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Disheveled No. 9 Buckeyes look to rebound against 0-2 Tulsa

By MITCH STACY AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The upset of Ohio State by two-touchdown underdog Oregon last weekend led to some serious introspection at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Third-year coach Ryan Day, who was dealt his first regular-season loss, said every detail is being evaluated. On the hot seat immediately is defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs, whose unit was shredded by free-running ball-carriers in the first two games.
“Took a long, hard look the last 48 hours at everything that’s going on and certainly going to make some adjustments,” Day said this week. “Not only of how we’re attacking other offenses, but also just structurally how we’re doing our day-to-day operations.”
Working in favor of the No. 9 Buckeyes is the schedule. They face Tulsa on Saturday and second-tier Mid-American Conference squad Akron the week after. Tulsa (0-2) comes in as a 24 1/2-point underdog, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
“The energy and just the attention to detail the last two days, I feel like it hasn’t been like that since camp started,” receiver Garrett Wilson said. “We knew we had some problems, but whenever you lose, it magnifies them all. There’s no room for messing up in practice anymore. If there was before, there’s none at all.”
The Ohio State defense, whose issues have lingered from the pandemic-delayed 2020 season, can really use the tune-up games. Mohamed Ibriham ran all over the Buckeyes in their Week 1 win over Minnesota until going down with a leg injury in the third quarter. CJ Verdell romped for 161 yards and two touchdowns in Oregon’s win, sometimes without being touched until he reached the secondary.
To compound the situation, the most experienced defender in the Ohio State secondary, senior safety Josh Proctor, was lost to a season-ending leg injury last week. Starting cornerback Sevyn Banks is still out with an injury.
“We’ve talked about before — is it personnel, is it coaching or is it scheme?” Day said. “And finding the right people in the right spots is part of coaching and making sure the right guys are in the right spots.”
Asked if he’s looking at shifting coaching duties, he said: “I’d rather not get into all that, but right now, we’re looking at all those type of things.
“You want to act, you don’t want to overreact,” Day said. “You want to make sure that you do things the right way and you allow people to do their jobs. But when it gets to a certain point, you have to get things fixed, and that’s what we’ll do.”
THROWIN’ IT AROUND
Freshman C.J. Stroud was put in the unenviable position of being named the Ohio State starter without ever having thrown a collegiate pass. He put up gaudy numbers in the Oregon loss — 484 yards and three TDs — but his mistakes underscore his inexperience. He threw a fourth-quarter interception that sealed the win for the Ducks.
TULSA GETTING CLOSE
The Golden Hurricane suffered an upset of their own, with FCS school UC Davis knocking them off 19-17 in the opener. Then Tulsa came back and nearly beat Oklahoma State. The Cowboys needed a fourth-quarter comeback to secure the 28-23 win.
RB ROULETTE
In Ohio State’s opener, carries were split among running backs Marcus Crowley, TreVeyon Henderson, Master Teague and Miyan Williams, the starter who had 125 yards and a touchdown. Last week, the carries were divided between Williams (14 carries, 77 yards) and Henderson (12 carries, 54 yards and a touchdown).
TURN IT UP
Operating amid the noise generated by 100,000 people in Ohio Stadium presents challenges for teams that don’t often play in larger venues. Tulsa home field, H. A. Chapman Stadium, seats about 30,000. The Golden Hurricane played in front of 52,000 last week in Stillwater.
“With a stadium that big, it’s something you’re definitely emphasizing throughout the week and it’s something you’re definitely thinking of as an offense.” Tulsa guard Dylan Couch said.
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Ohio Sports

