Cleveland Browns Week 1 Reactions: No need to panic despite loss to Chiefs

by 24USATVSept. 13, 2021, 1 a.m. 17
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Sep 12, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) calls an audible against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Takeaways from the Cleveland Browns loss to the Kansas City Chiefs

The Cleveland Browns almost beat the Kansas City Chiefs, but once again came up just short, falling 29-33. The game was quite informative for the rest of the season, so here are some takeaways moving forward.

This offense with Odell Beckham Jr. could be truly special

After his status became in doubt yesterday, Odell Beckham was inactive for the game. The Browns offense still functioned more than fine without him, scoring 29 points and totaling 457 yards. And that was without their best (and most dynamic) skill player.

Adding a healthy OBJ to this lineup would provide an added dimension that could make the offense borderline unstoppable.

One of the biggest reasons why the offense played so well was because of its balance, and that doesn’t mean they ran as much as they threw. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt got 21 carries between them while Baker Mayfield threw it 28 times. Just like in 2020, the more the team threw, the better the offense performed, and the more points were scored. It’s science.

A third-round rookie with elite speed, Schwartz entered the league raw, but not as raw as many made him out to be. He made an instant impact, catching three passes for 69 yards and striking fear into the defense whenever he was on the field.

His presence was felt in a big way, and will have a larger role in this offense than most thought. He nearly made a massive fourth-quarter conversion on a long third-down pass but had the ball batted away at the last second. He wasn’t perfect, but his play was very encouraging.

Jedrick Wills Jr. needs to heal up

Chris Hubbard performed well in relief (as usual), but the line clearly missed Wills, who went out with an early ankle injury. The severity is not yet known, but hopefully, he isn’t out for too long.

Cleveland Browns defense not at full strength but does its job

Just like the loss in last year’s playoffs, the defense did more than enough to win. It forced four punts and gave the offense multiple chances in the second half to win the game. The constant open passes to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill were frustrating, but aside from the 75-yarder to Hill, big plays limited for the most part.

This was done without Ronnie Harrison Jr. or Grant Delpit, and with multiple guys like John Johnson III, Malik McDowell, and Anthony Walker Jr. banged up throughout the game.

The team’s best tight end in 2020 continued his great play against Kansas City. In addition to his typical impressive blocking, Njoku was a menace downfield, hauling in three passes for a team-leading 76 yards, carrying smaller defensive backs with him. He deserves more targets, because he’s a matchup nightmare and the offense is better when he’s involved.

The margin of error against KC is so small, and while Cleveland’s was larger this time around than last year, it wasn’t big enough to cover for five huge mistakes. The first was the bungled end-of-half sequence that cost the Browns at least three points.

The second was Nick Chubb’s fumble early in the third quarter that negated the advantage the team had built up during the first half. The third was John Johnson III allowing Hill to catch that 75-yard touchdown, remaining in good position right up until he turned around to look for the ball, losing Hill in the process.

The fourth was the fumbled snap by Jamie Gillan, which gave the Chiefs an easy score, and the final was Baker Mayfield’s first-down interception on the final drive of the game, a result of unfortunate timing as he was trying to make the smart play and throw the ball away.

In spite of all that, the Browns had a chance to win, and that last drive was going pretty well. This team is learning how to beat the best, and while they didn’t pull the win out this time, things should be different when these two teams face again in the playoffs.

While Cleveland is starting out 0-1 once again, there’s no reason to act like the sky is falling. The Browns could very well go on a 10-game win streak starting next week against the Houston Texans. It’s a long 17-game season, and things will only get better from here.

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