A bye week is approaching but there’s still work to do. Cleveland’s got one more game to play, and we’ve got one more mailbag to knock out before a week of leisure awaits.
We’re tackling four of your questions.
The Browns are a losing team but there are reasons to be optimistic about the young players and Freddie Kitchens. If the game is analyzed, the Browns were successfully moving the ball on short passes to a player in open space. Will we see more of the Kitchens’ style of play? -- Rob M., Fairmont, West Virginia
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And the Browns showed some things that definitely were not broken Sunday against the Chiefs. Cleveland got Duke Johnson involved early and often, and he helped power two of the Browns’ three scoring drives. The other touchdown drive was dominated by rookie running back Nick Chubb, who finished with 85 yards on 22 carries. The common theme there was taking the burden off rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was punished with numerous hard hits in the weeks before Sunday’s game. He still took a few Sunday, but it wasn’t as damaging and drive-killing as previous weeks. A significant decrease in penalties helped, too.
“We are still running the same offense, but I think we just tried to do what we are best at,” Mayfield said. “Offensively, I think there was a lot more good in this game than we had in the past. I think there is a lot to build on, but there is obviously so much more room for improvement.”
It wasn’t as if Kitchens was parachuted in to take over as offensive coordinator for Todd Haley. He knows the system and overall philosophy, which hasn’t changed, and he knows the players. The key takeaway from the past week, though, was the open line of communication, Mayfield said. That resonated well with the players and helped hone the team’s focus on what it does best.
“I would say that the only difference with Freddie and everything is there was so much more communication during the week,” Mayfield said. “We wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page. He was very vocal about if we are not comfortable doing something as players, then we are not going to do it. There was a lot of back and forth throughout the week, talking about the little details and things here and there. I think that is why we played better on offense. It was we are going to do what we are best and continue to get better at that.”
I watch every down of every Cleveland game and penalties have been a major cause in our losses. I can't tell you how many times they have killed our drives and extended the opponents drives. How can such a major issue get resolved? Is this coaching or our players getting beaten by better players? I'll be watching closely to see if these coaching changes resolve some of these penalties that have cost us games. -- Mark M., Austin, Texas
Gregg Williams offered up a simple “yes” when he was asked if penalties were emphasized in practice this week. That’s not a new development. Officials are present at every practice. For Cleveland players, it’s a matter of playing with discipline, and on Sunday, they did just that. The team’s four penalties matched a season-low. The 20 yards from those penalties was by far the lowest total of the season. Now, the Browns need to come back against the Falcons and do it again.
One last thing. A stat that might surprise some people. Cleveland’s opponents have 82 more penalty yards this season. Only twice have the Browns racked up more penalty yards than their opponent in games this year.
Now that decisions have been made to the coaching staff, can we get motivated again and put better play calls that can use up clock so that our defense isn't on the field most of the game? -- Harvey S., Southington
That was most certainly the game plan against the Chiefs. Consider this: Kansas City had the ball for more than 12 minutes in the fourth quarter, but the Browns still came away with an advantage in time of possession. The problem for the Browns, though, was they weren’t able to finish off their productive drives with touchdowns every time and they surrendered touchdowns on five of Kansas City’s first six possessions. A couple of stops here and there could have really swung the game in Cleveland’s direction, but they never materialized.
This one is out of curiosity. During the Browns-Ravens game, I heard one of the announcers mentioned that Flacco was leading the league with seven passes batted down at that time. I was curious to see where other quarterbacks, including Baker Mayfield, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, etc. ranked in that category. One would expect the shorter QBs to lead in that category, at least if one took all of the Draft Day pundits’ high praise of the advantage of the 6-4-plus QB candidates literally. I have been unable to find any data on this online. -- Fran R., Ravenna
After nine weeks, the NFL leader for passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, according to Pro Football Focus, is Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins, who has 15. Cousins is listed at 6-foot-3. The next four behind Cousins are Flacco (6-6), Blake Bortles (6-5), Ben Roethlisberger (6-5) and Matt Ryan (6-4). Mayfield is tied with eight other people with five passes batted at the line. One of those is Wilson. Brees has had just one pass batted.