There was never a doubt about Sunday. It was a loss in April when the schedule released, a loss during training camp, and a loss now. The way the Browns lose is concerning. When the talent isn’t meeting expectations, turnovers and penalties are mounting, and head scratching decisions are made on the sideline the blame lands in one spot, the head coach.
Freddie Kitchens was the concern heading into the season. Never a head coach at any level, did he possess the traits necessary to guide this out-of-control hype train? His team lacks discipline and does not correct mistakes. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are the most skilled receiving duo in the league. They have combined for 64 catches and 1 touchdown in seven games. Something ain’t stirring the Kool-Aid.
Kitchens wasn’t ready for all the job entails. The players, management, and ownership were unprepared to handle the attention shone in their direction during the off-season. The 2019 season has been an organizational failure akin to the failures of the last twenty years. Nothing has changed in Cleveland.
Now is when it has to. Don’t fire Freddie. Forget about trading Odell. Don’t give up on Baker. This season has turned from one of hope to one of education. The Browns have detonated everything in the past at the first sign of adversity, leading them into the depths they reside today.
Let Kitchens learn on the job. What are the alternatives? Coach after coach turnstiles through Berea, none given a chance to show growth. Who is great at their job after two months? Who will hire the next coach if he’s fired? Jimmy Haslam has shown zero ability to run a franchise or hire competent help, save for John Dorsey. Why would anyone assume the Haslams will get the next one right? The process, and Dorsey, led the organization to select Freddie Kitchens to lead this team. They saw something in him, giving them faith he could do this. Don’t pull the ripcord now. Give Kitchens a chance to grow.
The turnovers and penalties led to the loss on Sunday. Not much needs rehashed. Until the players take on the responsibility of disciplining themselves on the field, until they decide winning matters, nothing will change. A few observations, however.
Why in the world are teams, and the Browns specifically, guarding Julian Edelman with linebackers and safeties? Edelman is the only pass catcher on New England’s offense that poses a threat to a defense. Instead of letting the Patriots scheme their way into mismatches, why not shadow Edelman with your best corner? Denzel Ward, or even Greedy Williams, should have drawn the assignment of checking the New England wide receiver. Instead, Joe Schobert and backup safety Eric Murray got beat on touchdown catches by Edelman. In certain match-ups, you must adapt the scheme to negate what an opponent wants to do.
On fourth and seven from the Browns’ 33, New England went for it instead of kicking. The defense was unprepared and had to burn a timeout. On a cold, wet day and the other team employing a shaky kicker who they cut this week, why were they not ready for the possibility Bill Belichick wouldn’t kick? Inexcusable.
A positive from Sunday? The defensive line as a unit and Olivier Vernon were exceptional. Vernon and Myles Garrett recorded sacks, and Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson stuffed the run and applied adequate pressure up the middle, preventing Brady from stepping up in the pocket. After a slow start, Vernon has flashed during the last two outings, providing pressure on opposing offenses opposite Garrett.
The recipe this week is the same as it’s been, avoid turnovers and penalties. It’s been a simple yet unattainable goal. They’ve shown no desire to rein in their disorderly tendencies and until that happens the opponent will not matter.
Joe Flacco is injured. The Broncos traded their best wideout, Emmanuel Sanders, to the 49ers last week.
Third year quarterback Brandon Allen has never taken a regular season snap and will start on Sunday. According to Lance Zierlein of the NFL Network, Allen is mobile with a strong arm. He’ll run if the pocket breaks down. Denver will look to pound the running game Sunday.
Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman are a strong running back duo. Lindsay is quick, a threat to break a big gainer each time he touches the ball. Freeman is more of a grinder who’ll wear defenses down the more carries he gets. With a young quarterback under center and the Browns defense struggling against the run (ranked 29th in the league) the Broncos have one choice on offense.
