The NFL schedule maker did the Cleveland Browns no favors to start the season.
First, the Browns had to host the defending AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers in their opener last Sunday. Cleveland hung tough before dropping a 21-18 decision.
The Browns face another AFC North opponent this Sunday when they visit the Baltimore Ravens, who are fresh off a 20-0 shutout of the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.
Since being rebranded as an expansion franchise, the Browns are 6-31 against the Steelers. Their record against the Ravens is just 9-27, including 4-14 in Baltimore.
A case can be made that the Browns have poor records against every opponent. They have been to playoffs once in 18 seasons and finished 1-15 in 2016.
Making things more difficult for the Browns: They are starting a rookie quarterback, DeShone Kizer. He had a solid debut, completing 20 of 30 passes for 222 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Now he faces a defense that intercepted Bengal quarterback Andy Dalton four times and held the Bengals to 221 total yards.
Defensive backs Brandon Carr, Jimmy Smith and Ladarius Webb each had a pick. Linebacker C.J. Mosely had the other.
Also working against Kizer and the Browns is that rookie quarterbacks are 0-5 all-time at M&T Bank Stadium.
“This is tough, but this is the National Football League and he signed up for this, so you have to go,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “We’re going to play another good team in a good stadium. Obviously, they come off a big win, and it will be loud and it will be rocking there in their stadium. He has to go handle that environment and handle it the right way.
“It is one of the best defenses we will play all year. Their front seven is as good as anybody. They have a really good football team, but as I say it every week, we are going to play teams that are kind of built that way. That is the National Football League. We are looking forward to going down and accompanying the challenge that is going to be laid before us.”
While becoming the first rookie quarterback to start an opener since Brandon Weeden in 2012, Kizer was sacked seven times. Most of the sacks came from holding the ball too long, which would be a recipe for disaster against the Ravens, who had five sacks of Dalton, two by linebacker Terrell Suggs.
However, Kizer acknowledged after the game that he needs to get rid of the ball sooner.
The Browns were encouraged that Kizer took a beating but still gave them a chance to win. His 3-yard touchdown pass to Corey Coleman with 3:36 left and running back Isaiah Crowell’s 2-point conversion run cut the Steelers’ lead to 21-18.
That turned out to be the Browns’ last offensive play. The Steelers ran out the clock.
“I’ve said over, over and over again, as a quarterback, your job is to put your team in a position to score points and win games,” Kizer said. “Obviously, there are some drives that we were proud of and that we’re headed in the right direction on, but there were also some lulls within the game that we have to try to cut back on. The defense playing as well as they are, it’s our job on offense to complement that and turn that into points.”
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