The highly competitive might tell you that tying a game feels worse than losing. For the Cleveland Browns, it's almost like Christmas morning. The AFC North squad snapped a 17 game losing streak on Sunday with a final score of 21-21 against Pittsburgh.
The game wasn't pretty- especially for Steelers fans who watched their team blow a 14 point lead in the fourth quarter. Ben Roethlisberger gave up 3 interceptions and 2 fumbles (one: a crucial strip-sack fumble in OT) despite throwing for 335 yards and 1 TD. Pittsburgh's running game was without the presence of Le'Veon Bell whose still held-up in a contract dispute, but James Conner finished with his first 2 career TDs and one lost fumble.
Both teams' kickers choked in clutch situations. Chris Boswell went wide left with his 42-yard attempt with a little under 2 minutes remaining in extra time. And T.J. Watt, who racked up 4 sacks for the Steelers, blocked Brown's kicker Zane Gonzalez's 43-yarder with 9 seconds remaining in OT.
Cleveland can legitimately categorize themselves as 'undefeated' for the first time since 2004. To put that in perspective, George W. Bush was still in his first term as president the last time the Browns won their season opener, and they still went 4-12 that season. However, is this really a sign that this season has hope?
Tyrod Taylor was unimpressive in his first start for Cleveland. Many of his throws were underthrown or off-target (most notably an interception on a Josh Gordan targeted long ball with 16 seconds left), he was sacked 7 times, and only completed 37.5% of his passes. Yes, the team has the league's No.1 overall draft pick in Baker Mayfield in their arsenal, but Coach Hue Jackson seems pretty adamant on keeping Taylor as the starter while Mayfield develops.
The team's running game was nothing news-worthy, but with Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, and Rashard Higgins as a receiving core, the Browns will most likely rely on their passing game more regardless. Landry caught 7 passes for 106 yards, which might not seem great, but you have to keep in mind how sloppy his quarterback's performance was this game. Gordon only had one catch this game, but it was a beauty- a 17-yard touchdown to tie up the game in the 4th quarter. There's undeniable potential in this group, but it's gonna come down to developing a stronger connection with their new QB.
The most uplifting side of the game for Cleveland was by far their defense. Myles Garrett (who had 2 forced fumbles, 2 sacks, and 6 tackles) and the rest of their D-Line forced one of the best offenses in the league last season into giving up 6 turnovers (which is almost half as many as they coerced in the entire 2017 season). Cornerback Denzel Ward shined for the Browns in his rookie debut with two interceptions in the first half.
After one game, the Browns don't look playoff run ready. It's even debatable whether or not they're capable of pulling off a .500 season. However, they're young and aggressive defense combined with their formidable receiving core looks to be enough to give the Cleveland fans one of the best seasons the team's strung together in the past five years. Tyrod Taylor certainly needs to step up his performance, and their offensive line (who gave up seven sacks) must learn to protect their quarterback, regardless if its Taylor or Mayfield in the future.
Pittsburg played sloppily and without arguably one of their most dangerous offensive weapons, so the Browns got away with a tie. The Saints, led by QB Drew Brees who threw for 439 yards and 3 TDs in their opening loss against the Buccaneers, might not let Cleveland get away with as many mistakes in their upcoming game on September 16th in New Orleans.