There is no column in the standings for how pretty a win must be in the NFL. All four teams in the AFC North are deadlocked at 1-1 after two games.

In week two, the Cleveland Browns beat the Houston Texans, 31-21, while the Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Chicago Bears, 20-17. The Baltimore Ravens edged the Kansas City Chiefs, 36-35, the same Chiefs which came back to beat the Browns, 33-29, in week one. And the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Las Vegas Raiders, 26-17.

It was a packed house at FirstEnergy Stadium in downtown Cleveland. No matter what happened in the game, pictures of fans in the stadium and tailgating was a big win for all of us looking to see things the way they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The game was a reminder that nobody gets a free pass to the playoffs and that the Browns have work to do.

The defense is still trying to find its identity. The front office made plenty of moves in the offseason to make the team faster. Perhaps, the reality of light practices during the summer turns into sloppy tackling in the fall. It holds true for all on NFL teams.

The Browns continue to frustrate on third down. In two weeks, the Browns have struggled. According to Teamrankings.com, the Browns are allowing their opponents to convert 62.9% of the time. One good sign moving forward is the Texans had three drives of just three plays in the second half.

Former Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor was having success in the game before getting hurt. It’s a reality of the game and the Browns took advantage of it. The Browns have allowed 27 points per game after two weeks. Eleven teams are giving up more points per game. If you look at the numbers over the last year, most teams can put up 21 points just by walking on the field.

The Browns’ defense needs an identity. I think we want it to be a barrage of sacks from Miles Garrett and Jadaveon Clowney. Garrett has one sack. It just hasn’t happened yet and the heat will turn up on defensive coordinator Joe Woods. Fans are looking for pressure on opposing quarterbacks, especially when they see a young one like Davis Mills in the game. The rookie replaced Taylor and was expected to get his first start, playing on the national spotlight on Thursday Night Football this week.

Taylor will be out at least four weeks with a hamstring injury. The former Browns’ quarterback can’t catch a break. In Cleveland, a concussion suffered by him opened the door for Baker Mayfield. In Los Angeles, his lung was accidentally punctured by a doctor, and that started Justin Herbert’s career.

Mayfield shook off a shoulder injury in the win this week. He was trying to make a play after a turnover and we all know his gritty attitude on the field. Let’s hope in the future, he let’s somebody else do the tackling. It’s hard to get mad at a player for being aggressive, but I just want Mayfield to stay healthy, so the long list of Browns’ quarterbacks since 1999 can stay in hibernation.

Mayfield was able to come back in the game. The short passing attack and the running backs made the difference. Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Demetric Felton and the rest of the Browns grinded their way to the first win of the season.

Losing the team’s best receiver, Jarvis Landry, who will be out several weeks following a knee injury he suffered on the first drive is going to sting. We will see if Odell Beckham Jr. is ready to play Sept. 26 against the Bears. They would use him for the first time after last year’s season ending knee injury.

The Browns will host Chicago at 1 p.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Bengals struggle in week two

The positive vibe Cincinnati had in an opening week win over the Minnesota Vikings turned sour in week two.

Four turnovers in the second half, including a pick six leaves second-year quarterback Joe Burrow with plenty of game video to watch and learn as he threw three interceptions. If you are looking for a good note on the Bengals, you need to look at the big picture on defense.

Chicago only had one touchdown when the offense was coughing up the ball. The score came on a short field as well. If Burrow played like he did in week one against Minnesota, the Bengals would be 2-0.

Cincinnati will play at Pittsburgh at 1 p.m. Aug. 26.

Joseph misses golden opportunity

The life of an NFL kicker can be short-lived. Former Browns and current Vikings kicker Greg Joseph is hanging on in Minnesota – by a thread.

Joseph missed a game-winning field goal against the Arizona Cardinals Sept. 19.

He did make two 50-yard-plus three-pointers. And in week one, he pushed Minnesota to overtime against the Bengals. In a rare moment Sept. 20, Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer stood by his guy, telling the media, “Lots of kickers miss field goals. So, let’s give the kid a break, OK?”

In the NFL that means don’t miss again.

Browns pay tribute to Levine, Salzinger

Finally, Bravo to the Cleveland Browns for a moment of silence before the Texans’ game. Both the voice of “Truth and Reason,” Les Levine and stat crew member Gary Salzinger were honored in the press box for the home opener.

While most of us knew of Les, who wrote this column before he passed away in February, Gary was a driving force in making sure fans knew a little bit extra about each game. Gary was just 54 years old when he passed away with heart-related issues earlier this year. We were classmates at Cleveland Heights High School. He graduated in 1985.

Gary not only did stats for the Browns, but he would go the extra mile at local high schools, including Mayfield, Twinsburg and Lakewood St. Edward. He also did stats for the old Cleveland Crunch soccer team.

I always enjoyed my time talking with Gary at the games. His passion for the game was infectious. He was a gigantic help to those of us who are behind a microphone, TV camera, or here writing a column.


If you have a suggestion for a column idea for Andy Baskin, send him an email at columnists@cjn.org. He can be heard on “Baskin & Phelps” weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 92.3 The Fan.

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