No. 8 Bearcats sidestep speculation as trip to Indiana looms

By MICHAEL MAROT AP Sports Writer
Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell spent this week preparing his team to hit the road.
He talked about the sellout crowd, the hostile environment the eighth-ranked Bearcats expect to face Saturday at Indiana and the potential impact it could have on the game plan.
Then, suddenly, Fickell was dealing with a different kind of noise — coaching rumors. He and his players have tried to tamp down speculation by keeping the focus on football.
“The great thing about college football now is it’s really back and you have the environments, you have the crowds,” he said. “For us to play a really, really, really good Indiana team that we’ve been talking about since the summer and then you throw the road changeup and the crowd, it’s something we haven’t experienced in a year and a half.”
Yet almost as soon as Southern Cal athletic director Mike Bohn fired coach Clay Helton on Monday, the murmurs began about Fickell being reunited with his former AD in Los Angeles.
Quarterback Desmond Ridder, last season’s American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, quickly explained on Twitter his coach wasn’t going anywhere. Fickell concurred Tuesday.
“Can’t even talk about Indiana yet?” he cracked after the first question. “Look, I know nothing. We know nothing. I don’t talk to anybody, I barely even talk to my own family during the season. So I wouldn’t ever talk about it nor would I even answer a phone call.”
And all this ahead of the first of two showcase games, with potential playoff implications, for Cincinnati (2-0).
Indiana (1-1) opened the season at No. 17 — its highest preseason ranking since 1969 — before falling out after an embarrassing season-opening loss at Iowa.
Michael Penix Jr. rebounded last weekend by throwing two touchdown passes, running for another score and taking advantage of two special teams scores to blow out Idaho. Now, in front of what could be the biggest non-conference crowd in Bloomington since 1987, Indiana wants to get its season back on track.
“We’re not changing anything,” all-Big Ten cornerback Tiawan Mullen said. “We know they have a very good offense, but we want to show who we are truly.”
Fickell sees a difference in these Hoosiers, too. Instead of using the game to send a message, as some previous Indiana teams attempted, Fickell sees a program similar to Cincinnati’s that has only one goal — keep winning.
THROWBACK SATURDAY
The first game in this series since 2000 will be a throwback weekend for Hoosiers fans.
Memorial Stadium will be sold out for the first time since a 27-20 overtime loss to No. 17 Michigan on Oct. 14, 2017, and it comes on the first parents’ weekend in two years. It will be the largest non-conference draw since the Hoosiers squared off against Kentucky on Sept. 17, 1987, in front 51,077.
The Hoosiers will be dressed in the same retro uniforms they used that day when the late Bill Mallory was coaching. He won a school record 69 games. Everyone expects another large turnout.
“It just shows the support we have, that people believe in us,” Penix Jr. said, referring to last weekend’s student section. “I remember when we first came back inside (the locker room) we were pumped. We were very excited to go out there and play.”
POWERED BY FORD
Bearcats running back Jerome Ford, a transfer from Alabama, seems to have found a home in the Queen City.
He ran for 97 yards in his first career start, last season’s Peach Bowl. He’s already topped the 100-yard mark in both of this season’s games while running for 7.8 yards per carry. Fickell said he believes he’s still capable of bigger and better things.
“He really was what changed the momentum (last week)and he opens things up for Desmond and the other guys,” Fickell said. “He’s very very adept to running routes, catching the football and making contested catches.”
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Ohio Sports

