Death, taxes and the Cleveland Browns lose the season opener. You can bank on all three. However, this time it feels a little different.
Maybe it’s because the Browns lost to a team many believe will win the AFC. Playing in a 17-game season could also be a reason the sting is a little less irritating. It was a fourth-quarter meltdown that cost the Browns.
A defensive back who over-committed on a brutal throw from Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes to future Hall of Fame wide receiver Tyreek Hill, a fumbled punt attempt by a former rugby player who made a bad decision, then a bulldozer of a touchdown by Cleveland Heights High School graduate Travis Kelce spun around the game. All in the matter of 3 minutes and 6 seconds.
For the Chiefs, it must have looked like they were sitting at a slot machine that just came up 7-7-7. Just like that, a Browns’ 22-10 halftime lead turned into a 33-29 week 1 win for the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
The play that really drives me crazy is the ejection of Browns defensive back Ronnie Harrison, who 100% deserved to be tossed in the first quarter after shoving Chiefs’ running back coach Greg Lewis. Case closed on Harrison.
Sometimes you need to widen the picture to see what is really going on. Harrison got his feet tangled with Kansas City’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire near the Chiefs’ sidelines. He was trying to walk away from him and that’s when Lewis shoved Harrison first. Let me repeat: a non-uniformed sideline coach pushed a player.
The right call would have been to eject both Harrison and Lewis, however just the player was ejected. The NFL made a bad move by not using replay to eject Lewis, too. Early reports are that nothing will come from this incident.
If it stays this way, the NFL will be condoning Lewis’ actions, which is unacceptable. It’s just a matter of time before an NFL head coach figures out a way to use that to their advantage to get a key player who might be volatile ejected with no or little repercussion.
Which team do you think will win the AFC North in 2021?
As for the loss, quarterback Baker Mayfield had a chance to put a muzzle on his critics by leading the Browns to a game-winning touchdown drive. He played a very good game with just two mistakes at bad times. Before the Jamie Gillan punting error, Mayfield missed on a pass to tight end David Njoku that would have kept alive that drive. Then on the Browns’ final possession, Mayfield’s attempt to throw away the ball ended up as an interception.
It feels like just growing pains. But, after 17 years you would hope those would be gone.
The home opener is at 1 p.m. Sept. 19 against the Houston Texans.
Burrow returns, leads Bengals
Speaking of pains, Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow shook off his season-ending torn ACL and MCL injuries of last season to lead the Bengals to an impressive 27-24 overtime win against the Minnesota Vikings. It is hard not to like Burrow, and his return to Paul Brown Stadium was impressive.
The guy was a pinata for the rest of the league last season. It was no surprise that he was hurt in 2020.
In the season opener, he played his best NFL game, throwing for 261 yards. He was a true leader, tossing a 50-yard touchdown pass to Ja’mar Chase and then making a big-time play on fourth and one in overtime to tight end C.J. Uzomah which led to the game-winning field goal by Evan McPherson.
Former Browns Jewish kicker Greg Joseph had a 53-yard game-tying field goal for Minnesota as time expired in regulation. He would have had a chance to win the game in overtime, but the Vikings fumbled with less than two minutes remaining.
After week one in the NFL, the AFC North is not what the experts thought it would be. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who upset Buffalo, and the Bengals are 1-0, while the Browns and the Baltimore Ravens are 0-1.
The Bengals are at the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field at 1 p.m. Sept. 19.
Ohio State falls to Oregon
Will Ohio State win the Big Ten this year?
In Columbus, the Ohio State defense couldn’t stop the run and is looking for an identity after losing to Oregon for the first time in school history. It also marks coach Ryan Day’s first loss outside of the playoffs in his short tenure with the scarlet and gray.
Ducks’ running back CJ Verdell owned OSU’s defense with three touchdowns. The junior had 161 yards on the ground and 34 yards in the air. Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown played with the poise you would expect from a senior, hitting on 17-of-35 passes for 236 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
We all know the expectations on the banks of the Olentangy River are always high. The pressure is really on OSU defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs as the Bucks did not make the adjustments needed to win. We are nowhere near the days when you called OSU’s defense the “Silver Bullets.”
The Bucks also need to settle in on a consistent approach to offense. Forcing a freshman to throw the ball 54 times is a recipe for disaster.
C.J. Stroud won the Big Ten freshman-of-the-week for the second straight time. He completed 35-of-54 attempts for 484 yards and three touchdowns. It’s frustrating to watch after being spoiled with great running quarterbacks like Justin Fields. So many times, you are hoping to see him run. Is this by design or is Stroud a pocket quarterback? The answers will emerge as the season progresses.
The good thing is it’s an early-season loss for OSU to a highly-ranked team. Bucks’ fans need to be Ducks’ fans for the rest of the season. If nothing less, watching running backs Miyan Williams, TreVeyon Henderson, and now a trio of big-play wide receivers in Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxson Smith-Njigba will make every game interesting. Smith-Njigba had a breakout game against the Ducks with two touchdowns.
Tulsa visits the horseshoe at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 18.
Lavarnway back in Cleveland
Welcome back to Ryan Lavarnway. The Cleveland Indians catcher has had an interesting season. He has been logging miles on the Interstate 71 trip back and forth from the Columbus Clippers. He also played for Team Israel in the Olympics. And more importantly, he broke up the Brewers’ no-hitter on Sept. 12.
It would have added to the Indians’ miserable record of being a no-hit three times this season. Lavarnway’s single in the sixth inning broke up the no-no by Eric Lauer, who is from Lorain County and pitched at Midview High School in Grafton and Kent State. On the mound for Cleveland in all 3 of those no-hits? Zach Plesac.
If you have a suggestion for a column idea for Andy Baskin, send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard on “Baskin & Phelps” weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 92.3 The Fan.