CLEVELAND, Oh. (FNN SPORTS) – One is the loneliest number when it sits in front of the number 19–which is the number of losses the Cleveland Browns have mounted on opening day since their return to the National Football League in 1999. Just like Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said today, “hindsight is always 20/20.”
Everyone in the state of Ohio was hopeful that Sunday’s season opener against the Tennessee Titans would snap Cleveland’s losing streak with a new quarterback that won seven games in his rookie campaign, a solid young running back bullying defenders as they try to tackle him, big free agent pick ups that would create space and make everyone else better, and a new head coach that seemed hand-crafted for the people of Cleveland. And let’s not forget the coaching staff assembled from all over the NFL as if they were pulled out of the most obscure corners of the world doing the most remote and covert tasks–these coaches that sat at the podium all week laughing about how young and talented this Browns team is and just how great their preparation has been leading up to this game.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and the Cleveland Browns haven’t won an opening day fifteen seasons straight. You’d have to venture all the way back to September 12, 2004 to find that oh-so-lonely W. Today was an opportunity to take that step forward. Most sports fans and analysts picked the Browns to beat the Titans in this new Cleveland era of football, but not even Hue Jackson could have coached the Browns into statistically the most penalized game they’ve ever played: 18 penalties for over 180 yards, passing Bill Belichick’s 1995 Browns with 15 penalties in one game. Paired with quarterback Baker Mayfield’s three interceptions, it wouldn’t have mattered who was coaching or playing in this game. The Browns that showed up today never had a chance.
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota threw for 248 yards, completing 14 of 24 with three touchdown passes. Baker Mayfield threw for just 40 yards more, accumulating 288 yards, one touchdown and the three interceptions, going 25 for 38 on passes. And for as bad as the Browns played as a team, they were still in the game late in the third only trailing by two points, but Mariota was able to connect with Derrick Henry for a 75-yard screen pass that all but took the wind out of the sails of the Cleveland hopeful.
Finally in the fourth quarter, Cleveland fell apart as Mayfield’s two interceptions led to another Mariota-Walker connection for a touchdown, and a Malcolm Butler 38-yard interception return, putting a 43-13 Tennessee stamp all over the Browns’ forehead and their opening day campaign to outright win the division.
It will now be another 365 days until the Browns have a chance to break the longest losing streak in football and maybe finally give that lonely number one a rest for good. Until then, there are 15 more games of regular season football. The Cleveland faithful can only hope it will get better from here.
Antonio Campana is a Florida National News sports contributor. | firstname.lastname@example.org