On its floor, the Cleveland Browns’ season-opening loss to the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs appeared like a colossal wetting of the mattress.
A still-developing but promising squad, in a hostile setting, was one quarter away from an upset victory over the premier crew within the convention. They’d the prospect to make an announcement each about their development and potential.
Then got here that Mahomes Magic, manifested in a one-play, 14-second, 75-yard landing scoring drive as Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill did what they typically do. Somewhat than absorbing the blow and dealing as that they had all recreation, the Browns buckled and misplaced 33-29.
“We didn’t play our greatest when it mattered. We didn’t coach our greatest when it mattered,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski mentioned. “Versus a crew like this, you need to play a 60-minute soccer recreation. We didn’t try this, so once more disenchanted anytime you may’t get a win on the street.”
The Browns positively choked. And as quarterback Baker Mayfield mentioned, “this one does sting, and it ought to. It ought to sting our guys as a result of we have been shut, or nonetheless you need to describe it.”
However trying big-picture, dropping to Kansas Metropolis on Sunday wasn’t essentially horrible.
The bitter style of this defeat will seemingly show extra useful than jubilation fueled by an upset. Certain, the Browns have been motivated and trying to find vindication after falling quick to the identical opponent, on the identical area, within the divisional spherical of the playoffs simply 9 months in the past.
And after one other robust offseason, that includes high quality acquisitions in free company and the draft, the Browns entered the 2021 common season with nice expectations, each internally and outwardly. Members of Cleveland’s group imagine they’re part of one thing particular. Some soccer pundits view them as Tremendous Bowl contenders and on the very least, deserving of recognition as one of many high groups within the AFC.
Beating the Chiefs would have validated these lofty beliefs. However then what?
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A season-opening win over Kansas Metropolis very properly might have given the Browns’ gamers a false sense that, “ah, we’ve arrived,” when this crew nonetheless has an extended method to go earlier than it is thought-about elite.
Sunday’s efficiency – collapse and all – will train the Browns extra proper now than a victory would have.
The Browns proved that they belong in that front-leading pack of groups within the convention. They entered the sport with an aggressive and intentional recreation plan on each side of the ball and executed it impeccably for the higher a part of three quarters. They even opened the fourth quarter by rebounding from a late third-quarter, fumble-killing drive by producing an authoritative nine-play, 75-yard landing drive that featured stability and variety in weapons.
Their younger cornerstones have proven they’re as much as the duty of acting at a excessive degree with a robust sense of urgency. Chiefs gamers and coaches mentioned the Browns’ physicality gave the season opener the depth of a playoff recreation.
However the fourth-quarter collapse will function a beneficial wake-up name for Stefanski, Mayfield & Co., proving that psychological fortitude of one other degree separates the good groups, coaches and gamers from the great.
The true elites aren’t simply shaken by adversity. As Sunday confirmed, despite the fact that the Chiefs noticed the Browns outplay them a lot of the sport, they by no means panicked.
“There was by no means any doubt (trailing 22-10 at halftime) in nobody’s head that we have been going to lose this recreation,” Kansas Metropolis’s Hill mentioned. “We simply stored taking part in for each other and also you noticed issues occur for us.”
The Browns received rattled when the Chiefs hit them with one good punch. Though they nonetheless had the lead, they deserted the run recreation Kansas Metropolis’s protection had struggled to cease. They couldn’t even successfully do the best duties, like deal with a punt snap. And in a do-or-die situation, Mayfield, who had performed very properly, made the one throw that he couldn’t make and received picked off.
The Chiefs uncovered the Browns’ weaknesses, all psychological, not bodily or talent-related. Now, they only have to search out methods to develop. As Mayfield mentioned, “Fortunately, there’s 16 extra of those. … We’ve received to complete the sport. We began quick, however we’ve simply received to complete.”
Now, as they put together for the Houston Texans, who received their opener, the Browns should show themselves able to rebounding from disappointment and residing as much as potential. It is a acquainted place which will swimsuit them higher in the intervening time.
One of many greatest questions on this Browns crew includes their means to succeed as front-runners. We noticed them fail to stay as much as contender hype two years in the past, when reasonably than constructing on a promising 7-8-1 marketing campaign in 2018, they went 6-10 and received head coach Freddie Kitchens fired.
Final season, they embraced skepticism and thrived as underdogs, hitting their stride late, chasing down a wild-card playoff berth and overtaking the Pittsburgh Steelers within the first spherical of the playoffs.
One other 16 video games stay, however adopting that “out to show one thing” mentality ought to gas these Browns.
Comply with USA TODAY Sports activities’ Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.
This text initially appeared on USA TODAY: Browns’ collapse vs. Chiefs will train greater than a victory would have
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