CLEVELAND — No, I’m not into crowning a team with a moral victory. Especially if that team plays in the National Football League. However, my main takeaway from the Cleveland Browns’ 33-29 season-opening loss to the Kansas City Chiefs is that the storied franchise, with a diehard fanbase, rocking orange helmets has finally arrived.
The process of rebuilding clearly transformed into contending last season in Kevin Stefanski’s first season as head coach and that accelerated trajectory continued Sunday in Week 1, even in a gut-wrenching loss to the defending AFC champs.
Were the Browns perfect? No, far from it.
It’s why they ultimately lost on Sunday after taking a 22-10 lead into halftime. A rare fumble by Nick Chubb (turned into points by the Chiefs), punter Jamie Gillan mishandling a punt in the fourth quarter (also turned into points by the Chiefs) and Baker Mayfield’s late game-sealing interception cost the Browns an impressive Week 1 statement victory.
Beating the high-powered Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs is difficult enough, adding mistakes like the Browns committed Sunday evening, makes the task of going on the road to Arrowhead Stadium virtually impossible. The margin for error against a team like Kansas City is razor-thin to begin with.
Enough about the Chiefs. Admittedly, I’m tired of them. The month of January is the earliest Cleveland would have to square off with the team that has represented the AFC in back-to-back Super Bowls and if the season-opener showed us anything, it’s that the Browns can certainly go toe-to-toe with the juggernaut Chiefs.
Let’s turn the page…after all, there are 16 more games to play.
Next up for the Browns: the 1-0 Houston Texans. It will be Cleveland’s home-opener in a stadium ready to erupt into a frenzy on a day that will feel like the city’s biggest party in over a year. Yes, bigger than even the NFL Draft.
Trust your eyes. The Browns are loaded with talent on the offensive side of the football. Baker Mayfield is the best quarterback the franchise has had operating the offense since coming back into the NFL in 1999, the running back combo of Chubb and Kareem Hunt may just be the best 1-2 punch in the NFL and the wide receiver room is deeper than Lake Erie. Sure, the Browns special teams are a bit of a mess and the defense still has its fair share of question marks, and that’s without players getting ejected (cough-cough, Ronnie Harrison).
Nevertheless, with some uncertainty on both sides of the football, Week 1 still showed us the Browns are a legit contender in the AFC. Yes, even in a tough loss.
However, in Week 2, against a transformed Texans team starting Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, it’s time to start proving the growth of this Browns team in the win column.
There is no “moral victory” column in the NFL. An “improvement” column has never existed regardless of what Pat Shurmur or Hue Jackson told us. In the NFL, a team, its front office, its coaching staff and ultimately its players are judged on wins and losses.
The Browns appear to have finally arrived and are here to stay when it comes to any postseason conversation.
Week 2 against the Texans is the time to prove Week 1 wasn’t just a valiant effort or dare I say it, a moral victory.
More Browns Coverage:
- Mike Polk Jr. shares his thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' season opening loss
- 3 Things About the Browns: Stephanie Haney talks to Jim Donovan following team's opening loss in Kansas City
- #3Browns After Further Review: Jay Crawford and Dave 'Dino' DeNatale look back on Cleveland Browns loss at Kansas City
- 'Tough lessons are learned in bitter defeats': 3News' Jay Crawford on Cleveland Browns' loss to Kansas City Chiefs
- JIMMY'S TAKE: Cleveland Browns' opening loss 'a tough one to take,' but there's still plenty of hope