What else did you expect?
First the bad news. The visiting Kansas City Chiefs overwhelmed the Browns, 37-21 Sunday.
Now the good news. The Cleveland offense finally showed encouraging signs that it was reawakening from its three-game slumber or else the final would have been worse.
Some more bad news. The vaunted Kansas City offense, led by the remarkable Patrick Mahomes, toyed with the Cleveland defense most of the afternoon, piling up 499 yards in ridiculously easy fashion.
The Browns’ defense, battered by injuries to an already vulnerable secondary, had no clue on how to stop Mahomes and his runaway offensive machine, which scored touchdowns on its first three possessions and five of its first six.
Free safety Damarious Randall didn’t suit up and cornerbacks Denzel Ward (hip) and E.J. Gaines (concussion) went down in the opening quarter, forcing Gregg Williams to scramble the rest of the afternoon to plug holes. As if Williams didn’t have enough to worry about in his debut as the club’s interim head coach.
Mahomes, who threw for 375 yards, is a load to handle even when you are at full strength, but it is patently unfair when forced to play people like rookie Tavierre Thomas and Denzel Rice. Williams was down to six defensive backs (only two starters) in his rotation.
That’s not to say Mahomes would have been pressed had Ward and Gaines not exited. He was also awarded excellent pass protection, providing him oodles of time to find open receivers, an element of the Cleveland defense that was sadly lacking.
Mahomes, who has dismantled opposing defenses all season, put on a classic display on how to play quarterback in the National Football League, working with stunning precision with his extremely talented cast.
It must have felt like old home week for two of the Chiefs’ monsters on offense. Running back Kareem Hunt (Willoughby South) and tight end Travis Kelce (Cleveland Heights) accounted for all five Kansas City touchdowns.
Hunt, who ran for 91 yards and turned a simple screen pass into a 50-yard touchdown run on the Chiefs’ opening possession, also scored twice on the ground, while Kelce caught a pair of scoring passes as Mahomes ran his touchdown pass total this season to 29 in just nine games.
He also played pitch and catch with wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, who had few problems finding soft spots in the Cleveland secondary, which played mostly zone after Ward and Gaines departed.
On the bright side, it was an afternoon when Baker Mayfield showed several glimpses of the quarterback fans saw after taking over for Tyrod Taylor midway through the third game of the season.
While it was quite evident the Chiefs were the better team, the Browns did not go quietly as they had during the three-game losing streak they dragged into this one. Not one three-and-out in eight possessions. That qualifies as progress.
New offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens leaned much more heavily on the ground game, especially in the early going, an obvious attempt to keep the ball away from Mahomes.
Only one problem. Once Mahomes & Co. owned the ball, the die was cast. The first three first-half Chiefs possessions resulted in touchdowns covering 245 yards in 20 snaps.
The Browns responded nicely to all three with 15 points of their own, requiring 32 snaps. Nick Chubb carried eight times in a well-executed 12-play, 75-yard drive that took seven minutes off the clock, Chubb scoring from three yards out.
Duke Johnson Jr., who reappeared after being becoming the forgotten man in the offense of departed coordinator Todd Haley, scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 19-yard swing pass from Mayfield in the final minute of the half. He wound up with nine receptions for 78 yards.
The score would have been a little closer at the half had Williams, who gambled three times on fourth down and was successful twice, apparently felt lucky and decided to go for two points after both scores and failed.
He failed a third time after the Browns scored again on the first play of the fourth quarter. By going for it way too early after the first score, he sort of boxed himself into attempting it all afternoon, By doing so he handcuffed kicker Greg Joseph, who earlier had kicked a 51-yard field goal, to the bench.
The Chiefs put the game away in the third quarter, taking a 34-15 lead, Kelce grabbing a 13-yard scoring strike over Jabrill Peppers climaxing a 75-yard drive, and Hunt scoring easily two plays after Damien Williams, a running back, blocked a Britton Colquitt punt deep in Cleveland territory.
Their offense was running so smoothly in the first half, the Chiefs encountered only two third downs (a third resulted in a Rice pick on a desperation heave by Mahomes on the final play of the half), converting both.
The first conversion pretty much foretold the fans what the rest of the afternoon was going to be like for the Browns’ defense.
On a third-and- 20 at the Chiefs’ 46, Mahomes destroyed a blitz with a perfect screen pass to reserve running back Spencer Ware, who rambled 25 yards before being run out of bounds at the Cleveland 29. Just like that, out of danger and deep in enemy territory. Four plays later, Kelce hauled in his first touchdown.
Mayfield, who threw for 297 yards, looked more comfortable in the pocket than he has in weeks. Kitchens dialed up several quick-developing pass plays for the rookie and designed a few more that allowed him to escape the pocket and remain vertical.
If anything, it was a step in the right direction for the offense and promoted the notion that the Browns have found a solid running back in Chubb. And that Johnson will be much more a factor in Kitchens’ offense.
It’s also a step in the wrong direction for the defense, which can’t seem to put major pressure on the quarterback, needs to work overtime on tackling and has problems shutting down opposing receivers.
That’s the way things go for teams, usually losing ones, that are inconsistent when trying to put everything together. With the Browns, it’s almost never the case when both sides of the football play at peak efficiency. Thus the losing.
That’s why they have lost four games in a row, five of the last six, languish once again in their perennial home, the basement of in the AFC North, and haven’t won a game in November since Nov.. 23, 2014, a 26-24 victory in Atlanta. That’s 13 games and nearly four years ago.-->