A win is a win
Five thoughts after a rare Browns win, 19-16 over the Buffalo Bills:
ONE THING MATTERS: In the spring of 1987, at Wrestlemania III in Pontiac Michigan, the late, great Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was in the broadcast booth. After watching the Dream cheat to defeat the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, announcer Gorilla Monsoon asked the Brain if he thought the finish was fair.
“A win’s a win,” Heenan said. “When you’re at Wrestlemania you take what you can get. It’s not easy.”
I thought of that after the Browns beat the Bills Sunday.
The Browns did so much wrong.
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry caught a beautiful touchdown pass on the game’s first possession. He got up and started taunting a Bills defender. It caused an unsportsmanlike penalty, and pushed Austin Seibert’s extra point attempt back 15 yards. He missed it.
On one possession, they had eight shots at the end zone from inside the 4, and failed on each.
On an ensuing possession, Browns coach inexplicably decided to go for a touchdown on fourth and goal from the 4. Thankfully, lineman Chris Hubbard false started, forcing a field goal attempt. The field goal ended up being the difference in the game, actually.
Kitchens also called a timeout when his team was on defense on a fourth down with the clock winding down in the third quarter, when it appeared the Bills simply would let the clock run out.
But, when Baker Mayfield connected with Rashard Higgins for the game winning touchdown with 1:44 left in regulation, none of it mattered.
The Browns were winners.
And it was nice, for the first time in more than a month, to be able to enjoy that.
THE GOOD AND THE BAD OF BAKER: Mayfield wasn’t great Sunday. But he was good enough, and led the Browns on a 10-play, 82-yard game-winning touchdown drive. He threw for 238 yards, and wasn’t intercepted, even when he probably should have been.
Mayfield was generally good in the postgame press conference.
But then he said something that really bothered me.
“The crowd noise seemed to be a little loud when we needed it to be quiet,” he said, “which is strange at home.”
There were plenty of Bills fans at First Energy Stadium Sunday, and I took the comment as a passive-aggressive shot at the fans.
Mayfield has done this before. He challenged the fans to show up after beating the Carolina Panthers last season, and they did, packing the stadium for the home finale against the Bengals.
The problem with calling out the fans now is that Mayfield and the Browns haven’t played well. Going into Sunday, the Browns were 2-6 and the Bills were 6-2.
More than that, Cleveland was an abysmal 0-3 at home.
You want more home fans? Play like it.
MORE CHUBB: Early in the fourth quarter, the Browns had the ball and a 12-9 lead over the Bills.
Nick Chubb and the newly-arrived Kareem Hunt had been running the ball well — and in Chubb’s case carrying defenders — all day.
Time to run the ball, right?
On the first play, Chubb carried the ball six yards.
Then Baker threw an incompletion.
Then Baker was sacked.
Then the Browns punted.
Chubb finished with 116 yards on 20 carries. He’s the Browns best player.
But Kitchens — who looks at his play sheet so often you wonder how engaged he is with the rest of the game — keeps acting like Mayfield is the best player.
Don’t get it.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I wish I could just rip that play sheet out of his hands.” — My father, a lifelong Browns fan. He also believes Kitchens needs to give play calling to offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
I just don’t think many coaches can handle being a head coach and a play caller at the NFL level.
The Saints’ Sean Payton can. The Chiefs’ Andy Reid can.
But Kitchens isn’t at that level.
THOUGHTS ON HUNT: When the Browns signed tailback Kareem Hunt, I was disappointed.
I know that character doesn’t seem to matter much to general manager John Dorsey, and I know Hunt was a great player.
But he also kicked a woman in a downtown Cleveland hotel, and was suspended eight games.
Hunt had a great game in his Browns debut. He will help the Browns win games. He helped them win Sunday.
And yes, everyone deserves a second chance.
But Hunt was released by the Chiefs in December of last year. The Browns signed him a little more than two months later.
I don’t doubt Hunt has learned lessons from the ordeal he caused.
But there’s one lesson that I’ve learned from watching the NFL for more than 30 years.
If you can play, there will be a spot for you. That trumps nearly everything.
And that’s not a lesson to be proud of.