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CLEVELAND — Odell Beckham’s skill can change a team’s direction, but it cannot alter its history or improve its discipline.
Beckham had a few moments (7 catches, 71 yards) when he showed why he can be a difference-maker in the Cleveland Browns’ future. But the Browns, a franchise with 11 consecutive losing seasons, showed they have more to learn about winning after falling 43-13 to the Tennessee Titans in the first game of the Baker Mayfield-Beckham Era.
“We have a locker room full of disappointment, which we should have,” said Browns coach Freddie Kitchens. “That’s not the way we want to be represented.”
The Browns amassed 182 yards in penalties and made numerous mistakes. Mayfield threw three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. He was also sacked for a safety.
This loss had to hurt this city’s feelings.
It’s been a Browns’ love fest in Cleveland this summer, based on how well Mayfield and the team played down the stretch last season and because general manager John Dorsey made several key offseason acquisitions, including bringing Beckham from the New York Giants.
Even bettors believed in the Browns.
In Las Vegas, the Browns became the second-most popular bet to win the Super Bowl behind the Chicago Bears. The Bears also lost their opener.
But the loss to the Titans demonstrated the Browns still have work to do. Plenty. Instead of being the new-look Browns, they often looked like the same old Browns, the Browns who won just four of 48 games from 2015-2017.
With nine minutes left in the game, most of the seats in FirstEnergy Stadium were empty.
“And you know for those fans, we don’t want to see them leaving with nine minutes left in the game,” Beckham said. “We want to be able to stick there and fight through it.”
He added, “I know (they’re used to) losing around here, but that’s not what we’re here to do. So we just have to have everybody stick with us … the fans, the team, together.”
Beckham didn’t play at all in the preseason but said his hip injury didn’t bother him in his first game with the Browns. Mayfield targeted him 11 times. But it was a quiet day by his dynamic standards.
“I think Odell was fine,” Kitchens said. “I think he was good.”
Kitchens said the penalties were the culprit for most of the Browns’ troubles.
On Tennessee’s 87-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, the Browns had four penalties for 40 yards, including one unnecessary roughness penalty and one roughing the passer penalty
Later in the quarter, Cleveland offensive tackle Greg Robinson was penalized and ejected for kicking an opponent.
“Adversity is hitting early, and we are going to find out what kind of team we are,” Kitchens said.
The Browns’ defense, expected to be significantly improved this season, gave up a 75-yard touchdown pass reception on the next play after a Mayfield touchdown toss had pulled the Browns within two.
Even Beckham put the brakes on a drive with an offensive interference penalty.
Mayfield seemed determined, even confident that the Browns problems would be corrected.
“Quite frankly I don’t give a damn what happens on the outside,” he said. “I know how we will react. I know what we are going to do – we are going to bounce back. We have a Monday Night Game coming up.”
In their home opener, the Browns didn’t look like a team in the process of developing a winning culture.
“Hopefully, our locker room knows and our fans know that the season is not over, we have 15 more games,” Kitchens said. “It’s very hard to go 16-0.”