CLEVELAND, Ohio — Many fans were angry at Myles Garrett for calling out the booing after the epic collapse vs. the Jets, in which just about everything that could go wrong for the Browns in the final 1:55, did.
I understand Garrett’s disappointment over the booing, and I understand the fans verbally expressing their frustration after the 31-30 loss, one in which the Browns took a 30-17 lead with 1:55 remaining and had a 99.9% of winning the game at that point, according to ESPN Analytics.
I don’t think Garrett’s disappointment over booing and the fans booing are mutually exclusive.
His criticism of the booing came in response to my postgame question about if the loss was even worse because it came on the Browns’ home field, in the home opener, in front of a beloved fan base that went home so disappointed.
“The most disappointing thing was the booing at the end,” he said. “It was not the most optimal ending that we wanted. Of course we want to win. Of course we wanted to play out the game and it ended 30-16 or 30-17 or whatever it was, we got a pick or a strip sack and ended the game. But that’s not always how it goes. These guys are still putting their asses on the line and playing as hard as they can, and they should be respected as such.
“It’s two games and we have plenty more games to play, especially this next one coming up with the home crowd. We have a lot of time to correct what we’re doing, so we don’t want to see this crowd, this stadium give up on us this early. We want to see them completely behind us. And it’s disappointing for everybody, but it’s absolutely disappointing for us as a team just knowing that we had them with our foot on their throat and we didn’t finish them, and that’s completely on us. We’ll learn from this and correct it and come back stronger.”
In my view, the big takeaway from Garrett’s remarks is that he was appealing to fans to stick by the players and give them a chance to redeem themselves, which they plan on doing Thursday night against the Steelers. He appreciates and loves the fans here as much as anyone on the team, and I don’t think he’d do anything to jeopardize the relationship.
Having said that, most of the other players on the team that were asked about the booing, including John Johnson III, Joel Bitonio and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, had no problem with it. All of them, including Garrett, are determined to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
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Nick Chubb took too much blame
It was noble for Chubb to blame himself for scoring his third and final touchdown that made it 30-17 with 1:55 left instead of going down or out of bounds at the 1, but I think he’s being way too hard on himself.
If he had gone down or out of bounds there, Jacoby Brissett would have been able to take a knee three straight times and the Browns marched out with a 24-17 victory and a 2-0 record.
But a running back is not supposed to be worried about clock management or analytics in the middle of a game.
“At the moment we’re going to break tackles and score touchdowns,” Kareem Hunt said. “That’s what we do.”
The only way Chubb, who said scoring that last TD “cost us the game,” goes down or out there is if he’s instructed to do so by his coaches or by Brissett in the huddle via the coaches in the headset.
That’s how it happened in 2020 when Chubb veered out of bounds at the 1 on the 59-yard “No Mas” scamper to preserve the 10-7 victory over the Texans. Had he scored, then-Texans QB Deshaun Watson would have gotten the ball back with a little under a minute left.
But even though Chubb shouldn’t have been expected to make that decision on his own, he put it on his shoulders and took it off those of Kevin Stefanski, who also assumed the blame.
“We all work together,” Chubb said. “We all communicate but at the end of the day, I’ve been in that situation before, so I can’t really put it on anyone but myself at this point. I think the biggest thing is, I was aware of what was going on, and I thought the game was over if we’re being honest.”
If no one called “No Mas,” there’s no way Chubb (87 yards, three rushing touchdowns) deserves blame.
Perhaps he felt he should set an example for the rest of the team by owning a mistake he didn’t commit.
The defensive players-only meeting was necessary
Two games into the season seems a bit early for a players-only team meeting, but in this case, it was warranted.
The defense collapsed in the fourth quarter of each of the first two games, surrendering 17 points and two huge TD catches on blown coverages, one for 75 yards to Robbie Anderson vs. the Panthers and one for 66 to Corey Davis vs. the Jets.
But it was more than that. The defensive backs were coming dangerously close to pointing fingers, and it was time to quickly nip that in the bud and pull together.
When Denzel Ward said on Monday that it “wasn’t my coverage” it seemed as though he was implicating someone else. But I think more so than anything, he was defending himself from criticism on Twitter and by Pro Football Focus, which gave him a 33.5 grade, worst on the team. The site credited him with giving up four catches on four targets for 106 yards and two TDs, and allowing Joe Flacco to earn a perfect 158.3 rating.
When stating that he was targeted only once and that the 66-yarder wasn’t his responsibility, I doubt he meant to throw a teammate under the bus, because that’s not how Ward, a high-character player, rolls. But his remarks unwittingly pinned the 66-yarder on Grant Delpit, who seemed understandably miffed when he jumped on his Zoom call with the media on Monday.
Therefore, it was important for the defense to hash it out behind closed doors and clear the air.
The defensive backs are a close-knit bunch, and they know they need to stick together. They’re talented enough to be one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL once they straighten out their communication issues.
I also don’t think a players-only meeting has to be a one-and-done proposition. Garrett called several such meetings last season, and they seemed to help.
Amari Cooper and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah also spoke up on accountability day
Tuesday was a soul-cleansing day for the Browns, a day in which several players owned up to mistakes to hold themselves accountable and get things turned around.
Cooper said the onside kick “was my play to make” and Owusu-Koramoah took the blame for the blown coverage on running back Breece Hall’s 10-yard TD catch at the end of the first half that tied the game at 14.
If all goes as planned, the Browns won’t have four or five guys fessing up to mistakes the day after a game, but it was good to see them facing the music like Stefanski did.
“That’s all we can do,” Chubb said. “We can’t point the finger, because we all took a part in it, we all played a role in what happened collectively as a team. Everybody has something to do with it.”
If the coordinators had been available in this short week, they would’ve undoubtedly done the same thing, with defensive coordinator Joe Woods accepting responsibility for the defensive collapse, and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer answering for a fake punt that led to a TD, a missed extra point, and a lost onside kick.
The Browns pride themselves on attention to detail, but it’s clear they must take it up a few notches in that department.
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