The Cleveland Browns finally travel to Arrowhead Stadium for their Week 1 game on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
This game has been talked about since May when the NFL schedule was released.
It is a rematch of the AFC divisional playoff game which the Browns lost by a score of 22 to 17.
Both teams have retooled critical areas i.e. the offensive line for Kansas City and the Cleveland defense.
Here are the three keys for the 2021 Cleveland Browns team to beat the Kansas City Chiefs.
1. Start Fast
This means several things.
Taken literally, it means use a hurry up, no huddle offense at the start of the game.
Not exclusively, but implement it often enough to keep the Chiefs a little unsettled.
The other interpretation is to score early and put the pressure on the Chiefs.
Too many times, the Browns were sluggish at the start of the games in 2020.
This meant the team needed to engage in late game heroics to win.
Baker Mayfield needs to play clean and be on point while spreading the ball around.
Baker Mayfield’s improvement from 2019 to 2020 was eye-opening:
6-10 W-L 11-5
59.4 Comp PCT 62.8
22-21 TD-INT 26-8
40 Sacked 26 pic.twitter.com/b2zCeOdBs1
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) September 9, 2021
2. Keep Patrick Mahomes On The Sidelines
Patrick Mahomes in September games:
♦️92.2 PFF Grade (1st)
♦️0 INTs pic.twitter.com/A7I6WG5bbN
— PFF (@PFF) September 1, 2021
This is another strategy that can be accomplished in multiple ways.
Long, productive offensive drives that put 7 points on the board are vital.
#Browns OC Alex Van Pelt on facing Chiefs' offense: "That's a very explosive offense. We're not playing that offense, though. We have to take care of our drives. We have to take care of the football and we have to end with the drives in the end zone."
— 92.3 The Fan (@923TheFan) September 9, 2021
The other method of achieving this is to stop the Chiefs’ offense and generate pressure on Mahomes.
This is much easier said than done.
The Browns’ new and improved defense, which has not played together at all during preseason games, needs to be ready to go as soon as the game begins on Sunday.
When Jarvis Landry was asked today what he noticed most about this new revamped defense ? Answer the pass rush!!💪💪
Clowney,Garrett Cleveland Browns fans have a chance to be one of the best if not the best DE duo in the league if Clowney is healthy and he is!!#BrownsTwitter pic.twitter.com/u2nETdeSBl
— The_Brownie_Elf (@TheBrownieElf1) September 9, 2021
3. Minimize Momentum-Changing Plays
This is a nice way of saying the obvious.
The Browns need to keep the mistakes to an absolute minimum.
Interceptions and fumbles that put the ball right back into Mahomes’ hands have to be few and far between.
No one can stomach another deflating play like the fumble-touchback play that gave the Chiefs momentum in the divisional playoff game.
The other is no missed kicks for Chad McLaughlin.
Missed kicks caused the Dallas Cowboys to lose to the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football.
For the Browns defense, it means no play that resembles Chad Henne‘s heroics in the playoff game.
Stop the Chiefs in first and second down situations to create third and long yardage situations to keep the pressure on Mahomes to create those big plays he is very capable of making.
While some are downplaying the ultimate result of this game as just one win or loss in the course of a long 17 game season, I disagree.
This is a potential playoff preview in Week 1, and the Browns need to be extremely competitive.
A win would be huge for the Browns and give the team valuable confidence and momentum early in the season.
It could also snap a years-long streak of losing opening games.
The last time the Browns won a season opener, 26-year-old Baker Mayfield was just nine years old.
It is time to end that streak.