The Cleveland Browns got a lot of offseason coverage. The words Super Bowl contender were even spoken before the season started. But, on Sunday, reality came crashing down on the Browns who suffered a 43-13 shellacking at the hands of the Tennessee Titans. So were the Browns over-hyped or is this just an overreaction to an opening day loss?
This week is often referred to as Overreaction Week, as pundits and fans place way too much value on how a team performs in Week 1. Of the 12 NFL teams to make the playoffs last year, seven lost their opening game. On the other side of the coin, the 12 teams with the worst overall records last year went 6-6 in Week 1 of 2018. So, what is it with the Browns? Overreaction or over-hype?
The Game Against the Titans: 43-13
The Browns were a 5.5-point favorite at kickoff. They opened the scoring with a touchdown, but missed the extra-point. Tennessee responded with a field goal, a touchdown, and a safety for a 12-6 halftime lead. With two minutes to go in the third quarter, the Titans were up 15-13. Cleveland had just scored a touchdown and were definitely in the game. Then, the wheels fell off. Marcus Mariota hit Derrick Henry with a 75-yard touchdown pass only 13 seconds after the Cleveland score. In the fourth quarter, Mariota hit Delanie Walker for two more TDs. A pick six by Malcolm Butler finished off the Browns, 43-13.
Statistically, the game was close. Tennessee had 339 total yards to 346 for Cleveland. Time of possession was almost dead even, 30:42 Browns, 29:18 Titans. First downs: 21 Tennessee, 19 Cleveland.
What happened then? It was the turnovers: Cleveland’s 3 to Tennessee’s 0.
Those three turnovers were all interceptions, and all three led to fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Titans.
The Browns lost ugly, and they lost late. And they lost on three, count them, three interceptions in the fourth quarter.
Most of the overreaction to the Browns loss comes from the Cleveland media, and the Browns fans. Let’s not forget, this is the team that won seven games last year, were winless in 2017, and had only one win in 2016. The Browns last winning season was in 2007, and their last playoff appearance was in 2002. The Browns have the longest active playoff drought in the league.
There is good reason for the fanbase to see it all happening again. But, the reality is probably a bit more optimistic for Cleveland this year.
If there was too much optimism for the 2019 version of the Browns, it had a solid basis in fact. Mayfield is in his sophomore season after a near 4,000-yard passing debut last year, and a 91.5 passer rating. The Browns elevated running back coach Freddie Kitchens to run the offense after last year’s mid-season coaching shake-up. They finished the season 5-3 under Kitchens offensive strategies, and that was enough to tag him as the new head coach.
The source of much of the offseason hype around the Browns had another name attached to it – Odell Beckham Jr. The Browns traded for the All-Pro wide receiver, and gave Mayfield a big-name target for this strong throwing arm. Reasons enough for fans to believe in the Browns this year.
Cleveland Browns This Week
So whether its over-hype or overreaction, the Browns are back in action on Monday Night Football this week against the New York Jets. Cleveland is a 2.5-point favorite to get their early season back on track, and quiet the noise about their opening day flop.