No. 5 Iowa hosts Kent State following wins over ranked foes

No. 5 Hawkeyes face Kent State in matchup of top defenses
By JOHN BOHNENKAMP Associated Press
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa fans are excited about the Hawkeyes’ highest ranking in six years. Coach Kirk Ferentz, predictably, is not.
The Hawks (2-0) go into their home game against Kent State on Saturday ranked No. 5 after knocking off Top 25 opponents Indiana and Iowa State.
“Right now there’s probably a small handful of teams that are worthy of being ranked high,” Ferentz said. “I think after whatever it is — three, four teams — it’s a jump ball for a lot of teams.”
Iowa is the only team in the nation with two wins over ranked opponents, and the Hawkeyes have not been higher in the Associated Press poll since they were unbeaten and No. 4 in late November 2015.
The schedule softens up the next two weeks with home games against Kent State (1-1) and Colorado State.
“To be honest with you, we’re not taking anyone lightly,” cornerback Riley Moss said.
This week’s game matches two of the top turnover-generating defenses.
Kent State has a nation-leading eight interceptions — four against Texas A&M and four more against VMI — and cornerbacks Elvis Hines and Montre Miller have three picks apiece.
“They always seem to be in the right place,” Iowa tight end Luke Lachey said.
Iowa is second in interceptions with six and fifth in turnover margin at plus-5. The Hawkeyes have scored 37 points off the seven turnovers. Moss had two interception returns for touchdowns against Indiana and linebacker Jack Campbell scored off a fumble recovery against Iowa State.
Naturally, the defense’s performance against ranked opponents has drawn national attention.
“We’re trying to keep the outside noise outside,” Moss said.
That’s what Ferentz is hoping to do with the team’s high ranking.
“Right now it’s really more about speculation, projection,” Ferentz said. “But I know that. Hopefully our players understand that. We’ve won two games. We’re thrilled to death to be 2-0. It’s the best you can be. But it means nothing.”
SCHOTT RETURNS
Iowa offensive lineman Kyler Schott is expected to play in his first game of the season. Schott, who was expected to be the starting right guard for the Hawkeyes, broke his foot in an accident on his family’s farm over the summer. He practiced last week.
“He’ll play some this week,” Ferentz said. “I don’t know how much, but he’ll play some.”
Schott made six starts in 2019 and started twice last season.
BIG MAC
Kent State is 0-17 against opponents from the Big Ten. But Iowa receiver Charlie Jones, who played at Buffalo in 2018, said teams from the Mid-American Conference are capable of holding their own.
“I think the MAC gets kind of a bad rap at times,” Jones said. “There’s players in that league, that conference, that are just as good as players in the Big Ten and SEC. We’re going to prepare the same way we always do. We’re not going to go easy just because we’re playing a MAC team.”
Iowa is 24-4 against MAC opponents, including a streak of five consecutive wins. The Hawkeyes’ last loss to a MAC team was a 30-27 defeat to Northern Illinois in 2013.
THE PUNTING GAME
Iowa’s Tory Taylor shared the Big Ten’s special teams player of the week award after landing four punts inside Iowa State’s 10-yard line. Taylor, who is from Melbourne, Australia, is in his second year playing American football.
Taylor averages 50.4 yards per punt, sixth best in the FBS, and averaged 44.1 yards last season.
“The best part,” Ferentz said, “is he has no idea what he’s doing half the time in terms of football. He does as a player. The rest of the stuff, it’s an adventure ride for him. He’s enjoying life. He has such a good approach. Just really underwhelmed by all of it, what he’s doing. He just goes out and plays.”
STREAKS
The Hawkeyes are on an eight-game winning streak since last season and have won 13 consecutive nonconference games, the second-longest active streak in FBS play behind Minnesota (20). Iowa’s last nonconference loss was a 30-3 defeat to Florida in the 2017 Outback Bowl.
SERIES
Iowa is 2-0 against the Golden Flashes. The Hawkeyes won 51-0 in 2001, and 39-7 in 2004, when they held Kent State to minus-13 yards rushing, the fewest yards allowed in Ferentz’s 23 seasons at Iowa.
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Ohio Sports

