J.D. Bagley, @jdbagley5
A win is a win, but man, this was a frustrating game to watch for Browns fans. Had Cleveland been playing almost any other team in the league, they would’ve lost. The defense coming up huge in the red zone time and time again, and the commitment to run the ball in the 2nd half were the only things that kept the Browns hanging around in this one. This is the first time this season the Browns won a game in which they were out-gained in total yards, and it wasn’t by a slim margin. Even after a win against a division rival, Freddie Kitchens’ seat is heating up more than ever and I’d be very shocked if he remains the head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2020.
Let’s start there. Coming into this game versus Cincinnati, many people knew how terrible the Bengals run defense was, ranking dead last in the NFL giving up over 150 yards per game on the ground. Apparently the opposing head coach wasn’t one of those people. Freddie Kitchens, who carries the absolute luxury of having two running backs with All-Pro potential, decided to give Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt 6 combined carries in the 1st half. I have no explanation for it. Someone must have let him in on a little secret at halftime because on the opening drive of the 2nd half, the Browns went 75 yards on 6 plays, capping off the drive with a Kareem Hunt touchdown run. 5 of the 6 plays on the drive were designed runs to Chubb and Hunt. I can’t sit here and say that I would be a better head coach than Freddie Kitchens, because I probably wouldn’t be, but it absolutely blows my mind how unaware he can be. Maybe he has too much on his plate in his first year trying to oversee the entire team, manage the game, and call offensive plays. But, if that’s the case at least admit it and turn one of those duties over to an assistant of some sort for the sake of the team. His lack of head coaching experience hurts the team’s chances of winning seemingly every week. Especially with such a young team featuring many different personalities that can be difficult to deal with, the Browns need a coach with NFL experience. Once we hit the off season I will touch much more on the head coaching dilemma.
For the game itself, the Browns were out-gained by the Bengals 451-333. Cincinnati was able to move the ball up and down the field at will all game long. Cleveland’s defensive line couldn’t generate an effective pass rush whatsoever, giving Andy Dalton plenty of time to dink and dunk his way down the field. But, it was the Browns defense that came up clutch in the red zone, holding the Bengals to just 1 touchdown on 5 drives inside the 20. Joe Mixon had a field day, turning 27 touches into 186 yards and a touchdown. One of the Browns few positive plays coming on the defensive side of the ball was Denzel Ward’s 61 yard interception return for a touchdown. It was mostly luck as Dalton’s pass was well behind Auden Tate, who tipped it up right into Ward’s lap with a free path to the endzone. If Cincinnati hadn’t shot themselves in the foot here, I truly believe the outcome of this game would’ve been a coin flip, which is why this was so irritating to watch knowing that the Browns were the much more talented team.
Offensively, the Browns had trouble moving the ball in the first half due to their absurd 6:20 run to pass play call ratio. Baker Mayfield threw 2 interceptions in the 1st quarter continuing his turnover prone season. The first one wasn’t his fault but the second one surely was when he overthrew KhaDarel Hodge on a 3rd and long play. For the Browns passing game weapons, it was a pretty quiet day. Landry went 4/76, Beckham Jr. went for 3/29, and in his first game back from IR, David Njoku was exposed to just 21 snaps, catching 1 pass for 4 yards. Late in the game as the Browns were trying to drain the clock with running plays and short area high percentage throws, Beckham ran a deep post and seemed to be open. He ran his route straight to the sideline and immediately sat on the bench looking distraught. After the game when talking with reporters, Odell had his hood up and was talking in a very quiet, sad sounding tone of voice, making it pretty obvious he wasn’t happy. He claims to only care about winning, but acts like a child when he doesn’t get what he perceives to be his share of targets/receptions. This guy needs to grow up. His team won the football game yet he still constantly has something to complain about. If I hadn’t made it obvious enough already, the Browns offense is best when the run game is the focal point. Period, point blank, end of story. My point being, his personality, and even his level of talent isn’t needed in this offense. Baker Mayfield is at his best when he spreads the ball around to 7, 8, 9 different pass catchers in a given game as we saw the 2nd half of the 2018 season. Force feeding a star receiver is not how this offense should be conducted and looking back in hindsight, I’d bet John Dorsey wishes he didn’t make this trade. At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Odell Beckham Jr. was a one and done in Cleveland.
To make things even worse, Baker Mayfield tried to defend Odell during his post game presser, mistakenly telling media members Odell’s nagging groin injury/sports hernia, “...wasn’t handled right in our training room.” This team is such a disappointment and it pains me to say that. Everyone is pointing fingers, the coaching is horrid, players saying idiotic things in front of the media, it’s just a mess. This season, which had so much optimism heading in, has been the definition of Cleveland Browns.