The Cleveland Browns and the frustrating, exhilarating weirdness that comes with them
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Explosive enough to take a lead, erratic enough to give it back. Unlucky enough to see critical calls go against them, undisciplined enough to create their own mistakes. Confusing, exhilarating, perplexing, and risk-taking, the 2019 Cleveland Browns were on full display Sunday afternoon.
For the first time this season, the crowd at FirstEnergy Stadium saw their real Cleveland Browns, a dumbfounding collection of talent and strangeness that can look like three different teams in the span of a half. There are the Browns who are the best team in the AFC North, with skill on both sides of the ball that pops more than a few times each game. There are the Browns that seem destined to find a way to lose in ways too familiar to too many, done in by turnovers and the feeling that every pass tipped by a Browns receiver is intercepted by an opposing defender.
And there are the in-between Browns who could do anything in any week, on any series and for any play. If you think it's hard to figure out this team, then you've figured out this team.
Who thinks after the bye they'll beat the Patriots and then lose to the Broncos? After this 32-28 loss to Seattle, they certainly could use the break.
Of course the Browns have the talent to make things easier. But have you noticed a running theme from the constant talking and attempted playmaking of Baker Mayfield; to the on-the-edge attitude of sack master Myles Garrett, who isn't afraid to take an aggressive penalty; to the spotlight-seeking approach to life and football from one-hand-catching fashionista Odell Beckham, Jr.; to the true-to-himself plan for Freddie Kitchens, the accidental coach in the Dawg Pound sweatshirt?
This isn't a group made to make things easy. Here's a suggestion -- lean into the weirdness.
Accept that this team will drive you crazy and go crazy with them. Somewhere on the road to the Super Bowl is better tackling, smarter red-zone calls and a reduction in yellow flags. This was never a Super Bowl year. It still should be a playoff year, in a season when 8-8 might win the AFC North.
But it's gonna be a weird one. It can be crazy fun, or crazy set your jersey on fire. Part of it is up to the Browns. Part of it is up to you.
In their two previous home games, the Browns lost because they penalized themselves into submission against Tennessee, then failed so miserably in the red zone against the Rams they blew a chance to win in a game in which they competed all night. The Browns scored just 13 points in both those losses. Sunday, they scored more than that in less than 7 minutes, then led 20-6 just six seconds into the second quarter.
Then it fell apart, starting with a third-down drop by Beckham that forced a punt that was blocked. There was a pass behind Jarvis Landry in the end zone that was tipped and picked, an unusual Nick Chubb fumble, and a pick on a timing throw when Beckham ran into a defender and was knocked off his route. None of them excusable. All of them a little weird.
Then there was the fourth-quarter drive kept alive by the nose hair of the football on a Browns fourth-down conversion with just over 14 minutes left. That drive ended with the Browns almost scoring touchdowns twice, and getting points for none of them. Landry might have reached the ball over the goal line on a fourth-down throw from the 1. A Seattle penalty gave the Browns another shot at the down, and Chubb appeared to run in on the next play, but Kitchens threw a challenge flag first, stopping the play before it started.
On review, it was decided Landry still wasn't in. On the ensuing run, Chubb was stopped. But the Browns forced a three-and-out and a short punt, and then did get their touchdown to take a 28-25 lead.
And then they gave it right back.
That was the Browns. They overcame the mistake that seemed to devastate them, but then after taking the lead, gave it away with some old-fashioned bad tackling
The point here isn't to excuse any of it. But you may have to accept some of it. With the way this schedule shakes out, the 2-4 Browns truly could get to 2-7 and still be in line to finish 8-8 and win the division.
That would be weird. They are weird. They should have won Sunday, and they almost won and almost lost a hundred different times a hundred different times.
You can laugh with them. Or scream at them. They are on the path to something. Just be ready for a wild trip.More Browns coverage Myles Garrett: Browns defense got too cute vs. San Francisco So what's wrong with the offense? Orange & Brown podcast Kitchens on getting playmakers the ball: 'We need to intentionally win a game' The night a Browns fan displayed loyalty at a Ravens-49ers game T.J. Carrie adopts a high school to espouse financial literacy and heart screenings
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