Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor said heading into yesterday’s home opener that they were going to ‘shock the world’ this season. If managing to not lose a game—but also not quite winning it—is worth considering as shocking, then they may have already accomplished their mission.
In spite of the fact that the Browns failed to come out of yesterday’s game with a victory, they have already secured a better record than they had a year ago, even if they go on to lose their next 15 games. That is, of course, because they lost all of their games.
Still, the irony is that the Browns were the team that had the last chance to win the game. While they are celebrating the tie as a victory, the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking it as a loss, even though they likely escaped an actual defeat by blocking a potential game-winning field goal in the final minute of the contest.
Think about that. The team that blocked a potential game-winning field goal to force a tie is taking the result harder than the team that had the field goal blocked. That’s Steelers-Browns football circa 2018. That’s how bit a specter Pittsburgh has been over that city for a long while.
With that said, there were some positive things to take away from the game for the Browns. One of them was, at least, Tyrod Taylor’s ability to move the football with his legs. While he didn’t do a whole lot else that was worthy of praise—his internal clock was clearly off, his ball placement was pedestrian at best, and his conservatism only relinquished when Joe Haden was out—he helped keep the game alive with his mobility.
Myles Garrett also looks as advertised, recording two sacks and forcing two huge fumbles that helped Cleveland score 14 points in the fourth quarter. He had his way with Alejandro Villanueva a little too often, to be quite honest, which was one of my concerns heading into the game.
Rookie first-round cornerback Denzel Ward also had a very good game primarily working against Antonio Brown for the afternoon. While Brown made an exceptional catch against him for a 22-yard touchdown, Ward generally held him at bay for the rest of the contest.
That said, the team’s decision to start a rookie undrafted free agent proved to be, uh, questionable. He was flagged three times alone for pre-snap penalties, and Bud Dupree managed to have a solid game against him, including a strip sack, and another that was negated by his being offsides (even though it probably didn’t much affect his rush in terms of affording him an advantage).
The Browns are still a team with plenty of issues, beyond personnel, but they are also a team that is decidedly better than last year, or two seasons ago. As long as they continue to build on what they have started, they should manage to win at least a few games this year—provided that they get out of their own way.
Which would be the most shocking thing of all.