Week one is now in the books, and as expected, the Browns fell to the Steelers. What wasn’t as expected was how close the game was. the Browns lost 21-18, and here is my breakdown of how it went.
First of all, the defense played well. Despite the end result, and even though Roethlisberger went for 263 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception through the air, they were able to neutralize a lot of their offensive threats by bending without breaking. Antonio Brown was able to gain 182 yards on 11 receptions, which is a lot, but they kept him out of the end zone. More impressive was the way they stopped the run. Superstar running back Le’veon Bell was held to 32 yards on 10 carries, and was also kept out of the end zone. The Browns held the entire rushing game to just 35 total rushing yards. Tight end Jesse James had a big game though, racking up 41 yards on 6 receptions, but scored their two offensive touchdowns. The other Pittsburgh touchdown came on the first offensive series for the Browns, where they were held to a three and out. On the Punt, it was blocked, and recovered in the end zone by Pittsburgh for a touchdown.
Offensively, the Browns had a few nice drives, but ultimately stumbled too often. This revamped offensive line gave up seven sacks and that cannot happen. Not all of the sacks were their fault, rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer struggled at times to get rid of the ball, resulting in a few of those sacks. As he gets a little further into the season, those mental mistakes should be eliminated, or at least minimized. by the numbers, Kizer had a pretty good day. He went 20 of 30 for 222 yards with one touchdown, and a costly interception. Kizer also added 17 rushing yards including a touchdown on the ground. Not horrible for a rookie making his NFL debut. There were plays and drives where he looked very comfortable, and made some great decisions. Unfortunately, he couldn’t put enough of those plays and drives together to win the game. Crowell and the running game also struggled. The Crow was only able to gain 33 yards on 17 rushing attempts averaging just 1.9 yards per cary, and was unable to reach the end zone.
As is the case in any loss, this was disappointing. Losing the season opener, at home, to a bitter rival can be demoralizing to a young team like the Browns (as we have seen in all but one year since their return in 1999). I did not expect a win today, but they played a respectable game. Their defense showed that they can compete, and keep the team in close games. They lack big playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, but as they grow together, that could change. All in all, the result was just about what I had expected, but they played a little bit better than I thought. The rest of the season should be fun, and when they start to win a few games, their confidence will grow as well.