After solid opener, Bengals look to keep going against Bears

By ANDREW SELIGMAN AP Sports Writer
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — With quarterback Joe Burrow healed, the Cincinnati Bengals came into the season believing they were in position to improve on a dismal 2020.
They’re off to a good start. The Chicago Bears can’t say the same.
Burrow and the Bengals will try to build on a season-opening win while the Bears hope to bounce back from a loss when the two teams meet at Soldier Field on Sunday.
“We’re excited for another opportunity to go out there and prove to the world what we’re about,” Cincinnati safety Jessie Bates III said. “Not just being good on Week 1, we’ve got to be good throughout the whole season.”
The Bengals beat Minnesota 27-24 in overtime last week, a promising opener for a team that finished last in the AFC North at 4-11-1.
Burrow threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns. The 2019 Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 draft pick in 2020 completed 20 of 27 passes while setting career highs in passer rating (128.8) and yards per attempt (9.67). Not a bad opener for a quarterback who suffered a major injury to his left knee in Week 11 last year.
As for the Bears?
A 34-14 thumping by the Rams in Los Angeles was not a good start. Andy Dalton did little in his Chicago debut to silence the calls for Justin Fields, and the defense couldn’t contain Matthew Stafford.
Dalton got intercepted on the game’s opening drive. He threw for 206 yards, but did not have a completion for more than 19 yards against a defense that led the league in 2020.
“We weren’t able to take very many chances downfield,” Dalton said. “I think if you look back it’s something that we wish we could have done a little bit more in that game. I think we understand that, we understand how we want to play.”
Now, Dalton goes against his former team for the second time.
The three-time Pro Bowler led Dallas to a win at Cincinnati last season after spending his first nine years with the Bengals. They released him after drafting Burrow.
MORE FIELD(S) TIME?
Fields impressed in a brief debut.
Drafted 11th overall, he was in on only five plays. But the former Ohio State star made the most of them. He completed both of his passes for 10 yards and scored from the 3 on his lone run.
“He was very composed,” receiver Allen Robinson said. “But again, he’s kind of been like that.”
NO DEFENSE
The Bears insist their defense remains a strength. The Monsters of the Midway didn’t show it last week.
They got shredded by Stafford, who threw for 321 yards, three touchdowns and a 156.1 rating and was sacked just once. Safeties Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson committed a big gaffe on Van Jefferson’s 67-yard touchdown reception, failing to put a hand on the receiver when he hit the ground near the 15 after hauling in the long pass. Instead, Jefferson got up and ran to the end zone. Chicago also gave up a 56-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Cooper Kupp.
GOING FOR IT
The Bengals kept the offense on the field on fourth down three times last week against Minnesota and converted two of them. The big one came in overtime when Burrow checked out of a called quarterback sneak on fourth-and-inches from the Cincinnati 48 and completed a 32-yard pass to tight end C.J. Uzomah to set up the game-winning field goal.
Coach Zac Taylor said that’s expected to happen a lot more, especially since he trusts Burrow completely and has more confidence in his defense this season.
“If we want to do great things here, we’ve got to go get them,” he said.
LINEMEN DOWN
The Bears were more banged up at left tackle after starter Jason Peters (quadriceps) and rookie backup Larry Borom (ankle) exited in the third quarter last week.
That’s in addition to losing second-round draft pick Teven Jenkins prior to the season. He suffered a back injury that required surgery, leading to the Bears signing the 39-year-old Peters — a two-time All-Pro — in mid-August.
The Bears went with Elijah Wilkinson after Peters and Borom left the opener.
RIGHT MIX
After missing most of last year with a foot injury, Bengals running back Joe Mixon opened his fifth season by rushing 29 times for 127 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings.
“It was fun to watch,” Taylor said. “And it’s just a great weapon to have. There (were) a lot of well-blocked plays. It’s good to get him back, his energy. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
RUN CONTINUES
Bears running back David Montgomery is off to good start following a strong finish last season.
The third-year pro ran for 108 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. Montgomery had 598 yards over the final six games in 2020 and finished the season with 1,070.
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AP Sports Writer Mitch Stacy contributed to this report.
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Ohio Sports

