It is not rocket science, but when an NFL team loses a game, 43-13, there is more than one thing or person to blame for the debacle.
Arguably the opening-day loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 8 was the worst for the Cleveland Browns, and that includes the expansion team that lost 43-0 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1999. Even though I said there is not one person or thing to blame, let me toss out a couple of ideas that don’t include the referees, even though they called 18 penalties against the Browns.
Let’s start with the penalties. That is the most penalties against the Browns since 1951, a game in which the Browns won. The penalties gave the Titans an additional 182 yards. One penalty was called on Greg Robinson, who kicked an opponent in the face and denied it, despite having the cameras get a good shot of it. Robinson got ejected from the game with less than two minutes remaining in the half. His replacement, Kendall Lamm, injured his knee four plays later. That sequence would hamper any NFL team.
After taking their first possession in for a touchdown, Austin Seibert let the air out of the balloon that was FirstEnergy Stadium by missing the extra point – just a week after taking the job from Greg Joseph.
The Browns decided not to play most of their first-stringers in any of the four exhibition games and Odell Beckham Jr. chose not to show up for workouts until they were mandatory. But he did decide to wear a $189,000 watch during the game and was penalized for it. Did he think the watch would give him a better idea when the two-minute warning would take place?
It is too early to tell if General Manager John Dorsey made the right choice in picking Freddie Kitchens to be his coach, but it is not too early to say that he didn’t have to agree to let Kitchens call the offensive plays, when so many other things need his complete attention, such as shuffling the offensive line personnel due to an ejection and an injury. And, near the end of the first half, when he let 15 seconds run off the clock before the two-minute warning, when he could have gotten off two more plays.
Despite all of that, the Browns were only down by nine points near the end of the third quarter. This is not the time to panic. There is plenty of time for that. The schedule is tough in the first half, but statistics tell us teams that start 0-2 have a tough time making the playoffs. Oh yeah, the Steelers also lost by 30 against New England.