Browns 29 (0-1) – Chiefs 33 (1-0)
Most sportswriters, I know, start writing their articles before the games have concluded. Typing away all game long. I don’t work like that, in my head I’m mulling over some ideas, but I hold off until the game ends. A lot of folks writing about this game had to trash their entire game long work, there is no doubt. For 3 and 1/3 quarters, the Chiefs seemed headed for a serious upset by a Browns team that dominated the Chiefs defense on nearly every possession.
I had planned on roasting the defensive effort, of course, express concern over the run defense, and wonder how much the sidelined Honey Badger and Frank Clark played a role. Well, good thing I held off. Although the Browns appeared to be out Chief’ing the Chiefs, what a turnaround. The main problem for the Cleveland Browns on this, the first Sunday of the 2021 season? Patrick Mahomes and company.
After Pittsburgh upset Buffalo earlier in the day and Arizona walloped Tennessee, it seemed liked maybe the Chiefs were going to follow suit. The upper echelon of the AFC was in for a bad opening Sunday. However, as we all now know, that when the defense finally did hold to force a punt, it was a game changer.
Many may say the 75-yard touchdown pass to Hill with ten minutes left in the 4th was the moment, however, the offense was humming all game, the defense needed to step up. The defense finally held, special teams was in the right place at the right time (I think Browns punter Jamie Gillian could have gotten some type of kick away) and the Chiefs grabbed victory for the jaws of defeat.
Perhaps, though, the Browns grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory? Because in surveying the Browns sideline, they already looked like they lost after that high snap. You could just see the Browns revert to “those” Browns, knowing that they had most likely lost their chance because of a guy named Patrick Mahomes.
The game plan for the Browns was perfection well into the 4th quarter when they were finally forced to punt for the first time in the contest. Ghosts of Bob Sutton’s defenses filled the air at Arrowhead overtaking the smell of barbeque and opening day excitement. The defense was abysmal, until they weren’t. Anthony Hitchens in a press conference on Friday talked communication and how Spags was animate about good communication this week.
Early on this team was confused and clearly missing the leadership of Tyrann Mathieu. Baker Mayfield looked like his counter-part on the other side of the field. Mayfield was in command and moving the ball at will, something Chiefs fans are used to seeing, but from their own QB. The Browns run game was dominating (153 yards and 4 touchdowns), Nick Chubb averaged 5.5 yards a carry. In other words, hand the ball to Chubb twice and get a first down. At the end of day, though Mayfield revert back to Mayfield, the defense decided they were going to pitch in and Patrick was once again……magic.
Mahomes ended the game with 27/36 for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns and had five rushes for 18 yards and a rushing TD just for good measure. He did it all. Just another day for PM 15. We have come to expect this type of performance from the best player in the NFL, but it was how he led this team back from down double digits multiple times.
Unwavering in his resolve, Mahomes once again wowed with otherworldly side arm throws, the touch passes, the scrambles. This is one of the big differences between Mahomes and Mayfield, delivery. Not just delivery of inhuman throwing angles, but delivery of victories. Not unlike the last time these teams squared off in the playoffs, Mayfield had an opportunity late and was unable to delivery in a Mahomesque fashion.
Unwilling to take that sack with less than two minutes remaining and have another opportunity Mayfield showed a lack of maturity Mahomes possesses by the truckload. Mayfield’s stat line displays the difference, ending 21/28 for 321 yards and the game ending interception. How about that Mike Hughes? The pressure was on Hughes and what a great moment for him to intercept that pass and get the Chiefs to 1-0. Another great signing by Brett Veach, in Veach We Trust.
Another story idea floating around my head early in that game was Chris Jones. The penalty that led to the Browns successful two-point conversion and that sheer lack of presence at the defense end position early in the game was concerning. It seemed like the Chiefs would be chasing that point the whole game. The Chiefs defensive front almost no pressure in the first half, until they did.
The lack of pressure left the secondary to struggling to adapt to some nice play calling by Cleveland. But then Jones arrived and got his first sack before the half saving the Chiefs from falling further behind. His 2nd half sack ended up being a huge part of that come-from-behind thriller. Jones ended the day credited with 3 tackles and 2 sacks. The return of Frank Clark should help the defensive line, but this unit needs spend some time reviewing film the week.
It is hard to ignore the new look offensive line and their struggles. The image of Mahomes crushed between two Browns is troubling and cost them an opportunity to salt the game away. Although they only gave up two sacks for the game, they are clearly a work in progress. PM 15 is too valuable to be crushed by two defenders. Total rushing yards (73 total for the game) doesn’t really show the true extent of what this O-line can do. The Chiefs playing from behind nearly the whole game forced them out of their game plan. Another group who needs to watch this film and take some steps forward next week.
The Chiefs now have the longest active week 1 winning streak, this being their 7th straight. The Kingdom is happy to see their team return to form, but there is work to be done. The run defense was gashed to a tune of 5.8 yards a run. Cleveland converted 3 out of 4 fourth down conversion, each time extending drives and scoring points.
Without Mahomes and his two best friends, Tyreek Hill (11 catches for 197 yards and 1 touchdown) and Travis Kelce (6 catches for 76 yards and 2 touchdowns), putting up huge numbers this team is 0-1 and the Browns get a huge win and confidence boost. Outside of those two, no one else stood out in the receiving game. Mecole Hardman posted three catches for 19 yards and no other receiver accounted for more than one catch. That cannot continue.
The Browns threw everything they had at the Chiefs on Sunday afternoon. KC should expect that for the next 16 games. Next up, at wounded Baltimore Ravens in a prime-time Sunday Night showdown. The Ravens won’t offer the same type of run game as Cleveland, but this defense needs a better showing, the Ravens still have Lamar Jackson.