Browns look to even record after tough KC loss, host Texans

HOUSTON (1-0) at CLEVELAND (0-1)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, CBS
OPENING LINE: Browns by 12 1/2, according to FanDuel SportsBook
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Texans 1-0; Browns 1-0.
SERIES RECORD: Texans lead 7-4.
LAST MEETING: Browns beat Texans 10-7 on Nov. 15, 2020.
LAST WEEK: Texans beat Jaguars 37-21; Browns lost 33-29 to Chiefs
TEXANS OFFENSE: OVERALL (3), RUSH (4), PASS (11), SCORING (4).
TEXANS DEFENSE: OVERALL (18), RUSH (11), PASS (25), SCORING (14).
BROWNS OFFENSE: OVERALL (1), RUSH (5), PASS (10), SCORING (T10).
BROWNS DEFENSE: OVERALL (19), RUSH (7), PASS (26), SCORING (T24).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Houston plus-3; Cleveland minus-2.
TEXANS PLAYER TO WATCH: Texans QB Tyrod Taylor. The Browns are very familiar with Taylor, who spent 2018 in Cleveland, signed to be the starter that season before rookie Baker Mayfield took over in Week 3. Taylor passed for 291 yards last week.
BROWNS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Nick Chubb had a critical fumble in last week’s loss at Kansas City. Chubb had two touchdown runs in the first half, but didn’t have time to make up for his third-quarter gaffe against the Chiefs. The Texans could pay for it.
KEY MATCHUP: Texans LT Laremy Tunsil vs. Browns DE Myles Garrett. These two have a history going back to college. Garrett recorded one-half sack in the matchup last year against Tunsil, who recently returned after being sidelined with COVID-19. Garrett had the virus last season with his sickness derailing a push to win league Defensive Player of the Year honors.
KEY INJURIES: Browns starting LT Jedrick Wills Jr. sprained his ankle last week and could be out. Cleveland was also without RT Jack Conklin (knee), center JC Tretter (knee) and LT Chris Hubbard (triceps) — Wills’ replacement — in practice this week. … Texans WR Anthony Miller is expected to play after missing the opener with a shoulder injury sustained in the first preseason game. OL Charlie Heck is expected back. He missed the opener after being placed on the COVID-19 list Sept. 6.
SERIES NOTES: The Browns will play in front of a capacity crowd (67,000) at FirstEnergy Stadium for the first time since the 2019 home finale. Last year, the stadium was only allowed be at 25% because of the COVID-19 pandemic. … Cleveland snapped a five-game losing streak against Houston with its win last season. … Taylor is one of eight former Browns on the Texans’ 53-man roster. … Cleveland DE Jadeveon Clowney was the No. 1 overall draft pick by Houston in 2014. … Texans DL Malik Collins had career-high two sacks last season against the Browns while with Dallas.
STATS AND STUFF: Houston’s 37 points last week were the most in Week 1 in franchise history. … The Texans had three interceptions in the opener, matching their total for the entire 2020 season. … First-year Texans coach David Culley is familiar with the Browns after working as Baltimore’s pass coordinator/wide receivers coach the past two seasons. … Taylor is one of just five QBs since 2015 with at least 8,000 yards passing and 1,500 rushing. … QB Deshaun Watson’s uncertain future continues to hang over the Texans. Watson has been named in 22 lawsuits by women alleging sexual assault or harassment against him. Earlier this summer, he requested a trade. … Texans RB Mark Ingram rushed for 84 yards and a TD in his debut with the team last week. … WR Brandin Cooks was Taylor’s top target with five catches for 132 yards, hauling in one for 52 yards. … Texans have 33 new players on their roster from last season. … Cleveland rolled up 457 total yards last week against Kansas City, but the Browns were done in by three critical second-half mistakes — the last QB Baker Mayfield’s interception with 1:09 remaining. … The Browns scored touchdowns on their first three possessions. … All four of Cleveland’s TDs in the opener came on the ground. … Mayfield is the first Browns QB to start three consecutive openers since Brian Sipe (1978-80), underscoring Cleveland’s inability to find a franchise leader. … Browns WR Jarvis Landry has 111 consecutive games with at least two catches, the fourth longest streak in history.. … WR Odell Beckham Jr. will not make his season debut against the Texans. Beckham had reconstructive knee surgery in November, and while he’s made a quicker-than-expected return, he’s not ready to play. … RB Nick Chubb has a rushing TD in seven straight games. He had 126 yards in last year’s win over the Texans. RB Kareem Hunt added 109 yards. … In just his fifth season, Garrett’s 43 1/2 sacks are third in club’s history behind Clay Matthews (62) and Michael Dean Perry (51 1/2). … Browns S Grant Delpit could make his NFL debut. He missed last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon and this year’s opener with a hamstring issue. … The Browns went 6-2 at home in 2020.
FANTASY TIP: With Beckham out, speedy rookie speedy WR Anthony Schwartz could have a larger role with Cleveland’s offense than expected. He had three catches for 69 yards in his debut and could be the long-ball threat Mayfield needs.
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Ohio Sports

