The television networks have been all-in with the Browns this year. The playoff game last year against the Kansas City Chiefs could of - and should have - been a victory for the orange and brown. But a non-helmet to helmet call plus Rashard Higgins’ fumble out-of-bounds became two situations that turned the game the other way.
And then the 2021 schedule came out and, what? The Chiefs in the very first game?!? On the road? With a full crowd and no more cardboard cutouts? Ouch.
The Browns this year have six new starters on defense but the same cast of characters on offense. Some have indicated it may be a preview of this year’s AFC Championship Game. Not sure if we can place Cleveland ahead of the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens, but who knows? They could. They might. Can they?
But they didn’t. The first half Browns offense was sterling whereas the second half’s version was a no-show. In the end, a 22-10 halftime lead evaporated into a 33-29 loss. They played the best team in the AFC and were winning, but lost. If nothing else, Cleveland has proven they can play with the best in this league.
So, how did the Browns do against the Chiefs? Who played well, and who didn’t?
First half Kevin Stefanski - The play calling in the first two quarters was outstanding. Not only that, but the Browns’ head coach went for a fourth down instead of taking the three points early in the contest and succeeded which became the first touchdown. Go for two points? Sure! Every decision coach decided in the first half was outstanding and worked. Multiple converted fourth downs, run when necessary, long throws, and stellar pass protection was the norm. The offense being aggressive in the first half is an understatement.
Opening drive - Cleveland simply marched down the field with confidence culminated with a successful fourth-and-three which provided the Nick Chubb four-yard score. After a penalty on the PAT, the two-point conversation looked easy. 13 plays, 75-yards, 7:07 of clock ran off. Nice work.
DE Joe Jackson - The training camp success transferred onto the playing field for the backup to Myles Garrett. Had a key sack and a tackle for loss which both stopped good drives.
QB Baker Mayfield - Mayfield was extremely accurate for most of the game with an emphasis in the first half. He often went through three progressions and had a nice touch when he had to. Yes, the interception killed any hope of pulling out the win, but in all fairness he appeared to be throwing it away when he was caught from behind just as he tossed the ball which lowered the throw. 21-28 for 321-yards is a nice job.
Pass protection - How many times did you see Mayfield stand in the pocket and go from one progression to the next to the next? The offensive line played extremely well when a pass play was called. The loss of Jedrick Wills hurt some, but Chris Hubbard did a valiant job in his stead.
DT Malik McDowell - One of the best surprises in camp, McDowell played a veteran game for his very first NFL start. The three total tackles and one tackle for loss only tell part of the story. With 6:41 left in the second quarter, McDowell nailed OT Mike Remmers on a shuttle pass for a loss on the tackle eligible play. At some point, the Chiefs just stopped trying to run up the middle.
P Jamie Gillan - Despite not playing all game in his natural position, when called upon Gillan muffed a great spiral from LS Charley Hughlett. That was a huge mistake, but the next mistake was just as critical. The left-footed kicker immediately took off to his right. This eliminated any attempt for the former Rugby star to try to get off a Rugby-style kick; which all Rugby kickers do every game while running. The Chiefs went on to score seven off Gillan’s gaff which became the difference on the scoreboard.
Third downs - Cleveland was 3-10 on third down conversions whereas Kansas City converted 7-11. Ouch.
S Ronnie Harrison - You are playing the best team in the AFC and you shove an opposing coach? Unless that coach said something about your mama, go back to the huddle. Please. The defense suffered greatly in the second half being one dynamic defender down. What’s worse, Harrison will certainly be suspended to compound the incident. Geez.
DC Joe Woods - So basically, the plan was to allow Tyreek Hill to camp out in the wide-open middle of the field where the safeties were lined up 15-yards off the ball, and then try to tackle him but not let him bury you deep. Oh, and no strategy about how to cover #87? Anyone?
Second half offense - Oh what joy the first half was: 318 total yards, 22 points, few QB pressures and zero sacks. The Browns scored on every possession except for the hook-and-lateral just before halftime. But in the second stanza? What?!? What did those players drink at intermission? Two sacks, three pocket collapses, 139 total yards, two turnovers, a muffed punt downed at your own 15, seven measly points, 24 total plays, 10 points surrendered to the Chiefs and just 10:57 of game clock used.
Milk Bones – some good and some with a bad aftertaste
OT Chris Hubbard - When Wills went down with an ankle injury, Hub was once again called upon to fill in. He played admirably at times, but also allowed a critical sack. With the Kareem Hunt touchdown run in the third quarter, it was Hubbard who pushed the left side of the Kansas City D-line over before RG Wyatt Teller then sealed off the edge.
LB Anthony Walker - In his first action with the Browns, he proved weak in pass coverage especially when asked to cover tight end Travis Kelce. Had several good tackles and led the defense with nine total tackles.
DE’s Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney - What was supposed to be the “Meet at the QB Club” turned out to be just an average pass rush. Both players had their moments though, including Garrett’s timely sack late in the game which allowed the offense to get back on the field one more time. But the duo, in this game, did not live up to the hype.
RB Nick Chubb - 15 carries for 83 yards with two touchdowns are grown-ass man numbers. The fumble was the defining moment in this game. You could hear the shift. And as a Browns fan, you felt what was coming next.
In the debut of the new defense, how do you think this unit played against KC?
Not great, but better than I thought