The Cleveland Browns have been one of the most hyped-up teams in the NFL coming into the 2019 season. After finishing last season on a 5-2 run with rookie Baker Mayfield under center, the Browns had an impressive offseason that included acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. in a trade with the New York Giants. Cleveland even entered the season as the favorite to win the AFC North.
But while Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens were coasting to a 59-10 blowout win in Week 1, the Browns were on the other side of a blowout, getting crushed by the Tennessee Titans 43-13. How concerned should the Browns and their fans be about this ugly loss?
Mayfield and the Browns had a season debut to forget
Baker Mayfield was a popular MVP bet before the season started, but he’s going to have some catching up to do on the rest of the field after this dud of a performance. Mayfield took five sacks and threw three interceptions, finishing the day going 25-for-38 with 285 passing yards and one passing touchdown.
Mayfield’s favorite target was Odell Beckham Jr., who caught seven of the 11 passes thrown his way for 71 yards and no touchdowns. Beckham Jr. didn’t have an excellent game by his sky-high standards, but overall he was one of the few bright spots in a terrible game.
As a team, Cleveland committed 18 penalties for 182 yards in the loss. It was the team’s highest total since 1951, and it fell just five penalties shy of the NFL record. This sort of lack of discipline isn’t acceptable at any point in the season, but it is especially bad at home in a game with as much preparation as Week 1 gets.
Next week’s game against the New York Jets feels like a must-win
Since 2007, there have been 99 teams that have started the season with an 0-2 record. Only 12 of those teams (12.1% since 2007) have gone on to make the postseason. With the Jets and Browns both entering Monday Night Football at 0-1, there should be a sense of urgency on both sidelines.
It will also be an important game for the Browns to set the tempo for the rest of the season. Cleveland was a 5.5-point favorite this weekend at home against a Titans team that isn’t projected to make the playoffs. The Browns failed to take advantage of this spot, and can’t afford to lose to another team that is an underdog to make the postseason next week.
The schedule gets a lot tougher after the trip to New York. Cleveland returns home to face the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams in Week 3 and then gets four of its next five games on the road including road games against the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots.
How will the team react to this setback?
Baker Mayfield didn’t seem to worried in the aftermath of this loss.
“I know how we’re going to react, I know what we’re going to do,” Mayfield told ESPN’s Jake Trotter. “How we’re going to bounce back, and we have a Monday Night game coming up so we don’t really care. We’re ready to go.”
This is the type of games that head coach Freddie Kitchens can use as a teachable moment. All of the hype in the world doesn’t change the fact that the Browns haven’t had a winning season since 2007 and haven’t made the postseason since 2002. They are going to need to execute if they want to see results, and that means cutting back severely on penalties and mistakes.
We’ll see how the team reacts against the Jets next Monday night in prime time.