It was a shootout in Oakland, that’s for sure, but I’m certainly not in the mood to discuss this game from a non-partisan point of view. I write for CLE Sports Talk, I am a Browns fan. If the team that won today did not have those three letters or that nickname, I could care less. Yes, it was Baker Mayfield’s first NFL start. Yes, it was Nick Chubb’s first NFL touchdown, followed by another touchdown, which also included his first 100+ yard rushing game. None of that matters post game. If I hear one more person use the words “building blocks” or “it’s progress,” I’m going to lose my mind and chairs will go airborne.
What went wrong today? A number of things, many of which were in the Browns’ control. For starters, let’s review the plethora of dropped passes that the Browns receiving corp could not rein in. Antonio Callaway did so multiple times with an early one coming on a two-point conversion that could’ve changed the outcome of the game. These guys are receivers. Their duty is pretty well spelled out in their job title. If they are not functionally administering their skills to complete said job, well, it becomes a case of a team defeating itself.
Speaking of a team defeating itself, how about all those penalties, penalties, penalties? I don’t know if these players are having out-of-body experiences as the game proceeds where they forget how to play the game, but again, these things cost us tremendously. This is often reflected on the coach as it is his duty to field a disciplined team. Once again, as it has so often with the Browns this year, discipline left the building.
Speaking of left the building (seeing a trend here?), the Browns’ impressive-thus-far defense was not so impressive today. Gregg Williams may be wearing a toupee tomorrow from pulling all the hair out of his head today. There was an emphasis on this late in the game when the Raiders just marched right down the field. It was utterly putrid watching the defense’s once vaunted efforts melt like ice cream on an August sidewalk. The pass rush was nowhere to be found, and while the secondary showed up, that wet blanket of a defense we had watched in recent weeks was somewhere else today.
Next, let’s talk about the amateur-hour job done by the officials in this game, most particularly late in the fourth quarter when Carlos Hyde took the ball to the first down line. Oops! Did I say he took it to the first down marker? Wait a second, the ball needs to be improperly re-spotted, reversing the first-down call. There was also a no-call block in the back Oakland committed when the Browns punted immediately after that was completely and totally overlooked. These are all game-changing aspects. Come on zebras, you guys have got to get this right.
Of the four leagues, I’ve said for many years that the best officiated is a toss-up between the NHL and NFL. Ever since NFL officials returned from their strike a few years ago, it seems glaringly obvious to me that the accuracy of their calls has gone out the window. The outcome of a game should not be decided by poor calls, but this seems to be the latest trend. Sometimes I have to wonder if the league office just converted a bunch of boxing judges, but I digress.
Lastly, about that reversed first down. Why on earth did Hue Jackson not go for it? It was literally fourth and inches. Our offensive line has become proficient in opening running lanes for Hyde and Chubb, and if they don’t, Hyde often gives us something out of nothing. Now before anyone accuses me of acting in hind sight, au contraire mon frère, I was yelling at the TV in the moment to go for the first down. We have a history of choking and there was plenty of time left for the Raiders to mount a comeback. With that in mind, it only made sense to go for it. Once the black and silver got the ball, scored a touchdown followed by a two-point conversion which tied the game, I was done.
While I’m very well aware of the multitude of positives that arose from our offense today, the closing moments of the game eclipsed all of that. The fact that this team now only has one win with 25% of the season over is inexcusable. I’m not expecting playoffs, but I am expecting consistency in discipline and perseverance, not consistency in coughing one up when it counts. It was like reading an exciting book, only to have the final chapter become a total letdown, ruining every page that came before it.