Buckeyes make corrections, look ahead after rare home loss

By MITCH STACY AP Sports Writer
Perennial powerhouse Ohio State is not accustomed to losing games during the regular season. The Buckeyes especially aren’t used to losing in September to two-touchdown underdogs, which happened last week.
So how will the Buckeyes, who dropped from No. 3 to No. 9 in the AP Top 25, respond?
“I know no one is used to losing or anything like that but, you know, we’ve just got to move on, make corrections,” coach Ryan Day said Tuesday. “The sun came up, and we’re going to go from there. It’s nothing that different guys haven’t felt before. They’ve lost games before.”
But not too often around here.
Before major defensive lapses led to Saturday’s strange 35-28 loss to Oregon, Ohio State hadn’t let a regular-season game slip away since 2018, and hadn’t lost one at home since 2017.
Day says much can be learned from the setback about players, as well as about the team’s supporters, some of whom are quick to get surly when the Buckeyes fail.
“You find out a lot about a lot of people when adversity hits,” he said. “You find out about their true character.”
As Day noted after the game, one loss isn’t fatal to Ohio State’s bid to make the College Football Playoff — anything less would be considered a failure in Columbus — but it makes it a little harder and more complicated.
Take 2018, when the No. 2 Buckeyes lost to unranked Purdue in October. They won the rest and the Big Ten title but were outside looking in when playoff selections were announced.
In 2017, Baker Mayfield brazenly tried to plant an Oklahoma flag in the Ohio Stadium artificial turf after the Sooners prevailed 31-16 in Week 2. A head-scratching loss to Iowa followed two months later. The Buckeyes won the Big Ten title, but had to settle for the Cotton Bowl and a No. 5 ranking.
Any loss these days by the storied program causes turmoil inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Issues with the Buckeyes defense must be cleaned up fast. The offense has to get more balanced. Schemes will be dissected, personnel evaluated and assistant coaches upbraided.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, the next two weeks bring Tulsa and Akron to Columbus for tune-up games of the kind that typically are scheduled to open the season. Blowout wins — Tulsa is a 27-point underdog Saturday — aren’t going to impress poll voters but more game reps should help work out some of the problems.
Ohio State resumes Big Ten play on the road against Rutgers on Oct. 2. Big ones ahead include No. 10 Penn State at home on Oct. 30 and No. 25 Michigan at Ann Arbor on Nov. 27. Indiana and Michigan State could end up being trouble, too.
Fifth-year defensive tackle Haskell Garrett insisted that all the Buckeyes’ goals are still attainable, noting that Ohio State’s 2014 team lost to Virginia Tech at home in Week 2 but rebounded to run the table and win the national championship.
“We’re going to get on the film, make the proper corrections, we’re going to put it behind us and then go play the next game,” Garrett said. “It is what it is. They did it in ’14. We can do it in 2021.”
C.J. Stroud, the 19-year-old quarterback whose first collegiate start was the Sept. 2 win over Minnesota, said he and his teammates are keeping level heads.
“Haskell came up after the game and he said something great: ‘The season’s not over.'” Stroud said. “We’re not going to press, we’re going to stick together. We’re not going to point fingers.”
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Browns handed more tough lessons in another loss to Chiefs

