CLEVELAND, Oh. (FNN SPORTS) – Sunday’s Cleveland Browns loss to the L.A. Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium adds another layer to the teams’ deep history. Once upon a time in the NFL, there was no Super Bowl (hard to believe, I know), but there was a Championship game. In 1950, the Cleveland Browns played the Los Angeles Rams and won 30-28. It was the Browns’ first Championship of three. In 1951, the Browns lost to the Rams in the Championship game, and in 1955 the two teams met yet again. The Browns won, running away with the title 38-14. Over time, the Rams and the Browns played a total of 23 games, scoring over 1000 points. The Rams came out on top 12-11, counting 517 points to 511. One title, one win and six points are what separates these two storied franchises.
Sunday night’s face-off offered a slew of storylines. The most burning one: How would this young Cleveland Browns team be able to fend against Rams offensive guru and football mastermind head coach Shawn McVay? Playing against a depleted Cleveland secondary, seven starters were missing on both sides of the ball for the Browns, four of which would be starting cornerbacks and safeties for the Browns’ defensive unit. How would the line hold up against the two-time defensive player of the year Aaron Darnold, newly acquired free agent OLB Clay Matthews III, and the rest of the stout Rams defense? And what kind of magic could the Browns muster at home in hopes of upsetting the NFC Champs in the Browns’ first game back to Sunday night in 11 years?
In a game most thought would be one-sided it became one we’ve witnessed many times before:
Total plays: L.A. 64, Cleveland 63
Total yards: L.A. 345, Cleveland 270
Penalties L.A. 7, Cleveland 8
Rushing yards: L.A. 90, Cleveland 95
Even the time of possession was close–28 minutes to 31 minutes.
The real story of the game once again wasn’t what the Browns did, but what they didn’t do. They managed to get three turnovers, two of which came by their secondary that looked anything but second string. In true form to their past, the Browns only scored three points on three turnovers as they squandered too many opportunities in the red zone again tonight. Taking advantage of opportunities to beat quality opposition is a must in the NFL. One can only keep a great team at bay for so long before the game is lost.
If you missed the dramatic ending of this game, here’s what happened. Goff throws an interception to Juston Buris. Who? Juston Buris, a Cleveland Brown who had been on the team for only 24 hours making his first start in prime time football. Mayfield, with a huge swing in momentum, led the Browns on one of those drives where you’re thinking, there’s no way they’re going to tie this game. The Browns got to the 4-yard line with all their time outs and it looked like they were going to score. Or were they?
For years we’ve watched terrible play calling in Cleveland. Coaches that try things that make us shake our heads at home, wondering they would make that call in that situation. Things that defy not only the football gods, but general common sense. Tonight was another one of those nights. In this case, with four plays to run over again, you would certainly give the ball to running back Nick Chubb. Chubb battered this defense all night, so surely he could gain four yards in four plays.
Then the unthinkable happened–or what Cleveland fans have actually become accustomed to. Coach Kitchens decided that throwing the football four times in a row on the 4-yard line was the most practical way to win this game, outsmarting only himself and gifting the Rams a 20-13 win.
The Rams moved past the Browns 13-11 all time, extending their record on the year to 3-0. The Browns drop to 1-2 on the season, getting ready for their first divisional match up of the year against division foe/rival Baltimore Ravens.
Antonio Campana is a Florida National News sports contributor. | firstname.lastname@example.org