Defensively, the Broncos have been stout. Fourth in total yards, fourth against the pass, and 17th against the run, a low-scoring slog is likely on Sunday. Establish Nick Chubb, but continue to work to get Beckham and Landry involved. Von Miller is one of the best pass rushers in the league, yet has struggled a bit this year, only 4 sacks to his credit. Chris Harris Jr. has made 4 Pro Bowls at cornerback, yet is on the wrong side of 30. The Browns offense moves the ball when they avoid mistakes. They should do so Sunday.
The lighter portion of the schedule has arrived. Will the Browns take advantage? The difficulty faced to this point will either sharpen them or break them. Does the team many predicted them to be exist?
The Whip Around
1. Does anyone else in the history of football make this throw?
2. Matt Nagy has to put his players in a better position to succeed. Settling for a 41 yard field goal try, when the team had 43 seconds to improve field position is bush league, and is playing not to lose. Should an NFL kicker make a 41 yarder? Absolutely. But if you can make things easier on your players you do it. That kick isn’t a chip shot outdoors off Lake Michigan in October. Nagy set Eddy Pineiro up to be the scapegoat.
3. Nick Bosa is in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. Seven sacks, nine hurries, and six quarterback knockdowns according to pro-football-reference.com, he’s terrorized opposing offenses, grinding them to a halt. The rookie is a star, leading a 49er defense that ranks second in the league in points allowed and 1st in both passing and rushing yards. If those numbers hold, Bosa will have two new trophies on his mantle, DPOY and Rookie of the Year.
4. The Rams have Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods on offense, yet Cooper Kupp is far and away their best weapon. He’s taken ownership of the middle of the field, sitting down in holes against zone coverage and making life easier for Jared Goff. After he catches the ball, he runs. Far. Second only to Austin Ekeler in yards after catch, he and Michael Thomas are the only receivers in the top ten, the rest being running backs. If the Rams make a second half run, Kupp will be a huge reason for it.
5. Andy Reid called a fantastic game for Matt Moore on Sunday night, putting his backup QB in spots to succeed. Moore was efficient and didn’t turn the ball over. For all of Reid’s genius offensively, game situations still confound him, however. Down seven with 5 minutes left at their own 40 and facing a 4th and 3, Reid elected to punt. The Chiefs’ offense wouldn’t see the ball again. Why punt in that situation? Moore was playing well, and K.C. has two of the best short yardage weapons in the game in Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. K.C.’s defense was struggling, as they have for two years. Coaches need more aggression in those situations.
6. Derrick Henry dropped the ball on Sunday. He just dropped it. This dude is maddening.
7. Bad offenses are at their worst in goal to go situations. Chicago’s train wreck of a unit fits the bill. First and goal from the 4 with 43 seconds left in the 1st half, they ran for no gain, called a timeout, threw for a one yard gain, called a timeout, then threw incomplete. O.K., bad, but still 25 seconds left. Another run for no gain drained the clock to 1 second before Mitch Trubisky threw incomplete again. Eddy Pineiro kicked a 19 yard field goal. A touchdown there would’ve saved them from needing a field goal at the gun to win. Bad teams do bad things.
8. Buffalo came back to earth Sunday, getting trounced 31-13 at home against Philadelphia at windswept Orchard Park. Philly ran at will, totaling 218 on the ground. Josh Allen isn’t consistent enough for the defense to have off days, and the offense lacks any other play makers. The easy early season schedule may catch up to the Bills.
9. If you can figure out Jameis Winston, Tampa will pay you millions to move to the Gulf Coast of Florida. Here are Sunday’s numbers: 21-43, 301 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 picks, 2 fumbles, 53 yards rushing. You could see his game ending interception coming from Memphis. It’s the same as watching an old person sliding around on ice. Are they going to fall or catch themselves?
10. Just when Indianapolis looked like it belonged in the conversation with Kansas City and New England, they lay an egg at home against Denver, needing a 51 yard Vinatieri field goal to eke by the Broncos. The defense and running game will keep them in games, but Jacoby Brissett isn’t dynamic enough to win a shootout in the playoffs. The third best team in the AFC is light years behind the front two.