By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Baker Mayfield lay face down in the grass, slamming his hands in frustration into the Arrowhead Stadium turf after the Browns’ final mistake.
Revenge against Kansas City slipped away.
Unable to put away the Chiefs for the second straight game, this time because of two critical second-half turnovers and Mayfield’s late interception, the Browns let the defending AFC champions off the ropes and fell 33-29 Sunday in a season opener that lived up to the hype.
With a chance to go 1-0 for the first time since 2004, the Browns crumpled in the clutch again. They’re 1-21-1 in openers since 1999.
It was a performance of highs and lows: from coach Kevin Stefanski’s impeccable play calling in the first half to punter Jamie Gillan’s muffed snap, which gave magical KC QB Patrick Mahomes a short field and the Chiefs’ needed momentum.
“Disappointed,” Stefanski said Monday on a Zoom call. “We have to be able to play clean football, and that’s for 60 minutes.”
The Browns played a nearly perfect first 30 minutes, building a 22-10 halftime lead while overwhelming the Chiefs, who didn’t have any answers for Cleveland’s multi-faceted offense.
But star running back Nick Chubb’s third-quarter fumble, followed soon after by Gillan’s blunder on Cleveland’s first attempted punt of the season triggered memories of the Jan. 17 playoff loss to the Chiefs — another game the Browns could have won.
“We’ve got to find a way to finish,” said cornerback Denzel Ward.
Painful as they may be, these are necessary growing pains for a Cleveland team with Super Bowl aspirations. The Browns have shown they play with the league’s elite. But until they start beating some of the top teams consistently by showing poise down the stretch, they’ll remain among the second tier — good, not great.
“We have to do better,” said center JC Tretter. “There are no moral victories. We have to play better. We have to finish better. We won’t see the Chiefs for a while, and we’ll worry about them when it comes about. But we know we haven’t beat them yet, and if we need to, we need to perform at a higher level to do that.”
And, right or wrong, most of the pressure is on Mayfield.
He matched Mahomes pass for pass, finishing 21 of 28 for 321 yards. But with a chance to rally the Browns to a comeback win, Mayfield tried to do too much. With the play breaking down, he threw his pick when he needed to throw the ball away.
Another loss. Another lesson.
“Ultimately he knows he has to take care of the rock and has to throw it away there,” Stefanski said. “I know he was trying to throw it away. … There’s plenty of plays that I want back from myself and there are plays that players want back.
“That’s just the nature of this beast. We have to learn from it and get better because of it.”
WHAT’S WORKING
Stefanski could do no wrong in the first half. Aggressive with his play calling from the start, he had Kansas City’s defense reeling as the Browns dialed up big chunk plays while outshining the Chiefs’ famed offense.
Cleveland finished with 457 yards, averaging 8.2 per play.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The inability to slow down Kansas City stars Tyreek Hill (11 catches, 197 yards, 1 TD) and Travis Kelce (6, 76 and 2 TDs) remains as big a problem as it was in the postseason.
Cleveland seemed content to play soft coverage, allowing Mahomes to throw underneath and easily move the ball. That has to change if the teams meet again.
STOCK UP
Rookie WR Anthony Schwartz made three catches for 69 yards while filling the role that would have been Odell Beckham Jr’s.
Mayfield hooked up with Schwartz for a 44-yard pass in the first half that made Kansas City’s defense honest. A fourth-round pick from Auburn, Schwartz was slowed by leg injuries much of the summer.
STOCK DOWN
Gillan took his eye off the ball, dropped the snap and then panicked by trying to run for a first down.
“If something like that happens, you have to get the ball off and punt it and he knows that,” Stefanski said.
INJURIES
Starting left offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. may have avoided a serious left ankle injury when he got tangled up while blocking on Jarvis Landry’s touchdown run in the first quarter.
Stefanski said Wills is “day to day,” which is better than “week to week.”
As for Beckham, Stefanski said the team will continue an “appropriate plan” with the star receiver, who is coming off major knee surgery. Beckham looked good in practice last week, but was listed as questionable before being inactive.
KEY NUMBER
24 — Cleveland’s total yardage on its last three drives, which ended with Gillan’s gaffe, a punt and Mayfield’s interception.
NEXT STEPS
After a mostly positive performance, the Browns will be welcomed home Sunday against the Houston Texas — and former Browns QB Tyrod Taylor — by a frothing FirstEnergy Stadium crowd, their largest since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
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Ohio Sports

