Cleveland, Ohio — The NFL has finally returned! But the fans of the two Ohio teams haven’t walked out of the opening week with a smile on their faces. The Cincinnati Bengals have narrowly lost to the Seattle Seahawks (20–21), while the Cleveland Browns suffered a blowout defeat at home. Namely, FirstEnergy Stadium hosted the Tennessee Titans, who were in fine form, defeating the Browns 43–13. The game was a clear sign that the Browns still had a long way to go, despite the arrival of Odell Beckham Jr. With OBJ in the team, it only goes to show that one player can’t change a team’s track record or discipline, no matter how talented they are.
Beckham finished the game with seven catches for 71 yards, which represented a few moments that could be a glimpse into how effective the wide receiver can be for the Browns. But, the first game may have proven that OBJ’s arrival is not enough. The franchise which is currently on an 11-losing-season streak has shown yet again that they need to learn what winning was if they were to make the Beckham-Mayfield era a successful one. After the match, the Browns’ head coach, Freddie Kitchens, said that the players were deeply disappointed in the locker room. He added that he was unhappy with how the team represented itself.
It seems that the biggest Browns’ enemy on Sunday were they themselves. They managed to gather 182 yards in penalties and have made a wealth of mistakes. Mayfield himself had three interceptions, one of which the Titans’ defenders returned for a defensive touchdown. Moreover, they sacked the quarterback for a safety. Clevelanders went into another season with a kick in the teeth.
It’s the hope that kills you. The fans were in love with their team for the entire summer. They were encouraged by how the Browns finished the last season, with Mayfield and the rest playing some great games, and GM John Dorsey secured some key acquisitions during the offseason. They were particularly happy about OBJ coming to the Buckeye State. Even gamblers had a thing for the Browns. They were the second most popular choice among bettors for the Super Bowl win, just behind the Chicago Bears, who have lost their opening game to the Green Bay Packers.
Many expected this to be the new Browns, but there were many, overwhelming shades of the same old, same old Browns. It was a tough reminder of the Browns in the 2015–2017 period when they won just four out of 48 games. Consequently, stadium seats were empty for the most part before the last few minutes in the fourth quarter. Beckham said that the players didn’t want to see that happen. The team wanted to fight through the tough moments, with fans on their side. He added that he was aware of the fans being used to losing, but they were working hard to change that around. It would be easier, according to OBJ, if the team and the fans stuck together.
Beckham missed the entire preseason due to a hip injury, but he said that he didn’t feel any problems during the game. He was a target of a Mayfield pass 11 times, and he made seven catches. It wasn’t terrible, but it was quiet for his standards. Kitchens, however, saw it differently, as he said he thought Odell played well. He blamed the penalties for the majority of the Browns’ problems.
In the second quarter, the Titans had an 87-yard drive which resulted in a touchdown. During the drive, the Browns saw four flags thrown on the field which cost them 40 yards worth of penalties. Two of the penalties were unnecessary roughness and roughing the passer, which is a clear sign of lingering discipline issues. Later on, before the half time, referees penalized and ejected offensive tackle Greg Robinson when he kicked an opposition player.
Kitchens said that hardship had kicked in early, and they would now have to find out what kind of grit the team had. But, the offense is not the only side of the team which the fans expected to be better. The Browns’ defense, also thought to be massively improved, gave a 75-yard TD pass, right after Mayfield produced a touchdown toss which brought the Browns within two points.
Mayfield and Kitchens Not Giving Up
Mayfield was adamant that they would work on and rectify their mistakes. He was quite open about it, saying that he “didn’t give a damn” what the people on the outside were saying. He said that he knew how the team would react and hoped they would bounce back next week. In Week 2, the Browns will play against the New York Jets.
What spectators could easily see in their opener was that the Browns were clearly a team which didn’t have a winning culture. The toughest thing for the fans was that they didn’t look like a team which was developing it. Kitchens said that the season was far from over, with 15 more games in front of them. “It’s hard to go 16–0,” added Kitchens.