The Browns lost down the stretch against the Chargers for many reasons, but the bottom line is that some overarching concerns need to be addressed moving forward.
There is no reason to sound the alarm bells; after all, we are only five weeks into the season. These things will likely work themselves out. However, Cleveland has a few questions they need to answer to compete with the league's best.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski's third-down draw call was both curious and out of character. The Browns faced a third and ten inside their own thirty-yard line, and a first down would have extended the drive and could have set the Browns on their way to victory.
Stefanski decided to play it conservative and called a draw to running back Kareem Hunt. The play resulted in a short gain and forced a punt, giving LA the ball in plus territory. The Chargers scored the winning touchdown on the ensuing drive, in large part because Stefanski essentially gave the ball back to them.
Since he arrived in Cleveland, Stefanski has been one of the best play-callers in the NFL. The decision startled many, and after the game, he was adamant that he needed to call a better game.
While his third-down play call did not help the effort, the Browns lost the game as a collective unit. Stefanski put it best when he said, "we win as a team and lose as one." There are several corrections that have to be made on both sides of the ball, and the game did not boil down to a single moment.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield rebounded after a tough game against Minnesota, but still left yardage on the field. He is still dealing with a shoulder injury, but that is only a part of the problem.
He is clearly rushing through his reads and playing frantically. There are several factors that are contributing to his spotty play: both of his tackles are banged up, the aforementioned shoulder injury, and the fact that the Chargers are a good team.
Despite all these things, he needs to play better. We know what quarterback he is capable of being; he showed us both against Kansas City and the second half of the 2020 season.
The offensive line has struggled for the past three weeks, largely due to injuries to both tackles Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin. The group particularly struggled in pass protection, which has hurt this downfield passing game.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has yet to break out in a game this season, but he has not regressed. Beckham is routinely getting open and defenses have taken notice, often shading several defenders to his side of the field.
Beckham had an unfortunate drop on a fourth-down early in the game, and had just two catches to show for his efforts. While his presence is making a big difference, Beckham has yet to make any splash plays. That could change moving forward, but it is something to note.
As for the defense, the Chargers were going to put up points in bunches. They have one of the best offensive units in the NFL, including a very talented young quarterback who has gone to the next level this season.
Defense coordinator Joe Woods put together two masterpieces against Chicago and Minnesota. This defense is clearly moving in the right direction, and ran into a roadblock against the Chargers.
There were some coverage busts on Sunday that resulted from miscommunication in the backend. Those have to be cleaned up moving forward, and there is plenty of reason to believe that they should.
Cleveland is 0-2 against premier teams this season. They have had opportunities to win both games, but came up just short. The undefeated Arizona Cardinals are coming to town this week, which provides the Browns another opportunity to prove themselves against an elite squad.