Photo by: Dave Spano
The Cleveland Browns discovered that reality last Sunday in their 33-29 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. In a confrontation of supposed NFL titans, the Browns often looked like the superior team, only to fall to a playoff-tested team that has represented the AFC in the last two Super Bowls.
An fumble by Nick Chubb, a dropped punt snap by Jamie Gillan and an interception thrown by Baker Mayfield on a drive late in the game proved costly. It was another example of the Browns being a team still learning how to win games against quality opposition.
You could almost feel it coming after the Browns took a 29-20 lead with slightly more than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs, as quality teams often do, scored quickly on a long pass from Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill. That was followed by another Chiefs touchdown after Gillan dropped a snap and tried unsuccessfully to scramble for the first down.
The Browns had one more chance to achieve a win that would have been huge in their development into a legitimate Super Bowl contender. It wasn’t to be as Mayfield was hit trying to get rid of the ball, resulting in the interception.
It’s never a good thing to talk about positives in a loss, but the Browns were playing on the road in a difficult venue (Arrowhead Stadium) against the vaunted Chiefs. For much of the game the Browns looked like a dominant force. That’s obviously of no solace to coach Kevin Stefanski, but at least he knows that without the miscues it probably would have been a win.
It’s now on to the home opener Sunday against the Houston Texans, who are playing without embattled quarterback Deshaun Watson. It will be interesting to see how the Browns react coming off a tough loss against a Texans team that is perceived as being weaker.
Of particular interest Sunday will be to see how the re-shaped defense performs. The pass rush wasn’t what it’s been anticipated to be against the Chiefs. That has to change if the Browns want to avoid shootouts.
What we learned last week is that the AFC North might be the toughest division in the NFL. The Steelers aren’t fading away, as many Browns fans predicted after last season, and the Bengals will be a tough out because of Joe Burrow’s return. The Ravens are hurting with injuries at running back, but Jon Harbaugh always has them well prepared.
Now isn’t the time to panic, which I don’t think will happen to the Browns. Their fans, maybe, but not the players. There’s a need to stay the course this week and good things should happen. As long as the punter can catch the damn ball.