The Cleveland Browns enter the bye week at 2-4 and 0-3 at home this season. The latest disappointing loss was to the 5-1 Seattle Seahawks, 32-28. Now, Cleveland has two weeks to regroup before facing the undefeated Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots on the road.
WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto said that while several questionable calls by officials went against them, it was a game the Browns should have won.
Pluto said the officiating in this past Sunday's game was the worst he'd ever seen.
"What that did is that it destroyed the flow and enjoyment of the game. Flags were flying. Then [the officials] are huddling up. Then they’re going to replays, then they’re not. They didn’t know what they were doing. The league better fix some of this stuff," Pluto said.
And he said the golden rule for officials is that if they're unsure about a penalty, don't throw a flag. "These guys saw something, threw a flag and weren’t sure why."
One such play was in the third quarter, when Jarvis Landry was flagged for an illegal blindside block that wiped out an apparent first down catch-and-run by Nick Chubb.
The most interceptions through six games in 35 years
Still, Pluto said the bad officiating doesn't make up for the Browns' mistakes. "I’m sure somewhere along the line some team was 0-3 at home and made the playoffs, but it’s really hard. In fact, last year, they were 5-2-1 at home. That’s what helped them get to 7-8."
The biggest problem is quarterback Baker Mayfield. The rookie who sparked the team to life last season has been struggling. He had four turnovers this past Sunday. He leads the league in interceptions with 11.
"There’s only one Brown who threw more interceptions in the first six games of a season. And you have to go back to 1984 with Paul McDonald." He threw 12 that year.
Pluto said he wondered if Mayfield is injured. The quarterback left the game against the Seahawks briefly in the third quarter with an apparent hip injury. He returned without missing a play.
“But I was walking out of the locker room in San Francisco a week earlier, and he’s about 15 feet down the hallway in front me, limping to the bus. I mean, we won't know because [team officials] never tell you, they lie like crazy on injuries."
Regardless, Pluto said it's clear how much Mayfield's bad season is affecting the team. "We discovered last year that your team goes as your quarterback goes."
Seeing red in the red zone
The other big problem for the Browns is failing to score in the red zone.
"Last year Baker Mayfield threw 20 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the red zone. It was basically one of the highest percentages of productivity. This year he leads the NFL with three interceptions in the end zone and he has three touchdown passes. He’s only completing about half of them."
"You have Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry and Nick Chubb, and you can’t get the ball in? That’s why they’re record is 2-4."
As for some fans' calling for first-year coach Freddie Kitchens to be fired, Pluto said, "Firing him doesn't go anywhere. And there’s nobody on the staff that really jumps out [to take his place]."
And, Pluto said General Manager John Dorsey took a risk on Freddie Kitchens for a reason. "He bet on Freddie Kitchens, who had never even been a coordinator on any level until last year, that he could take this team. And he brought in strong personalities in Odell Beckham, Jr., Jarvis Landry and Baker Mayfield. Maybe there's some issues there."
Still, Pluto said this is the team they've got, and they have to figure it out. "Once the season starts, you can tinker with the roster, but you don’t see a ton of big trades like you do in other sports."