Cleveland Browns instant reactions: Dangerous again on one-year anniversary

CLEVELAND, OHIO - NOVEMBER 10: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns drops back for a pass during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 10, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - NOVEMBER 10: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns drops back for a pass during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 10, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

In Week 10 of 2018, Baker Mayfield coined the “Dangerous” phrase. One year later, he can dust it off as he led the Cleveland Browns to a last-minute win over Buffalo

The Cleveland Browns needed to bounce back this week after suffering their third straight loss. They decided to make the first half more dramatic and closer than it needed to be. But despite the idiotic decisions by head coach Freddie Kitchens, the Browns were able to pull out the much-needed victory.

Cleveland came out early with a well-executed opening drive. But good opening drives are not uncommon. The problem is the Browns will come out with well-executed opening drives only to fall apart.

After getting a stop on fourth down early in the first quarter, the Browns had 8 opportunities to score from the 1-yard line. They failed to score. During that sequence, the Buffalo Bills were called for pass interference twice. Odell Beckham Jr. had to passes hit him in the hands which he failed to catch.

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They were not drops but those are the catches he is paid to make. The Browns running game failed to pound the ball 1 yard for a touchdown. The decision by head coach Freddie Kitchens seemed motivated by emotion particularly frustration rather than a rational decision to go up by two scores.

While the defense played well in the first quarter, after that failure at the goal line, the offense did not look the same. They looked defeated while the Bills defense looked very confident. The goal-line stand was a clear shift in momentum early in the game.

With the Buffalo defense emboldened and playing well, their offense came to life running the football. They ran the ball down the field ending with a touchdown. The extra point put the Bills ahead 7-6.

A rational decision by Kitchens to kick a field goal on the goal line would have kept the score at 7-9. But Kitchens coaches emotionally and the players play emotionally. The emotional letdown after the goal line stand resulted in lackluster play.

This was the first game back off suspension for Kareem Hunt.  Interestingly, the Browns has a good game plan with Hunt. They primarily used him as a decoy to open up Nick Chubb. This is a decent usage of a guy who is probably not in football shape.

Given another fourth and goal situation, Kitchens made an amazingly stupid decision to go for it again. But luckily right tackle Chris Hubbard false-started. Hubbard saved Kitchens from himself. The five-yard penalty made the fourth and goal untenable. As a result, even Kitchens understood kicking a field goal and taking the lead was the best call. That penalty was serendipitous.  Chris Hubbard was the MVP of that drive.

The Bills missed a field goal heading into half time. Or at least a smart coach would have kneeled the ball and headed into half. Buffalo had two time outs. The Browns could have just kneeled the ball and gone to half with a lead. Instead, they ran the ball twice. They also attempted a pass play in which quarterback Baker Mayfield almost took a vicious hit. Freddie just go to halftime. You are not going to score twice with seventeen seconds left in half! Come on man!

Reality is, if Freddie coached rationally (dare I say analytics), the score would be 7-12 Browns. Also, momentum would still be on the Browns side heading into halftime. Instead, Freddie coaches emotionally and the players play emotionally. Being driven by emotion is not effective.

Early in the third quarter, the Bills were able to tackle the Mayfield in the end zone for a safety. This is a great example of why Freddie Kitchens is problematic as a play-caller. Instead of running the ball to get out of being backed up. Freddie decides to be predictably unconventional. The Bills, like the rest of the planet, knew the Browns were passing, they brought pressure and ended up with a safety.

Convention is convention for a reason. It works. But Freddie has made his living as a play-caller in being unconventional. But without being conventional to set up being unconventional, the unconventional becomes predictable. Instead of the score being 7-12, the score became 9-9. Freddie Kitchens is losing this ballgame with his incompetence as a play-caller.

As much as I hate kickers, Austin Seibert is a good kicker. Except for missing the 48-yard extra point, Seibert is the only reason the Browns were in the game in the third quarter. He made a 47-yard field goal to put the Browns up 9-12. If Kitchens were not incompetent, the Browns would be winning 7-15.

At the end of the third quarter, the Bills were lined up to go for it on fourth and four. With 3 seconds left in the half and with it being obvious the Bills were going to run out the quarter, Freddie calls a time out! Not sure what the thinking was here. The defense clearly was not ready but the Bills were not going to run a play. Guess Freddie wanted to score twice before the quarter change.

A bright spot on the day has been the defense. In particular, Chad Thomas played a decent game subbing for Olivier Vernon. He did an excellent job of getting pressure. The defensive backfield did a good job of covering the Bills receivers. The defense held the Bills offense to only 7 points midway through the fourth quarter.

This defensive effort is all but wasted by idiotic offensive strategy. With ten minutes left in the fourth quarter with a 3 point lead, the Browns should have tried to produce a methodical time-eating drive that would result in a touchdown or at minimum, a field goal. Instead, Freddie decides this is a good time to take a shot downfield. With the team then in 3rd and long, Baker gets sacked and have to punt.

The ensuing punt was returned to the Browns 48 yard line. The Buffalo drive ends with a Bills touchdown making the game 16-12 with 5:26 left in the game.

Here is another example of how Freddie Kitchens is losing games for the Browns. If better, more obviously conventional decisions were made, the score would be 16-15. The Browns would be down by 1 point and able to take the lead with a field goal. Instead, the Browns are down by 4 and need a touchdown to take the lead.

Kareem Hunt is a terrific player. In his first game with the Browns, he made an impact both as a ball carrier and as a blocker. He made some terrific blocks springing Nick Chubb for big runs. He also showed shiftiness while carrying the ball making defenders miss for bigger plays. He showed he is a dynamic player who can make plays. Signing Hunt was a great move. Now Freddie needs to integrate him into the game plan in a way that utilizes his skill set.

In a stroke of brilliance, the Browns scored a touchdown with 1:44 left in the game. The brilliant move involved using receiver Rashard Higgins on the backside. Higgins is a good route runner. He ran a great in-route leaving him open in the end zone. Freddie may have redeemed himself.

The touchdown makes the game 16-19. A more conventional approach leaves the game at 16-22. But they are winning. Expect they exposed themselves to getting the game tied with a field goal.

Freddie got saved in the end. Despite his incompetence giving the Bills an opportunity to tie the game, Bills missed the field goal wide left.

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In the end, the Browns players did what they had to. They played well enough to beat the Buffalo Bills. And they played well enough to overcome their own coach’s incompetence. Go Browns!