The much anticipated “New Browns” season opener offered limited success. The Browns forced fans to exit with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, eventually losing 43-13. It would be easier to say that the Browns came out unprepared and were overmatched by the Titans, but the loss wasn’t that simple.
Fans saw a ton of yellow flying around the field on Sunday. The Browns committed 18 penalties, adding up to 182 total yards. This amount of penalties hasn’t been seen since the Browns team of 1951. Penalties slow teams down and force them to overcome obstacles created by themselves; despite this, the Browns lost for even more reasons.
The Browns had a bottom-three defense last year; Sunday didn’t introduce fans to a different product. The Browns struggled to tackle, continuing a problem they’ve had for four years (Note that Christian Kirksey has been here for five years). After the Browns offense gained momentum back by scoring and cutting the lead to two, the Titans needed only one screen pass to answer back. Joe Schobert wowed in preseason practices, but game-time revealed him as a player who is out of shape and rusty. The defensive line had moments but were unimpressive overall. Typically, the defense plays better when they feel like their offense is scoring. But going forward, the Browns defense must prove its worth.
After everything that happened, the Browns offense showed how special it could be. The opening drive saw a touchdown after Odell Beckham caught a couple passes, and Dontrelle Hilliard punched it in. The other touchdown, once again, showed fans a possible dream offense. Baker found Njoku on a goal line slant after Chubb and Landry made big plays of their own. Baker’s three interceptions should be forgotten; he was faced with penalties and 21 consecutive points scored by the Titans. The Browns offense can be special; a fresh start combined with embarrassment could result in a Monday Night event when they play the Jets next week.
Freddie Kitchens came out looking the worst of all Sunday afternoon. Kitchens forgot about Nick Chubb. When common sense said run, he decided to pass. The Browns were backed up inside their own 25 multiple times and pushed Baker to make tight-pressured throws, instead of allowing Chubb to slowly move them forward. A certain drive stood out when the Browns passed twice after setting up second down and one yard. Chubb is a number-one back on most teams, so Kitchens can’t make him and the entire run-game an after-thought.
The Browns have to regroup the guys and come back motivated. The team travels to New York next Monday for a primetime ESPN game. Sunday was nightmare, but the Browns can still be America’s team over time.