Accept all the necessary caveats about how Week 1 can produce wonky results and how one game doesn’t make a season, and what you’re left with when examining the Cleveland Browns’ 43-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans is the understanding of just how Brownsy it was.
This wasn’t Dwayne Rudd tossing his helmet, but it was still the sort of embarrassing loss that the Browns have spent their entire existence putting together. The Browns committed a staggering 18 penalties for 182 yards, and several of those fouls were the big, game-swinging variety. Cleveland committed two drive-extending, third-down penalties on the Titans’ first scoring drive of the game; an offensive pass interference penalty at the end of the first half negated what would have been an easy field goal attempt; Greg Robinson got ejected for kicking a dude in the damn head; Myles Garrett punched Delanie Walker.
And then there was the fashion in which the game got away from Cleveland. Their opening touchdown drive made it look like they were going to cruise to an easy victory and spend a week enjoying all the added hype that would have come with it, and when they scored late in the third quarter to make the game 15-13, they had the home crowd behind them, the better players, and plenty of time to finally regain control of the day. What followed that touchdown drive was a cascade of Browns-flavored football failure. The next three Titans drives went for touchdowns, Baker Mayfield threw three picks while running for his life, and over the course of about 20 minutes of game time the Browns had reverted to their truest form.
This was a bad loss in any circumstance, in any season, but that it sits within the context of the entire football world having spent the offseason slobbering over the Browns’ potential for greatness makes it all the more embarrassing. Mayfield’s been talking shit and sitting for profiles in fancy magazines for months now, and Myles Garrett wrote a letter to the whole damn city last week, letting everyone know that things are different now.
All that talk and attention didn’t go unnoticed by the Titans. After the win, Walker delighted in humiliating the NFL’s hot new team by channeling Denny Green:
The Browns do indeed have a collection of talented young players, and even in yesterday’s loss they showed flashes of how good a slightly sharper version of this team can be. But today, one day after their first loss of the season, they are a team that lost its cool, got outplayed and embarrassed at home by a squad that nobody expects anything of, and then got righteously shit-talked after the fact. Yep, that sure sounds like the Browns.