Five thoughts after an ugly Monday night performance

Five takeaways from a brutal Browns loss, 31-3 to the San Francisco 49ers:

ONE BAD PLAY: If there was one play that drew attention last night, it was a pass that occurred with the Browns deep in San Francisco territory in the second quarter.

Actually, one more play, an ill-fated punt return by Odell Beckham drew nearly as much attention.

But the game was essentially over at that point.

In the second quarter, it appeared that Cleveland was about to shake off a disastrous start.

After allowing two touchdowns and turning the ball over twice, the Browns were down 14-3 and driving. A screen to Nick Chubb set up a first and goal at the 7.

But a penalty moved the Browns back to the 12, and then, facing a third and goal, quarterback Baker Mayfield attempted to hit Antonio Callaway — who was wide open over the middle — at the 1.

If Callaway, who missed the first four games for a suspension, catches it, it’s probably a touchdown.

But the throw was a little behind the second-year receiver. He bobbled it and it popped up in the air. Former Browns DB K’Waun Williams — now with the 49ers — picked it and returned it to midfield.

The 49ers went down and scored a touchdown. Instead of being down 14-10, or at worst, 14-6, the Browns were down 21-3.

BUT, THEN AGAIN: We sometimes do this as writers.

We try to boil a blowout down to a single play.

“If that play doesn’t happen …”


The Browns were beat in every way imaginable Monday night. Offense, defense … maybe not as much on special teams, despite Beckham’s fourth quarter fumble. The 49ers missed three field goals.

Callaway making the catch and falling into the end zone likely would have prolonged the inevitable.

The 49ers offensive line was making huge holes for the running game all night. Nick Bosa made the Browns offensive line look like an inferior group of XFL players.

From 2001.

The Browns were getting beat Monday.

And that’s really frustrating. I thought this week that if the Browns won, they would send a message that they were ready to take control of the AFC North and make an exciting playoff push.

But getting beat this badly was another sobering reminder of how far the franchise still has to go.

THAT OLD FEELING: Watching the game, it felt like I was watching a Browns performance from the 2015-17 era.

ESPN didn’t help.

At one point during the second half, the score at the bottom of the screen said that the Browns were trailing “28-2.”

The Browns only score of the game came on a field goal by Austin Seibert.

I thought it was impossible for Cleveland to be deducted a point.

But that performance was so bad, maybe it made sense.

The point is that going into this season, we didn’t know how good the Browns were going to be.

But with all the talent on this roster, I thought that at least, they’d be exciting.

So far, in five weeks, they’ve been blown out twice, and the high-powered offense has only been consistent once.

It’s like Hue Jackson is back.

In fact, I’d argue that through five games, the former coach did a better job in 2018 then Freddie Kitchens has done in 2019.

After all, not only were the Browns more competitive in the first five games last year, but they actually had a better record. They were 2-2-1.

Today’s Browns are 2-3.

Not saying I want Jackson back. But it’s not a good look for the new Browns coach.

MAYFIELD: Baker was bad Monday.

Really bad.

He went 8 of 22 passing, was intercepted twice and lost a fumble. But more than that, he just looked battered.

Bosa had a lot to do with it.

The former Buckeye was a terror Monday. Two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, and a constant pressure that Mayfield seemed unable to handle.

My biggest issue with Mayfield — and the Browns, frankly — has been the inability to build on success.

Yes, the 49ers were probably a better defense than Cleveland has faced. But it’s hard to believe the talent differential between the 49ers defense and the Browns offense is that startling.

And even if it is — I’m looking at the offensive line — it’s the quarterback’s job to overcome that.

That’s what great quarterbacks do.

And after all the hype and all the bravado and all the commercials, I’ve come to a single conclusion:

Right now, Baker Mayfield is not a great quarterback.

Baker acts like a star. He rubs people the wrong way and has many people in the media just waiting to pounce.

Personally, after years of watching ineptitude at the quarterback position, I find myself indifferent to his attitude, so long as he’s not running from the police.

His job is to win.

And he isn’t doing that enough.

REUNION: I had my 20-year high school reunion this past weekend in Cleveland.

It hit me while I was there if the 1999 Browns do the same thing.

After all, I graduated the same year the franchise returned to the league as an expansion team.

It probably won’t happen. The Browns were 2-14 that year, so there wasn’t much positive to remember.

But here’s something that’s scary.

Through five games, the 1999 Browns — led by Tim Couch, Kevin Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (not that one) — lost just one game by four touchdowns or more.

Through five games, the Browns have already been beaten twice by at least that count.

No, the Browns aren’t anywhere as bad as the ’99 team was.

But they’ve shown that in certain games, they can be worse.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)