Sunday’s 43-13 home opener loss to the Tennessee Titans wasn’t the same old Browns.
It was worse.
18 undisciplined penalties, an ejection, three interceptions, a shuffling offensive line, a bruised throwing hand, and a rookie head coach that looked way in over his head was what happened at First Energy Stadium on Sunday.
In Freddie Kitchen’s head coaching debut, the Browns put together a dynamic opening drive, resulting in a four-yard touchdown from Dontrell Hilliard. Rookie kicker Austin Seibert missed the extra point.
The debut of Kitchens and the “new Browns” was all downhill from there.
Kitchens preached aggressiveness throughout the entirety of training camp. The Browns committed 18 penalties for 181 yards, nearly an NFL record.
“We’re going to be the baddest [expletives] out there. I can promise you that,” Kitchens said during camp.
Perhaps in the effort to be the NFL’s Bad Boys, discipline was forgotten about. In the quest to be the toughest team on turf, starting left tackle Greg Robinson was ejected on Sunday for kicking a Titans player in the head with his cleat in a pile.
The offensive line was the Achilles heel of this team, that was an accepted fact prior to the season. With Robinson ejected, Kendall Lamm saw limited action before being sidelined with a knee injury. Then things got messy.
Newly acquired Justin McCray was inserted into the offensive line. Right tackle Chris Hubbard moved to Baker Mayfield’s blindside. That’s when the meltdown really ensued.
Mayfield was sacked five times in Sunday’s loss. One was a safety. He lost 41 yards total on top of his three interceptions where he seemed extremely rushed and hurried.
As a result, Mayfield would enter the x-ray room after the game to examine his right hand. The results came back negative, just a bruise for Mayfield.
As it stands, Robinson will be eligible to play next week. However, this offense, staring with the front line, has some massive issues to repair.
Despite the lopsided score, and all the penalties that came with it, the Browns kept things close as long as they could. With two minutes left in the third quarter, the score was only 15-13 and not all hope was lost.
Kitchens’ witty one-liners will get really old quickly if the Browns continue to disappoint. But he did offer a good point in his press conference after Sunday’s let down.
“This only counts as one game. The world’s not ending today,” Kitchens said.
Next week, the Browns will take the national stage on the road against the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. The Jets lost their opener to the Buffalo Bills. The magnifying glass will be on Kitchens and the Browns like never before. If they rally and win, the national hype will be partially built back up. If they lose, the criticism will never be louder.
If there was ever a proper time for the Browns to get an ego check, it was Week One. Hopefully, this punch in the mouth will allow them to corral the expectations, refocus, gain some discipline and focus on beating the Jets as a team.
Everyone knew the Cleveland Browns would face adversity at some point this season. The adversity hit sooner than expected, and it could have been a wake-up call.
“You take adversity and you either run towards each other or you run away,” Kitchens said. “I think we’re going to run towards each other. We’re going to be fine.”