In the history of Cleveland Browns’ home-openers-turned-dumpster-fires, last Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins was definitely one of them.
At least it didn’t come against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
At least a linebacker didn’t throw his helmet after the game was technically won.
At least the Browns starting quarterback didn’t get caught underneath a 100-yard flag during pregame.
Still, it was bad. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. For all the hope and excitement built during the offseason and preseason it came crashing down by 4 p.m. last Sunday. The new offense was putrid. The new defense, while OK, couldn’t get a big stop when needed.
And now, the Browns head to Baltimore. As if the NFL hasn’t kick the rebooted Cleveland franchise and its fans where the sun doesn’t shine enough, this is the Ravens’ first home game since winning its second Super Bowl in 13 years last February.
So, can the Browns spoil the Ravens’ celebration?
After last week, it is hard to think that is even a possibility.
One game a season does not make, right? Yeah, it’s a cliché, but after a poor opener and with 15 games remaining that’s all we’ve got to cling to right now.
Entering this game, the Browns will have their first-round pick Barkevious Mingo after missing the opener. Unfortunately, Mingo doesn’t block on the offensive line. He doesn’t catch passes at wide out and he doesn’t play cornerback. He rushes the passer.
The Browns actually did that right last Sunday. They sacked Ryan Tannehill four times and hit him seven times. The Browns’ pass rush was one of the game’s bright spots. The Browns will need to get to Joe Flacco if they want a chance. If Flacco has time, it could get ugly.
Baltimore may not have Anquan Bolden at wide out, but Torrey Smith has assumed the No. 1 roll quite nicely. Last week against Denver, Smith caught four balls for 92 yards. One can safely expect Browns cornerback Joe Haden to match up on Smith all game long.
Haden did his job and limited Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace to one catch in five targets. Unfortunately for the Browns, Haden can’t cover more than one wide receiver at a time. So, the Dolphins exploited corners Chris Owens and Buster Skrine.
Let’s face it. As poor as Owens and Skrine played, the Browns still only held Miami to 23 points. The offense couldn’t do diddly pooh, to borrow a phrase from Jim Mora.
The offensive line simply needs to block better. We can debate Brandon Weeden all we want, but until the offensive line gives him time to make decisions, we won’t truly know if he’s making the correct decisions.
This is the first of six division games for the Browns. We know how bad the Browns have been against AFC North opponents. The good news is that every team is 0-1. The last time all four AFC North teams opened a season 0-1 was 2002. That year the Browns made the playoffs.
What does that mean? Absolutely nothing. But, if we’re clinging to clichés to get us through the next 15 weeks, we might as well toss in a wonky stat or two.