to play – I’m always excited to step out onto that field. I get myself ready to play.”
Obviously the Browns have missed playing time with oft-injured Olivier Vernon, suspended Myles Garrett plus injured David Njoku, but there are others hired to fill the void. And what was strange about the Cardinals game was Cleveland’s defensive coordinator, Steve Wilks, was Arizona’s head coach last year. If anyone knew that club and its strengths and weaknesses, it was Wilks.
Maybe it’s just a cultural thing with the Browns.