1. Browns knew they needed near-perfect game — and acknowledged they played far from it
Nick Chubb took accountability for his costly third-quarter fumble. Baker Mayfield acknowledged the poor decision he made on his final-drive interception. John Johnson III owned up to letting Tyreek Hill catch a game-changing deep ball, a play where he was the only defender in the vicinity.
Accountability was everywhere to be found from the Browns on Sunday in Kansas City following a 33-29 loss at Arrowhead Stadium.
No, it won't make the defeat any easier to stomach, but Cleveland won't have a hard time selecting which mistakes cost them most.
"All of the little stuff matters," Mayfield said. "We've got to play better overall. Luckily, there's 16 more of these, but this one does sting, and it should. It should sting for our guys because we were close. We've got to finish the game. We started fast, but we've just got to finish."
The Chiefs, champions of the AFC for two straight years, have become one of the best teams in the NFL for their ability to provide full punishment for mistakes by opposing teams. That was the story of the second half for the Browns, who played a near-perfect first half and led 22-10 at halftime, seemingly positioning them for a tone-setting road win that would've further entrenched them as one of the top teams of the AFC.
"We came on the road versus a really good football team," Stefanski said. "I would tell you that anytime you go on the road against a really good football team, like this team, you have to play clean football. I am sure the stats probably say you can turn the ball over and still win, but our mentality is we have to have zero giveaways and we have to take the ball away on defense.
"We just didn't do that today."
The Browns will undoubtedly devote significant time this week toward fixing those mistakes and prepping for their home-opener against the Texans, who are 1-0 and coming off a dominant 37-21 win over the Jaguars. They won't pose the same challenges as quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, but the Browns won't do themselves any favors if they make the same errors as Sunday.
2. Browns D blames mental errors, not fatigue for tough second half
The Browns defense was on the field for nearly 12 minutes of the third quarter, when it allowed the Chiefs to score 10 unanswered points and climb back from the Browns' 22-10 halftime lead.
That total nearly matched the entire amount of time the Browns D was on the field in the first half, but the group wasn't interested in pointing toward any fatigue when discussing what fell apart in the second half.
"Coach did a good job of subbing us and keeping us fresh," defensive end Myles Garrett said. "We just had too many MEs (mental errors) and missed assignments on our part. They take advantage of stuff like that. They've shown that and we just have to be better."
Regardless of stamina, it's difficult to catch up to Hill and TE Travis Kelce, two All-Pro playmakers who combined for 273 of Mahomes' 337 passing yards. Hill recorded 97 of his yards in the first half when the defense was hardly out of any energy. Browns defenders needed to be great in all facets of the game to slow them down, and that just wasn't the case during key moments of Sunday's loss.
"It was a busted play I didn't finish on," Johnson said when discussing Hill's 75-yard touchdown. "I was trying to read his eyes and as soon as I looked back the ball was behind me. It was one of those things where you do your job, and you kind of just get burned. Plays like that happen. You try to shake out of it and bounce back."
3. The Browns have a plan for Anthony Schwartz, and it worked
One of the biggest weapons for the Browns on Sunday wasn't any of their veteran playmakers, although several of them still contributed heavily in keeping the score close even as things unraveled in the second half.
Third-round rookie WR Anthony Schwartz provided a quality NFL debut, hauling in three passes for 69 yards and adding a 17-yard rush on the ground. He was a key player of the offense, which was without WR Odell Beckham Jr. (knee), and made it known early that he could be a big contributor when he caught a 44-yard pass in the first quarter.
"You just want that one deep ball and it shows that you are good," he said. "You are settled in. You are fine to just do everything that you have been doing in practice your whole life. Also, it is great that you start off with a deep play to jump start the drive."
The Chiefs defense was without star defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and DE Frank Clark, and the Browns partially capitalized on their absences with Schwartz, who ran one of the fastest 40-yard dashes of all players in the 2021 draft class and battled injuries in training camp.
"He had some good moments," Stefanski said, "and I'm sure there's plenty to clean up."
It wasn't all perfect for Schwartz, who dropped a pass on the final drive of the game but faced good coverage from the Chiefs defender in coverage. Mayfield blamed himself for the pass. Schwartz blamed himself for not making the play.
But when the ball was in his hands, it always felt as though a big play could be ahead.
"Schwartzy looked great," Mayfield said. "I'm proud of him for how he played. He's a guy that's going to continue to grow, as he learns our offense and little nuances. His feet, obviously, were on display today. He's a guy that we're lucky to have in our offense."