Miscues on offense and bad officiating result in another home loss
So much for “New Cleveland” so far in this young season…
The Browns fell to a record of 2-4 Sunday, losing to the Seattle Seahawks 34-28. The Browns are still win-less at home. Many Browns fans felt that the team could capitalize on a West Coast team traveling East after a grueling win against a division rival. Once again, the team played lower than its expectations.
Losing to a superior team is frustrating enough; losing to that team after dominating them in the first half with a 20-6 lead is not only excruciating but it is also very, well, Brownsian. The Browns seemingly had everything clicking in the first half more like the Ravens game two weeks ago. Nick Chubb consistently moved the ball down the field on his way to another 100 plus yard game (20 rushes for 122 and two touchdowns), yet, inexplicably, was unused in the red zone in two more chances and misused in an additional chance. Head Coach Freddie Kitchens abandoned the run, again, inside the ten for passing plays, one of which was an obvious pass to a slanting and double-covered Jarvis Landry, which was promptly intercepted.
Speaking of interceptions, Quarterback Baker Mayfield had another subpar day. He threw three interceptions, two costly ones, en route to a woefully inept 22-37, 249-yard day. He threw for one touchdown and ran for another, but still looked very mediocre. Mayfield continued with his inaccurate throws, being either behind the receiver or at an uncatchable place. Even when wideouts were able to catch thrown balls, they were circus catches or nearly ground balls.
The growing inability to score from the red zone is only feeding the growing concerns for Kitchens’ play-calling ability…or inability, as the case might be. Case in point was at the end of a controversial drive. In the third quarter, on third-and-goal, Kitchens called a pass play almost like an inside screen for Landry. Because even an eighth-grade middle linebacker saw it coming, the already capable Seahawk defense was ready for it. However, during his second effort, Landry appeared to have broken the plane of the goal line before the ball was fumbled into the end zone. The referees, who acted all game as though they had never seen a football game before, blew the play dead in the endzone after Seattle recovered it there. Rightly so, Kitchens challenged the play, but the play he sent in, a double guard pull run to the right, actually worked on fourth down. Kitchens effectively took away a touchdown from his own offense, ending up losing the challenge in the process and giving the Seahawks a good look at what might be coming. Without any sense of awareness, Kitchens called the exact same play that scored on the dead down, and the Seahawk defense looked like an All-Pro Team at the goal line.
Shooting themselves in the feet is bad enough. The officials at this game did not deserve to be employed before, during, and after this game either. Landry was flagged for an illegal crackback block on a defensive back who was standing right in front of and directly facing Landry. That is correct, directly in front of and facing Landry. Again, correct, a crackback. To add insult to injury, Landry was pushed into the DB by another defender. Other flabbergasting calls that hurt the Browns include a non-call against Seattle for an eligible tackle who did not report to the referee until after the play was over, and a called catch by rookie Seahawk wide receiver D. K. Metcalf in which he clearly dropped out of bounds.
Mayfield told reporters the referees are “never an excuse” for losing, but he also stated “[the refs] were pretty bad today.” This statement is deeper than any sense of envy or homerism, just read these tweets:
Even respected NFL reporters agreed that the officiating is unacceptable.
This does not change the fact that the offensive execution of the Browns, especially in the red zone, is downright anemic. The Browns are on a Bye Week this week, but go to New England the following week for what was supposed to be a marquee matchup. If high-percentage scoring opportunities are at a premium at home against second-tier visiting teams, imagine the scarcity among the NFL’s diamond franchise.
If this game is already counted as a loss, that would put the Browns at 2-5, which will put them back on par with the lowered expectations of “Old Cleveland”.