All the team's Hall of Famers -- except, notably, Jim Brown -- were represented. But once the festivities ended, the present day team dishonored to the honorees by playing a miserable second half. Result: Kansas City is 2-0 for the first time since 2005 and the Browns are 0-2. Again. Just like last year, and the year before that. Four times the last five seasons the Browns have given their fans little or no hope for the season by starting 0-and-2.
The Browns seem to find ways to lose, an art they have mastered. Sunday they gave the Chiefs a touchdown when Brandon Flowers intercepted a poor Seneca Wallace pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown. They also gave the Chiefs a field goal on an early Jerome Harrison fumble.
The 10 points off turnovers matched the 10 points the Browns gave Tampa Bay in the opener off turnovers. Cleveland has played two games, given up one offensive touchdown drive, allowed the opposing teams to score 33 points total -- and lost twice. Kansas City did not score a touchdown on offense, yet won and controlled the second half.
Bad teams find ways to lose.
Of prime concern might be the fact that in consecutive games the Browns were held scoreless after halftime. By Tampa Bay and Kansas City. Sunday, the Browns gained 55 yards and had three first downs -- one by penalty -- in the second half.
|The Cleveland Browns have used 15 different starting quarterbacks since 1999, and gone 1-14 in their debuts:|
When a team is outplayed in the second half one time it's intriguing. In the NFL where only 16 games are played, when it happens twice it's a trend. In consecutive weeks, the Browns saw 14-10 leads dissipate into 17-14 and 16-14 losses. Neither Kansas City nor Tampa played great. The Browns simply found ways to lose.
Now the Browns are 0-2 with six division games against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore left. A trip to Baltimore waits on Sunday, followed by games against Cincinnati, Atlanta, at Pittsburgh (Ben Roethlisberger's return from suspension) and at New Orleans. A team that started 1-11 a year ago is staring 0-7 in the face. This after a preseason that had players optimistic.
But perhaps not the fans. Burdened by losing and an economy turned south, the Browns announced 65,377 tickets sold for the home opener. The day the Ring of Honor was opened included empty seats and sections yawning without fans. If folks thought the first two games were winnable -- and they did -- what will they think of New England in October?
For Kansas City, the 2-0 start seems to belie good things -- though that must be confirmed. The Chiefs have a game at home next weekend against San Francisco before heading to the bye week. In this game the Chiefs didn't exactly grab the win by the throat. They won by two against a struggling team that Chiefs coach Todd Haley could not praise enough.
"That's a good team we played," Haley said. "They are fighting, fighting to play out there. It is evident they are a good team."
Said evidence of the goodness of said team includes two turnovers, one missed field goal and nine penalties for 78 yards. The best thing the Chiefs did: Control the ball in the second half. Kansas City had possession for more than two-thirds of the final two quarters, holding the ball for 20:31. They managed only two field goals, but that was enough against the woeful but "good" Browns.
A coach of a rebuilding team with little talent probably should not be on the hot seat, but the focus on Eric Mangini will intensify. Mike Holmgren is team president and he has insisted he does not want to coach, but each loss ratchets up the pressure.
Haley, meanwhile, talked of his team's fight and ability to bounce back and win on the road after playing on Monday night -- not an easy task. "They are understanding so much more of what this is about," he said.
He praised his team for sticking with it, and for not panicking when it mattered. He said there is a long way to go, but being 2-0 (obviously) is good and more wins might be just as flawed.
"We're a team that hasn't won a lot of games," Haley said. "And that doesn't happen by accident."
The Chiefs at least can say they are trending positively. They used speed, special teams and big plays to win the opener, and grit and perseverance to survive the Browns. At 2-0, there is hope -- though the story is far from written.
The Browns, on the other hand, will see an increase in negativity and anger from a fan base that did not sell out its home stadium for its first game. It's a fan base that has seen its team go 59-119 since its return in 1999.
The Chiefs have not secured anything with their start, but they have given their fans the one thing they need: Hope. For the Browns fan, hope lives until the actual games are played.
Two games into a long season, Cleveland's hope is on life support.