The Browns have gotten themselves into a fine mess. They've done it by playing terrible second halves, unimaginative offense and by losing to two teams that a year ago were worse than the Browns -- record-wise at least. Sunday's 16-14 loss to Kansas City came in the home opener.
Some teams start 0-2 and feel good about the way they played or the quality of the opposition. The Browns can say neither. They played rebuilding teams and played poorly.
They could not have scripted a worse start to the season, because the schedule ahead turns brutal.
Ahead: A game at Baltimore, followed by Cincinnati, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, the Patriots and Jets. It's a 1927 Yankees kind of lineup that is the worst possible stretch for a team trying to find itself.
The Browns talked with stiff upper lips coming out of the game. They said there's a lot of football left, that they have to correct their mistakes, play smarter. All the usual stuff.
But for Browns fans, it's all too familiar. This season marks the third in a row and fourth in five that the Browns have started 0-2. They will be prohibitive underdogs in Baltimore.
The Chiefs and Bucs meanwhile, teams that combined for seven wins last season, are both 2-0.
In Cleveland, the more things change the more they stay the same.
REPORT CARD vs. CHIEFS
PASSING OFFENSE: D
It's tough to give any portion of an offense a good grade when it totals 55 yards in the second half, a time when games are won. Seneca Wallace threw for 229 yards and a touchdown, and had some nice connections with tight end Ben Watson. But he also threw an interception returned for a touchdown -- and looked terrible doing it, with poor footwork, bad timing and a double-pump throw. The Browns passing offense has provided a big play here or there, but has done nothing to sustain a drive or make a key second-half play when it was needed.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D
See comments for passing game. The Browns run well at times, but have not committed to the run. Kansas City ran for 132 yards to Cleveland's 68, and its two backs combined for 33 carries compared to the Browns' 24. Those numbers were affected by the Cleveland's inability to sustain drives in the second half, but they could not sustain drives because they could not gain yards on the plays that were called.
PASS DEFENSE: C
Call the defensive effort good enough to get you beat. Matt Cassell completed just enough throws to keep the Chiefs interested. The Browns made just enough plays on defense to lose by two. The pass defense was not horrid, but it also was not overly effective. In the second half, the Browns had chances to get the Chiefs off the field, but let Cassell complete passes for first downs three times. That's simply not good enough.
RUSH DEFENSE: D
No defense plays well when it allows the opposition to hold the ball more than 20 minutes in the second half. That's what the Chiefs did. Early in the game, the Chiefs seemed to be insistent on throwing the ball often. Eventually they realized their best path to winning was Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles. The second half they gave them the ball and the Browns could not stop them. The pair combined for 132 yards on 32 carries.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
The good: The coverage units did an excellent job. The Chiefs standout rookie returners had no room to do anything against Cleveland. Brad Seely's unit did an excellent job there. The bad: Josh Cribbs again had no big plays in the return game. Kansas City conceded it could not stop him and kicked short on every kickoff. The Browns got the ball near the 30 most times, but it didn't matter a lot given the offense's struggles. The Browns need something from Cribbs if they hope to win.
For three reasons; First, the Browns had a golden opportunity to start .500 or even 2-0 given the first two opponents. They lost twice, and they did it with silly turnovers and ridiculous penalties. Second, the Browns play lifeless football. They play with an expectation that something bad will happen. Teams cannot win when they play with fear. Third, in each of the first two games the Browns were shut out in the second half. The other team did something different in the second half to shut down the Browns, and it worked. In two games, the Browns have seven first downs in the second half, when games are won or lost. A coach cannot throw a pass for a player or make a block, but he can have an impact on each one of those facets of the game. The team's record speaks to the results.