Penalties, Lack of Discipline Results In Trash Opener For Cleveland Browns

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Derrick Henry Stiff Arms Sheldon Richardson
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) rushes during the first half in an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard) (Source: David Richard)

So much for the hype involving the 2019 Cleveland Browns. Another season opener, same old story.

18 penalties and a lack of discipline sends the Browns to an embarrassing 43-13 season opening loss to the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium. Cleveland has still not won a regular season opener since 2004. The late Bud Carson can rest in peace knowing he is still the last Browns head coach to record a win in his Cleveland head coaching debut.

“Of course, we have a locker room full of disappointment right now, which we should have. That is not the way we want to be represented,” head coach Freddie Kitchens said. “We lost our discipline and we lost our composure, but it is one game and we are going to be tested. You either take adversity and run together and run toward each other or you run away. I think we have a bunch of guys who are going to run toward each other and we are going to be fine. It is one game. I do not care. It counts on the scoreboard, but each game counts one time. That is the way we are going to approach it.”

Things started off well for the Browns offense. Baker Mayfield drove them right down the field and scored. Backup running back Dontrell Hillard would find the endzone on a four yard touchdown run. Who would have bet on Hillard scoring the first Browns touchdown in 2019. If you did you probably would have won some money in Las Vegas.

Any other bet on the Browns  in week one and Vegas is smiling because you lose. It all went bad after Hilliard’s touchdown. Rookie kicker Austin Siebert missed the ensuing extra point. Browns lead 6-0.

In fact, the best kick in the game came from Browns left tackle Greg Robinson. The left tackle kicked a Titans defender after a play came to an end. The kick would end Robinson’s day as he was ejected in the second quarter.

“We do not tolerate that,” Kitchens said. “That is unacceptable.”

As a result of Robinson’s ejection, the Browns to completely reshuffle the offensive line. The Browns only had seven active offensive lineman for the game. 2018 second round pick Austin Corbett was a healthy scratch.

Right tackle Chris Hubbard had to switch from right tackle to left tackle after Kendall Lamm exited the game due to injury. Lamm replaced the ejected Robinson at left tackle. All the line shuffling made things difficult for Mayfield and the offense the rest of the game.

“To lose two linemen and then you have to move guys around,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “We have had (G Justin) McCray here for one week so that is pretty impressive that he went in and played. Hubb has not played on the left side in like three years. All of that stuff is tough. We put ourselves in bad positions all day, the penalties. It is hard enough to get 10 yards, but if you have to get 15, 20, 25, 30 yards on plays, that is not how you are going to win the game.”

“You need to have the mindset of next man up,” McCray said. “If you have pads on, you have to be prepared to play. Everyone has to be prepared to be ready to play.”

“I thought for our guys coming in there, some of them not expecting to play – obviously, Hubbs (T Chris Hubbard)  was not expecting to play on the left side. I though that they played well, being thrown into there and just being able to do their job. We have to be better early on,” Mayfield said. “We would like to have Greg in there, if it comes down to it. The guys that stepped up, we are going to watch the tape to see how well they did.”

Mayfield tried his best to carry the Browns on his back to victory, but it was too much of a load for his shoulders. Mayfield finished the day 25 of 38 for 285-yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.

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“It is extremely difficult. Anytime you get something going, you shoot yourself in the foot,” Mayfield said. “That was our big problem today was not being able to build positive plays. Like I preached last week, we are trying to eliminate the negative ones. That is exactly opposite of what we did today, and that falls back on me. We are going to look at the tape and like Freddie said, evaluate the problem. I think we know it is within ourselves. They are a great football team. Whenever you hurt yourself, you are not going to win.”

18 penalties is the most for a Browns team since the 1951 season. The Browns have said they don’t coach penalties, but they certainly know how to commit them. Now it’s time to correct it.

“With the men in our locker room, not difficult,” Mayfield said. “We will address it and we will get it fixed. We will move forward.”

“I did not see that coming. That is not how we practiced,” Kitchens said. “That is not how we prepared. I did not do a very good job of making sure that we did not have penalties. That is just as much the coaches’ fault, my fault, players’ faults. Everybody takes some blame for that.”

“To be honest, I do not know how many penalties there were,” Odell Beckham said. “I remember looking up at one point and seeing how many there were. You are not going to win many games starting off drives with 1st-and-20s to go and 1st-and-30s to go or getting a big play to see it called back. We need to be more disciplined. It is the first game so whether we lost by one point or 40 points, it still says an L on the records. It is nothing to panic about. Adversity has to come at some point in the season so why not right now?”

At least they didn’t have a first down and 40 like the Chicago Bears had on Thursday night. Nevertheless, the dead ball personal foul penalties really aided in the Browns demise.

“I just have to keep my composure,” Myles Garrett said. “That’s on me. The lack of discipline we had coupled by them gaining traction, we just beat ourselves.”

“You are always going to be hyped,” defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence said. “It’s the first game of the year.  It isn’t the preseason anymore.  You are excited.  Emotions are running high, but it still isn’t an excuse for penalties.  There was too much laundry on the field.”

Cleveland got the game within two points at 15-13 in the 3rd quarter. Mayfield throws his touchdown pass to David Njoku. The defense could not maintain the momentum. The defense surrendered a 75-yard screen pass from Marcus Mariota to Derrick Henry on the first play of the next series. Titans would dominate the game after that.

“Football is the ultimate team game,” Kitchens said. “It does not matter how they scored or what happened on the play. They scored so the offense has to go out and answer. We have to go out and answer. I have to call better plays to put us in position to answer. We have to execute better to answer. Just because we cut it to two and then they hit a play, hell, they are supposed to hit plays. We are supposed to stop them from getting plays, but we did not.

The Browns fall to 0-1 for the 15th season in a row and the 20th time in 21 seasons since returning to the NFL in 1999. How will the Browns handle all the talk about this performance leading up to the week two game. It’s up to them to focus and get set for the national spotlight at the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.

“No disrespect, but we do not really listen to the media,” Beckham said. “It is not like when we lineup, we are thinking about what this reporter said or we have to go out and do that. This is still football so there is really no hype or expectations. There is a confidence within this group, and that is just what this team has. There are no expectations to really listen to. You need to focus on the Jets. They say to give yourself a 24-hour rule. You have to let this one go. You can’t get it back or change the outcome so you just have to let it go.”

“Because everybody is going to throw this in the trash. I think that is good,” Mayfield said. “I know what type of men we have in this locker room. Quite frankly, I do not give a damn what happens on the outside. I know how we are going to react. I know what we are going to do. We’re going to bounce back. We have a Monday Night game coming up so we do not really care. We are ready to go.”

Scott Piker is the Cleveland BrownsCleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage.com. So follow him on twitter @ScottPikerSport

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