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After a thrilling week 1 victory over Baker Mayfield and the Carolina Panthers, the Cleveland Browns followed things up at home this weekend by having their secondary let out a wet fart against the New York Jets.
It's been spun several thousand ways up and down the streets of Cleveland at this point. The Browns beat themselves in their home opener and allowed Joe Flacco, who hasn't played meaningful football in several seasons, to move to 18-3 all-time against Cleveland. With 1:22 left in the game, the Browns had a 17-point lead before allowing Flacco to throw two touchdown passes, a 66-yarder to Corey Davis and a 15-yarder to Garrett Wilson after they recovered the onside kick.
It was one of the worst collapses the franchise has ever seen and if you even remotely know the Browns, tragic collapses go hand in hand with them. Maybe Flacco still wanted to prove he was still an elite quarterback, even as a backup now. Maybe the fans who thumbed their nose at sexual assault victims (Jaguars fans are more and more right every day) brought well-deserved karma the team's way. Or, maybe what JuJu Smith-Schuster said is true and the Browns truly are just the Browns and will find the most Browns-like way to lose a game possible.
With a short week ahead before they host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, today, we'll be breaking down key takeaways from Cleveland's loss to New York. But, before we get started, a quick housekeeping note. Over the weekend, I participated in the ninth-ever VeloSano, which is Cleveland Clinic’s premier fundraising initiative in which 100% of every dollar raised supports lifesaving cancer research at Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland Clinic Children’s. Thanks to your support, I was able to shave off nearly 30 minutes from my time last year. But, we're still a little short of the initial goal overall. Thankfully, you still have until October 1 to donate if you're able!
Here is a direct link to my fundraiser page. With every dollar donated we may not be able to eradicate cancer tomorrow but, we'll be one step closer to ending it for good. Thank you for your support!
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Cleveland finally found balance and momentum on offense
Even though this loss to the Jets is frustrating for both the Browns and their fans, there was some good to come from it. Nick Chubb rushed for 87 yards on 17 attempts and also scored 3 touchdowns. Kareem Hunt, meanwhile, ran for 58 yards on 13 attempts. Joining the duo now known as "Chunt", Cleveland starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett rushed for 43 yards on 6 attempts, with his longest run being 21 yards overall.
Seeing this shouldn't come as a surprise to Browns fans. Cleveland is known as a run-first team and has formed the majority of its offensive identity around its rushing attack. But, in the first half, the Jets did a great job stymying the Browns on the ground – holding Chubb, Hunt and Brissett to only 56 total rushing yards.
Despite this, Cleveland was still in the thick of things with New York due to Brissett finding a rhythm under center. In the first half alone Brissett was hyper-efficient throwing the football, completing 12 of his 13 attempts for 101 yards and a touchdown. In the end, Brissett finished the afternoon with 229 passing yards on 22 completions to his 27 attempts. Sure, he ended up throwing the game-losing interception but, everything else is an encouraging sign of things to come.
Last week, Right Down Euclid advocated for the Browns to find a way to get Brissett comfortable throwing the football. It's the only way Cleveland is going to keep defenses honest and allows the Browns to keep their dominant rushing attack prevalent at any given moment. This is extra helpful considering the Browns have a short week ahead of them and host the Steelers on Thursday night. Again, the loss is frustrating but it is a good sign of what's to come as they carry some positive momentum into a matchup with a very elite defense.
The Browns shouldn't pull the plug on Joe Woods quite yet
It's now two weeks in a row that Cleveland has had blown coverage in the second half of a game. Last week against the Panthers, Baker Mayfield was able to connect with Robbie Anderson for a 75-yard touchdown pass that gave Carolina momentum and kept things close. On Sunday against the Jets, meanwhile, Flacco was able to complete a 66-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis to narrow the gap to 30-24.
This Cleveland defense is simply too talented to end up with results like this. They're loaded up front with Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney creating tons of pressure. Meanwhile, Denzel Ward, John Johnson III, Grant Delpit and so many others should be able to shut down things in the secondary, making life hell for opposing offenses.
Instead, the Browns are all bark and no bite early into the season on defense. The collapse on Sunday against the Jets was unforgivable and should make the Browns reflect on who they are as a team. It also means that Joe Woods, who has struggled mightily as Cleveland's defensive coordinator, should be relieved of his duties. Woods is the one who should craft a plan that sets up this defense for success on any given Sunday, Monday or Thursday. Instead, his lackluster schemes have made what was once considered a reliable defense a liability.
Fortunately for Woods and unfortunately for Cleveland fans, the Browns do have a short week this week. Terminating Woods and promoting someone to defensive coordinator on such short notice would create uncontrollable chaos and possibly put Cleveland in a hole against Pittsburgh they cannot climb out of. If anything, Woods should be on short notice and if his defense fails again against the Steelers, he should be relieved of his duties as defensive coordinator.
The lack of accountability on defense could be curtains for Joe Woods. Photo creidt: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
What to expect with Pittsburgh calling
If you've gotten to this point, you know the Browns have some good and bad momentum coming with them on Thursday night when they host the Steelers. Like Cleveland, Pittsburgh also lost their home opener. Unlike the Browns, the Steelers looked inept on offense and stout on defense in their home-opening loss to the New England Patriots.
So, this upcoming game on Thursday night could get ugly as it's an interesting case of opposite parallels between both teams. Pittsburgh is fairly one-dimensional right now on offense with Mentor's own Mitchell Trubisky struggling at quarterback. But, the Steelers are also very good in all phases of defense, even after losing superstar T.J. Watt to injury.
So, who wins this possible rock fight between two rustbelt rivals? It all depends on how Cleveland shows up on offense. If you see more of the same performance against the New York, it should be a close, albeit ugly, affair. If Brissett and the Browns struggle, all while the defense continues to flounder, then Cleveland could drop to 1-2 on the season and face a lot of tough questions.
Final prediction: 17-14, Browns
Featured image credit: Nick Cammett/Getty Images
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at email@example.com. Did you enjoy this edition of Right Down Euclid? You can get it in your inbox two to three times a week by subscribing here. All it takes is either your Facebook account or email address!
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