Baffling Browns reach bye at ‘crossroads’ after home loss
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Jarvis Landry jumped up and down on the sideline, flapping his arms while madly urging Browns coach Freddie Kitchens to throw his red challenge flag.
Kitchens finally did. For naught.
Nothing is going Cleveland’s way.
Picked prematurely to be a Super Bowl contender, the Browns reached their bye week with a losing record and as perhaps the NFL’s most perplexing team. In the span of four quarters — or even four minutes — they can look brilliant, buffoonish and bewildering.
They commit too many penalties, make too many turnovers and do too much griping about the officiating.
Despite their obvious star power and on-paper potential, the Browns (2-4), who wasted a 14-point lead and lost 32-28 on Sunday to the Seattle Seahawks, are simply not playing well enough to win.
During a team meeting Monday, Kitchens made it clear to his players that things must change. Immediately.
“At some point, we have to become a team,” he said, repeating the message he delivered to the Browns. “The difference between a group and a team is significant. To be a team, you have to do your job and then you bring it together collectively. The better team beat our group yesterday. ...
“All of this talent we have — that has gotten us 2-4. Now, let’s try something different. Let’s try to be a team and see if we can be better moving forward.”
For the third time this season, Cleveland fans made the same solemn walk of shame from FirstEnergy Stadium they’ve perfected over the past two decades. The Browns again failed to deliver at home, and a team that began the season with high hopes reached a critical juncture just six games in.
“At 2-4,” Kitchens said, “you are at the crossroads.”
It all began so well Sunday for the Browns, who scored touchdowns on their first three drives before the offense bogged down. Cleveland’s next seven possessions went: blocked punt, interception, interception, halftime, fumble, punt, stopped on downs — at the 1-yard line.
That last drive appeared to end with a TD pass from Baker Mayfield to Landry, who looked as though he extended the ball over the goal line before it was knocked loose. It came during a strange sequence (the Seahawks were called for 12 men on the field) that had officials huddling, coaches complaining, TV viewers begging for a definitive camera angle and no one exactly certain what had happened.
It was crazy. Kind of like Cleveland’s season so far.
Landry, who left angrily after the game and without addressing the media, spent more than 20 minutes Monday giving an insightful analysis into where the Browns stand — and want to go.
The four-time Pro Bowler said the Browns’ situation reminds him of something he learned early in his athletic career.
“Talent wins games, teams win championships,” he said. “It’s not about talent. I’ve played on talented teams and we’ve won nothing, and I’ve played on teams that we were disciplined, accountable. We had a team full of leaders — my only playoff team. And then the following year pretty much the same team, but we lacked all of those traits that got us to where we were before.”
Right now, the Browns are stuck where they’ve been for years.
Handing the ball to Nick Chubb, who gained 122 yards on 20 carries, scored two touchdowns and thoroughly impressed the Seahawks.
“A great player,” said Seattle coach Pete Carroll.
Chubb ripped off a 52-yard run and wasn’t going to be denied on his second TD, which came just moments after he got stuff on a fourth-down play.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Mayfield’s 11 interceptions lead the NFL and give him 25 in two seasons, also a league-worst.
Kitchens said there are other overlooked factors, and that the turnovers are not all on Mayfield.
“Do I think he can get better with his accuracy? Yes,” he said. “Do I think other people around him need to get better? Yes. Do I think I need to get better? Yes.”
Odell Beckham Jr. had six catches for 101 yards and was targeted 11 times as Kitchens purposely tried to get his top playmaker more chances.
Kitchens is feeling more heat. The first-year coach was defensive about his clock management in the first half.
With the Browns up 20-12 and driving in the final two minutes, he called a pass play at Seattle’s 10. Mayfield forced a throw to Landry that was picked off in the end zone. The Seahawks then drove 88 yards to pull within two.
Kitchens believed the Browns could score twice and doesn’t regret his decision.
“We need to make a better play call, make a better throw, run a better route,” he said. “Listen, I am always going to be aggressive — always.”
Mayfield played with a sore hip in the second half. Kitchens said his quarterback was “fine” and doesn’t think he’ll miss any practice this week. ... Landry injured his ankle but said the bye week will help his recovery.
445 — Yards rushing allowed by the Browns in the past two weeks.
It doesn’t get any easier as the Browns visit the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Oct. 27.
“We are full of talent,” Kitchens said. “Hopefully, our talented guys will all become a team, and we will all go up there as one and put our best foot forward.”