Officiating around the NFL was atrocious Sunday, and maybe at it's worse in Cleveland.
Editor’s note: Tony Grossi is an analyst on the Cleveland Browns for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Instant takeaways on the Browns’ 32-28 to the Seattle Seahawks …
1. No joy: Intentionally getting the ball to Odell Beckham Jr. wasn’t the problem this time. The Browns targeted their hungry wide receiver 11 times. He caught six for 101 yards. But four turnovers, a blocked punt, nine penalties and general confusion was too much to overcome as the Browns blew a 20-6 lead and lost to the Seahawks, 32-28. The Browns lost the lead in the second half, regained it in the fourth quarter, and lost it again with 3:30 to play. Baker Mayfield had a chance to pull off a final comeback drive, but his pass for Dontrell Hilliard on second down was behind the running back, glanced off his hands and was intercepted by linebacker K.J. Wright. It was the third interception of the game for Mayfield, who left briefly in the third quarter with a hip injury but did not miss any game time. The loss kept the Browns winless (0-3) at home as they reach they bye week with a 2-4 record – two games behind victorious Baltimore in the AFC North. It should be a rough bye week with a road game at New England up next.
2. Back and forth: The Seahawks retook the lead, 33-28, with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter on a Chris Carson 1-yard run and the PAT. The 5-minute, 32-second drive was aided by two Browns defensive penalties – a questionable horse-collar tackle of Russell Wilson by Morgan Burnett and a hands-to-the-face on Eric Murray.
3. Total confusion: The Browns had an adventurous series after their first defensive takeaway, a fumble recovery by Devaroe Lawrence. First, they barely made good on a fourth-down gamble at the Seattle 20 -- about two fingers between the first-down marker and the spot of the ball. They got down to the 1 and on fourth down a Mayfield pass to Jarvis Landry was fumbled into the end zone and put back to the 1 because the Seahawks had 12 men on the field. Landry angrily insisted he broke the plane of the goal before the fumble and Freddie Kitchens tossed the challenge flag just as Chubb was blasting over the goal line on the next play. The challenge was denied even though it looked like Landry was right. Then on the repeat fourth down, Chubb was dragged down by his facemask by Jadeveon Clowney. The officials missed it. Seattle had to punt from its own end line. Michael Dickson shanked it to the 23. Chubb ripped off runs of 21 and 3 yards for the touchdown and Mayfield’s pass to Demetrius Harris tacked on 2 points for a 28-25 Browns lead. So the Browns prevailed even though the officials blew two key plays.
4. Miscues contagious: A Chubb fumble in the third quarter was the Browns fourth' turnover in five possessions (counting a blocked punt, interception, interception). Chubb’s fumble after a catch was his first in a Browns uniform and first in his career since at Georgia in 2016. Not only did the Seahawks cash in on a Wilson 6-yard TD pass to Jauron Brown for their first lead, 25-20, Mayfield suffered a hip injury on a previous run for a first down and left to the locker room. He was back in time for the Browns’ next possession. Mayfield grimaced frequently after he came back and said after the game that he was in pain.
5. Greedy, Freddie: The Browns held a 20-18 lead at halftime, but it didn’t feel safe. Seattle zoomed 88 yards for a touchdown in the final two minutes after Kitchens got greedy and refused to sit on the ball and eat clock deep in Seahawks territory. After the two-minute warning, a Chubb 1-yard run made it second-and-9 from the Seattle 10. Next play, Mayfield forced a ball to Landry in the end zone. Slightly behind him, it was deflected by Shaquill Griffin and intercepted by Tedric Thompson. Wilson was unstoppable on the next series, and got the touchdown on a beauty toss from 17 yards to Jauron Brown beating Jermaine Whitfield to the right corner. Wilson was pummeled by Joe Schobert just before releasing the ball. The Seahawks were stopped on a handoff to C.J. Prosise for the two-point conversion, but the turnover – Mayfield’s second interception – took the air out. The half ended on a Mayfield Hail Mary into the Seattle end zone with :03 on the clock. The ball deflected to the ground.
6. Open wide: The Seahawks scored their first touchdown when Wilson saw the middle of the Browns defense open up and just sauntered to the end zone from 16 yards out. So, I’m thinking, “That’s what Mayfield should have done in the Rams’ game.” And those around me shot back, “He doesn’t have the speed to run it in.” Well, on the very next possession, the same thing happened to Mayfield: Seattle’s defense left the middle open, and Mayfield ran it in from 10 yards.
7. Phil the Weather Man: After Seattle kicker Jason Myers was wide right on his first PAT try into the Dawg Pound end, former Browns kicker Phil Dawson Tweeted: “Hey CLE … SW wind + Dawg Pound = crazy ball flights!!!!” Sure enough, after the teams changed sides in the second quarter, the Browns scored their touchdown of the game on a 31-yard reception by tight end Ricky Seals-Jones and Austin Seibert missed the PAT wide left. It was Seibert’s first miss of any kind since he missed the first PAT in the season opener – also to the Dawg Pound end.
8. Oops: A lot was made when Browns punter Jamie Gillan transitioned from three steps to two to improve his consistency and increase his getaway time. It seemed reasonable that his punts were unblockable once perfecting this technique. So much for that idea. Gillan’s first punt was blocked by David Moore, who barely beat teammate Malik Turner to Gillan’s left foot. The Browns escaped the turnover with only a chip-shot field goal after they held the Seahawks three times inside the 10.
9. What a start: Can’t remember the last time the Browns returned the opening kickoff for any appreciable yardage to excite the home crowd. They got the day rolling when Dontrell Hilliard rumbled and stumbled 74 yards to the Seahawks 23. From there, it took just three plays (and a Seahawks’ offside call) for the touchdown. The Browns showed empty formation from the 16 and got a first down on a 9-yard pass to Pharaoh Brown. From the 7, Chubb got blocks from a pulling right guard Eric Kush and Beckham, kicked outside and ran around the left edge for the touchdown.
10. Receiver update: Yes, Rashard Higgins was active for the first time since Game 1. But, no, he did not pick up his No. 3 receiver role. In fact, he never lined up on offense. Antonio Callaway was the third receiver and was targeted twice on the Browns’ second possession. Callaway got the first for 12 yards. The second glanced off his left outstretched hand on a one-on-one streak against cornerback Tre Flowers.