There have been highs and lows early in the Cleveland Browns 2019 campaign. Wins against the Jets and the Ravens have given fans hope that the hype thrust upon first-year Head Coach Freddie Kitchens and his team may be valid.
Three losses, including a 31-3 drubbing at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers Monday night have reminded fans that this team is still a work in progress.
Throughout the inconsistencies of the first 5 games, there have been a few unwelcome constants: penalties and turnovers.
Let’s start with penalties. The Browns have been flagged a total of 48 times for 423 yards. Only Atlanta has been penalized more.
Take a look at just the first half of the Monday night game against the 49ers. Two false start penalties killed drives when the Browns were in the game. The second of the false starts was on Wide Receiver Antonio Callaway, on first down and in the red zone. Unfortunately, that was Callaway’s least egregious error on that red zone trip.
These are drive-stunting penalties.
Lest you think the blame falls solely on the inexperience of the offensive line, the defense has accounted for nearly half of those penalties.
This was highlighted Monday night when a facemask penalty on San Francisco’s third drive allowed the 49ers’ possession to keep going. The defense could have gotten off the field with the Browns only down 7.
Instead, Jimmy Garoppolo capitalized on the infraction, led the 49ers down the field and eventually found running back Matt Breida over the middle for his second touchdown of the night. That was as close as the Browns would be for the rest of the game.
The Browns are tied for 2nd in the league for most turnovers through 5 games. There are a few reasons for this. Of the 10 total turnovers, 8 of those have been interceptions from the arm of Baker Mayfield.
Some of the blame for the interceptions can be placed at the feet of the man himself. Baker has looked flustered and unsteady when pressured. The 49ers looked like sharks in the water going after Mayfield Monday night.
That prompted rookie defensive end Nick Bosa to say post-game, “He was panicking. He was double clutching. Rolling back and forth. We had him rattled all game.”
Nick Bosa on Baker Mayfield, “… he was panicking. He was double-clutching… We had him rattled all game.” Full post-game comments, including the explanation of the flag planting gesture👇🏽 pic.twitter.com/5fclhKRQfg
— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) October 8, 2019
Boy did they, as Mayfield was responsible for 3 total turnovers in the game, 2 interceptions, and a fumble.
One of those interceptions Mayfield can share the blame for was in the red zone, with the Browns down just 14-3. After Antonio Callaway false started on first down, Mayfield threw low to him at the goal line.
Callaway bobbled the ball, tipping it up into the air where a 49er defender picked it out of the air and ran it back 49 yards. Sure the pass was low, but Callaway is a professional. He should have made the catch.
The drive that should have brought the Browns within 4 before halftime, but ended with San Francisco scoring a touchdown and extending their lead to 21-3.
From there the game was over. The Browns never got back in the game and the 49ers put it in cruise control.
After the game Kitchens said, “We just shot ourselves in the foot too many times, whether it be mental errors, drops, penalties, you know?” Yes, Freddie, we do.
Who is to blame for the lack of discipline? Sure, some of that should be placed on the players. They are professionals, after all.
“Everybody has to do their job. I have to do my job better. If everybody does their job, we’ll be better. It’s as simple as that.” – Freddie Kitchens #Browns
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) October 8, 2019
There’s an old cliché in football that an undisciplined team is the fault of poor coaching. Freddie Kitchens is a great play-caller, but some people are questioning whether he was given the head job too soon.
There are still 9 weeks to play, but Brown’s fans will be hoping the coaching staff puts in the work over the next few weeks to clean up the unforced errors and lack of focus.