Only in Cleveland. The place where the home team can end a 13-game winless streak on opening day and not win. Only in Cleveland. The place where the hometown Cleveland Browns can end a six-game losing streak to the hated rival Pittsburgh Steelers by not beating them.
It has not happened to the Browns since 1989. The NFL has not witnessed it on opening day since 1971. The answer is a tie. Cleveland ends a 17-game losing streak dating back to New Year’s Day 2017. The Browns are still winless on Sundays since December 13, 2015.
So Browns fans how do you feel falling the Browns 21-21 tie at FirstEnergy Stadium? Optimistic, upset, or numb. Well lets breakdown the stalemate in the week one edition of Cleveland Browns, the Good, Bad and Ugly.
Myles Garrett – The number one overall pick of 2017 finally lived up to the guarantee he made in April 2017. Myles Garrett will sack Ben Roethlisberger in the season opener. It took a year longer than planned, by Garrett brought down ‘Big Ben.’ In addition, Garrett made a few more big plays. The list includes six tackles, five of them solo. Two sacks, a pass deflection, two forced fumbles and a tackle for loss. A healthy Garrett goes a long way towards winning football in the near future.
“I am being the person they got from the draft,” Garrett said. “I am finally healthy, and I am just trying to be the guy to make the plays when we need them.”
Denzel Ward – Well it looks like general manager John Dorsey made the right decision with the number four overall pick. What a debut for the local kid Denzel Ward. Two interceptions of Roethlisberger in addition to some huge open field tackles of Antonio Brown. While Brown did catch a touchdown against Ward, the rookie earned his stripes against one of the elite wide receivers in the NFL.
“I just didn’t get the ball out,” Ward said. “It was a great catch by him, and next time, I have to get the ball out. I was only a little nervous. I was more excited than anything going into it.”
Gregg Williams’ Defense – You can only imagine how loud the curse words coming out defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ mouth. His defense forced six turnovers against the powerful offense of the Steelers. The secondary tallied three interception while the front seven recovered three fumbles.
“We still have a lot of things we need to work on, but we made a lot of plays out there today,” Ward said. “We all just have to go watch film and get better next time.”
“That’s what we have been preaching all offseason,” linebacker Joe Schobert said. “So it’s good to see that. What we have been talking about and preaching about, we are putting into action. We just have to keep it up and try to lead the NFL in turnovers this year.”
Tyrod Taylor – The debut of Tyrod Taylor as the Browns quarterback was so-so. It was a typical Taylor performance. Arm strength is lacking. He makes plays with his legs in addition to make one mistake at a critical time. Taylor was 15 of 40 for 197-yards and an interception. The interception came in the final minute of regulation. A deep pass to Josh Gordon was way under thrown. Sure the weather conditions weren’t ideal, but that pass can’t happen at that moment. Taylor recorded the first Browns touchdown on the season with a 22-yard run in the third quarter to tie the game at 7. In addition Taylor was the Browns leading rusher. Cleveland won’t win games going forward with that stat line.
“It was not pretty in the statistics category, for sure,” Taylor said. “At the end of the game, we still had a chance to win the game and that is what really what it boils down to. I have never been a stats guy. Yes, it would be ideal to come out and light up the stat chart, but wins and losses are ultimately what a quarterback is judged on, and today was a tie.”
Penalties – Head coach Hue Jackson spent a lot of time arguing with referee Shawn Smith and his crew. The Browns were flagged eleven times for 87-yards. Seven of the penalties took place in the first half. Once again the timing of penalties also hurt the Browns.
Back to back false start calls on Joel Bitonio and Desmond Harrison ended a potential scoring drive in the first quarter. In addition, a block in the back call on Garrett cost the Browns the win. The penalty yardage resulted in Zane Gonzalez’s game winning field goal attempt to be blocked by T.J. Watt with nine seconds left in overtime. Double digit penalties usually cost teams a victory, fortunately it didn’t this time.
“Disappointed. Our team has got to get better. That is what I told them after the game,” Jackson said. It is not good enough. You take the turnovers, and the penalties that we had and our inability to do some things early offensively, those are huge keys to a tie game. We have to do some things better.”
Josh Gordon – This isn’t about Gordon himself. It’s more in regards to his target, or lack their of. You can give some of the blame to offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Gordon only saw three passes the entire game. His one catch was a wonderful touchdown grab that tied the game at 21 in the final two minutes of regulation. There was also a mix-up on the first offensive play from scrimmage. Gordon was in there. The plan was for Gordon to not start the game.
“The personnel group got him out there in the first play,” Jackson said. “I saw it just like you did. Not what I wanted, but we will get through that, too.”
Desmond Harrison – Perhaps the pressure of replacing Joe Thomas was too much for the undrafted rookie to handle. Harrison’s first half as a pro was awful. Struggles defending Cameron Heyward in addition to a pair of false start penalties could result in a change back to Bitonio at left tackle next week against the New Orleans Saints.
“I think there were some other areas too that we have to do better at, too,” Jackson said. “It was not as well as we could play on offense, and the guys know that. We will go back, watch tape and get better.”
A Tie Game – So we start the 2018 season at 0-0-1. On the bright side it’s the best start for the Browns since 2004. I’m sorry, but the NFL has to call an audible on tie games. If it takes four overtimes to determine a winner so be it. Perhaps going to the college overtime format. Bottom line, tie games are a no win situation.
“Disappointed for our fans. Did not want them going home without a victory,” Jackson said. “I did not want our players to go home without a victory. We were not able to get it done. Did not finish it, but obviously, a tie. A tie.”
“Nobody wants a tie. Everybody plays to win,” Gonzalez said.” A tie sucks. At the end of the day, we played a great game. We came back and showed a lot of grit.”
“It’s disappointment. Real disappointment,” Gordon said. “That’s a tough way to end the game. Nobody wants to do that with as much work as everyone puts in with the changes that have been made here. It’s better than a loss, sure. But we came in here ready to win. Anything less is not good enough.”
“I wish it was like how it is in college,” safety Jabrill Peppers said. So somebody has to win. Who knows how this is going to affect things down the line? They say that they do that in the playoffs. That is our goal. So at the end of the day, we did not win. That is how I feel. We did not win.”
Scott Piker is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Browns. So follow him on twitter @ScottPikerSport