To no one's surprise, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.'s absence significantly impacted Cleveland's offensive game plan against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Beckham was deemed inactive a few short hours before kickoff, leaving the Browns without an established receiver with game-breaking speed. Rookie wideout Anthony Schwartz had a few impressive plays down the field, but Beckham's presence would have completely changed the game.
Cleveland only put up 17 points against Kansas City in the AFC Divisional Round last season, largely because Beckham could not play. They did not have another player who could attack the Chiefs vertically, so the Browns had to resort to a more conservative passing game plan.
The Browns added a few vertical presences over the offseason, and they completely changed the game for the offense. The Chiefs had to cover the entire field, and as a result, quarterback Baker Mayfield was able to attack Kansas City at every level of the field.
Beckham could have made several plays down the field that would have changed the entire tone of the game. For example, Mayfield tried to find Schwartz downfield late in the fourth quarter for what would have been a crucial third-down conversion. Schwartz was unable to haul it in, and while it was a difficult play, it is one that Beckham likely would have made.
Beckham's approach to his recovery has made sense so far. He recovered from a torn ACL in just eight short months and recently participated in padded practices. Many expected Beckham to play today, but he decided that the wisest decision would be to sit out after warming up.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport gave fans insight into the decision to sit out against Kansas City. In a post published to his Twitter account, Rapoport said:
"He came out and warmed up. Coach Kevin Stefanski needed at least a set number of plays in order to feel good about having him active. Just didn’t feel quite ready, but should be ready soon. So close but not yet."
The Browns need Beckham late in the season, and a week one contest will not make or break their season. It is unfortunate that he was unable to take the field today, but we got a glimpse into what his role will entail when he ultimately returns from injury.
Beckham has not spoken to the media since his injury in November of the 2020 season. His teammates have said that Beckham is very focused on the task at hand and is itching to get back in the lineup.