The Cleveland Browns tied the Pittsburgh Steelers in week one of the 2018 NFL season. The outcome was unsatisfying, but the team on the field was confusing. For a team that seemed to know who they were, Sunday looked like a case of mistaken identity.
For the last 24 hours, my thoughts about the Cleveland Browns week one tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers have gone like this:
“We didn’t lose”
“But we forced six turnovers and didn’t win.”
“We came back from 14 points down with 8 minutes and change left”
“We committed so many penalties”
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The Browns had moments where they showed why fans are genuinely optimistic about this season. The defense forced six turnovers. Jarvis Landry and Carlos Hyde showed why they were money well spent. Denzel Ward had a tremendous debut.
But there was another team that made an appearance. This was the team we’ve seen for the last two years. A team that, at critical times, looked unprepared. Undisciplined. And that falls on the shoulders of Hue Jackson.
No, he doesn’t call the plays and there are reasons to question the play calling. But when you have a starting offensive line that didn’t play a snap together in the preseason, that’s a problem. And since the team has been relatively healthy, it comes down to a team that wasn’t prepared.
Unless we were in max-protect schemes, the offensive line was overmatched. Running backs picking up a blitz? Forget about it. But that’s not to defend Tyrod Taylor who, when he did have time to throw, held unto the ball too long in certain situations. But which is the chicken and which is the egg?
Who is this team?
Deep breath. I get it. Part of what we watched is a by-product of preseason’s where starters make cameo appearances. The first game is really like what Forrest Gump said about a box of chocolates, you don’t know what you’re going to get.
But I thought we were done with seeing a team that was not prepared to play. And what I really hoped we were done with was this “Hue-ism” after the game. Although he was quick to praise Denzel Ward, when asked about Big Ben’s touchdown pass to Antonio Brown, he said:
"“He made plays there at the end so that is good to see, but we can’t let them in the end zone on the one.” – Hue Jackson in his press conference via ClevelandBrowns.com"
Are you serious? Ward had nearly perfect coverage. It was a great throw, a great catch – and great coverage. Period. It was a great football play all around. There were many reasons we lost the game. Ward was not one of them.
If this article sounds unfocused it’s because my brain, like the Browns at times yesterday, is still trying to figure out what part of what I saw represents the real Cleveland Browns.
They say the biggest improvement comes from week one to week two. That will be put to the test in New Orleans.