The Cleveland Browns season opener featured a wide pendulum swing of emotions for its fans. Among the crazier season openers for the Browns the last 14 years this is … well, this is one of ‘em.
For 13 of the past 14 seasons, the Browns begin their campaign 0-1. The season openers have had a little bit of everything from the team getting blown out (most popular result), to losing a game on a helmet toss to even one year the Browns goofed around and won a game.
As for the latest rendition of openers, the Browns played two different games. The first half featured more of the same bungling we kind of expect from Browns teams regardless of GM, coach or quarterback. The second half featured a team that was beating the Pittsburgh Steelers up and down the field. That hasn’t happened since the 1980s.
In the end the result was 0-1. Been here, done that, repeatedly.
Moral victory? Ugh. There is no patience around these parts for one of those, but the Browns do have 15 games remaining in the 2014 season. With so many games left to play there are two routes we all can take after game No. 1 – the optimistic route or the pessimistic route.
Optimism: In the second half, Hoyer was calm, cool and collected as he led the team back from a 27-3 deficit. This was the same type of leadership Hoyer displayed last season in his victories over the Vikings and Bengals. Thankfully, the Browns did bow to the perceived “pressures” and bring in Johnny Manziel. He’s not ready. Hoyer is ready to display what he can do over the course of a 16-game season and for half of the first game, it was a mostly positive display.
Pessimism: Hoyer is lucky two bad throws in that second half weren’t picked off by the Steelers. Those were dumb decisions. Then, when the game was tied, he was trying to force things to happen. In the end, he cost the Browns a chance at moving the ball into game-winning field goal range.
The running game
Optimism: Rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell are the second coming of Kevin Mack-Earnest Byner duo. OK, but it was nice to have a legit two-headed rushing attack. These guys showed what young, talented legs can do in the NFL. If the Browns can continue to lean on these guys and they produce a four-to-six yards per carry average, the Browns will continue to be in position to win more than they will lose.
Pessimism: Ben Tate didn’t even last the first game. The injury-prone back showed why Houston didn’t want anything more to do with him. And now the Browns are relying on two rookies coupled with the lack of a passing game? That doesn’t bode well for the remainder of this season.
Optimism: After a first half in which it was debatable they were even on the field, the defense was stout in that second half, disrupting any momentum the Steelers built in that first half. Poor field position did in the Browns late in the game. It was the second-half defensive effort that put the Browns in position to win.
Pessimism: They can’t tackle and first-round pick Justin Gilbert needs to grow up FAST.
Optimism: The about face this team displayed Sunday from the first half to the second half can be credited to new head coach Mike Pettine. His message got across to the team at halftime and they responded. It’s a positive sign that these players are behind their coach. This should only help the Browns moving forward as they gain confidence in their coach and system, but the caveat is they need a victory SOON.
Pessimism: This guy is in over his head. He was a high school coach only 12 years ago and now is running a professional team? The Browns came out flat and overwhelmed Sunday and his first first-round pick, Justin Gilbert, looked lost. There was a reason Pettine wasn’t the Browns’ first choice to be head coach. Or second… or third… or…
Optimism: Nobody is making a 54-yard field goal at Heinz Field. It was the right decision to punt.
Pessimism: Phil Dawson would’ve made it.