Somehow, we thought things would be different this time.
Primetime debacles? Pffft. A thing of the past!
The Cleveland Browns rising to the occasion to outperform expectations against their intrastate rivals? Nah. Not against the AFC Champs!
Joe Burrow’s winless record against Cleveland? A mere coincidence!
As it turns out, nothing was actually different. Let’s explore what we learned but actually already should’ve known.
The offense’s success depends on Ja’Marr Chase
Burrow was nice in 2020, but he struggled throwing deep. And then there was a crazy 2021-22 run Chase’s rookie year, when the offense seemed to always have a couple explosive plays when they were needed most.
Well, without Chase, we’re back to an average-at-best offense. With the Browns pass rush playing out of their minds, Burrow looked very different from last week, when he was calm and collected, even with defenders in his face.
Chase is special, not just because of the plays he makes but because of the plays he makes possible. And without him out there, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd got more attention, meaning we didn’t see them running free across the middle of the field or with room to make sideline grabs like we did before.
The offensive line isn’t fixed
It’s better than the mess from last year, and it was a lot better the previous few weeks. But the o-line is simply not reliable. Unless the team nails a Draft pick or signs an amazing free agent, there will always be leaks that appear in critical moments.
Blame Jonah Williams...
... or blame the rest of the line outside Ted Karras.
The reality is, the o-line has been a problem for years now. The front office has failed to draft quality starters and is only willing to spend on value contracts. Meanwhile, Frank Pollack still hasn’t proven he can get the best out of what he has.
Chris Evans should play a much bigger role
We’ve always been intrigued by his potential, but on one early play, Evans showed that he may be able to be a big-time playmaker when split out wide.
Amazing play on THIRD down early in the game and the dude never gets another opportunity… mind blowing pic.twitter.com/nSJyyNka7N— Logan Fulmer (@Fvlmer) November 1, 2022
This validated a lot of fan sentiment.
We told you about Chris Evans.— ZIM (@zimwhodey) November 1, 2022
WR4 | RB2
For some reason, though, that was the only target Evans saw. He also had zero carries. There must be something we don’t know that the coaching staff does.
Burrow’s mood is the biggest x-factor
All of what I wrote above to the side, there’s something in Burrow’s aggressiveness that varies from game to game.
He seemed to lack confidence early in the season, which was completely understandable. The man was coming off an appendectomy and expectations in Cincinnati were the highest they’ve ever been. Even in that wild 1988-1989 Super Bowl run, neither Boomer Esiason nor Ickey Woods were discussed as being saviors.
Let us remember that Burrow came into Cincinnati to rectify three decades of ineptitude. He was to negate the sea of incompetence with his larger-than-life personality and acumen that overcomes average playcalling. And he did that many times last year and again against the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.
But, for some reason, he didn’t seem to have confidence in his ability to make things happen against the Browns until the game was out of reach, when he escaped pressure on his touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd and threw a deep strike to Tee Higgins for his second score. Is it because he’s an Ohio kid who rooted for the Browns? Was it a Monday Night Football thing? Is this just what happens when we face premiere pass rushers like Aaron Donald, T.J. Watt, Micah Parsons, and Myles Garrett?
For the answer and more, watch us break down the game and look ahead to the matchup against the Carolina Panthers.