Five takeaways from another Browns debacle

Here are five things on my mind after the Browns’ 43-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans Sunday.

n After all the hype that was generated from last offseason, the Browns performance against the Titans Sunday looked less like the work of a Super Bowl contender and more like the play of an expansion team in its first game.

Actually, that’s not fair to expansion teams.

In 1999, the then-new Browns opened the season at home against the Steelers. The expansion team was soundly defeated, 43-0.

But in that game, the Browns only committed four penalties for 23 yards.

You should expect some sloppiness in the first week, especially in an era where coaches rest their starters for so much of the preseason. But there’s no excuse for tackle Greg Robinson getting ejected for kicking another player.

There’s no excuse for defensive end Myles Garrett getting a 15-yard penalty for appearing to slap at a Titan. The Browns actually were lucky he wasn’t ejected.

Then again, it probably made no difference.

The Browns gave up 182 yards in penalties Sunday. Cut that number in half and it’s too many.

n The Browns have won just one opener since 1999, so those of us who follow the franchise are used to being let down after Week 1.

But seldom have the Browns ever looked so good at the beginning of a game.

Cleveland took the opening kickoff and moved down the field with ease. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was well protected, and made big completions to Odell Beckham, Rashard Higgins and Jarvis Landry, and then Dontrell Hilliard bounced into the end zone. It was a picture perfect start.

And then rookie kicker Austin Seibert missed the extra point.

At the time, it looked like a blip on the radar. But then, for nearly the next two quarters, nothing went right.

n The game turned for good seconds after it appeared Mayfield had wrestled momentum away from the Titans late in the third quarter. He had just directed a brilliant six play drive that culminated in a three-yard touchdown pass to David Njoku. The Browns were down 15-13, and the the defense — despite a pile of stupid penalties — wasn’t playing that bad.

And then Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota threw a screen to Derrick Henry and he ran 75 yards untouched to the end zone.

He could have run another 100 yards and no Brown would have caught him. The Titans were back up by nine. It got ugly after that.

n So, it was as bad as anyone could have imagined. Mayfield threw three fourth-quarter interceptions. The offensive line was depleted by injury and stupidity. And Freddie Kitchens’ debut as coach was a bust. I had hoped that the Browns would use Nick Chubb more, but it seemed in the first half like Cleveland was obsessed with finding ways to use its receivers. Once, Mayfield was faced with a second and 1, and threw back-to-back incompletions.

The Browns were in shotgun in third and one. Safe to say the offensive playcalling was — at best — confusing.

n Now, the Browns get an extra day to bask in the glory of Sunday’s performance. Their next game is next Monday night against the Jets.

I’m not saying it’s a must-win, but it’d be pretty frightening to see the Browns go 0-2, and then have the defending NFC champion Rams waiting for them in Week 3.

And as bad as Sunday was, it was just one game. A win next week will ease much of the frustration caused by the Week 1 loss.

And, frankly, the Browns should be better than the Jets.

Then again, I thought they’d be better than the Titans.

Silly me.

Zach Baker is the sports editor for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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