Browns’ Tretter calls for discipline against KC assistant

By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns center JC Tretter believes Kansas City assistant coach Greg Lewis should be disciplined by the NFL for his role in a sideline skirmish with Cleveland safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. on Sunday.
Harrison was ejected from Cleveland’s 33-29 loss in the first quarter after he forcefully pushed Lewis, who shoved the Browns safety after coming over to help Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Tretter, the NFL players’ union president, didn’t condone Harrison’s behavior, but said Lewis needs to be held accountable by the league for his actions.
“I expect that the coach gets held to the same standard – if not a higher standard – than Ronnie,” Tretter said on a Zoom call. “Being the first one in there and being a coach, putting his hands on an opposing player.
“I don’t think there’s any room for that in this league.”
An NFL spokesman said the incident is under review and that Harrison will not be suspended.
It’s likely he’ll be fined.
After an 11-yard gain, Edwards-Helaire was tackled on Kansas City’s sideline by Harrison and linebacker Mack Wilson. With Edwards-Helaire on the ground, Harrison was standing over him and appeared to step on the running back when Lewis, the team’s running backs coach, came over and shoved Harrison.
Cleveland’s s afety fired back with a high shove t o Lewis’ neck area that knocked his headset askew.
Kansas City’s bench was initially called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Following a review, the officials tossed Harrison, the dismissal costing the Browns one of their best defensive players.
Lewis was allowed to stay on the sideline, which didn’t sit well with the Browns.
“He should get the same treatment that our players get,” said All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett. “He should be tossed out of the game just like Ronnie.”
Whatever transpired, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Harrison needed to show better judgment.
“It’s the oldest thing in football: The game officials always see the second guy,” Stefanski said. “And Ronnie has to show some poise there and not retaliate.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid was not asked about possible discipline for Lewis on Monday. Following the game, he defended his assistant.
“You don’t do that on our sideline, you don’t do that to our guys, bottom line,” he said.
Tretter saw it differently, with both Harrison and Lewis being wrong.
“Obviously, Ronnie can’t retaliate,” he said. “But we can’t have opposing coaches putting their hands on opposing players. We can’t have that.”
Tretter pointed out that coaches are no longer allowed to go on the field for injuries because of an incident between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals a few years back. He added the league’s emphasis on the taunting rule this season is designed to minimize the chance for retaliation.
Stefanski wasn’t pointing fingers, but he doesn’t think Harrison intended to step on Edwards-Helaire.
“I do think that any contact that came from Ronnie was incidental,” Stefanski said. “If you watch the tape, it’s pretty obvious that he’s getting collisioned as he’s trying to get off of their boundary
“But that doesn’t excuse him from retaliating. You can’t do that. That’s something we all know, that the game officials will see the second guy not the first guy.”
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Browns let chance for season-opening win slip away in KC

By DAVE SKRETTA AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It might have been the magnitude of the moment — the Browns, after more than a decade of Week 1 woes, finally appeared to be headed toward a winning start in a season that begins with Super Bowl aspirations.
Then again, it might have been the opponent.
Whatever the case, Cleveland cracked under the pressure in the second half in Kansas City on Sunday, fumbling away — quite literally — its chances of beating the two-time defending AFC champs. The Chiefs capitalized on the miscues to rally from a 22-10 hole and escape with a 33-29 victory in a rematch of their divisional-round playoff game.
“It’s very frustrating. But that’s what happens in this league,” Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “You have to do the little things and play a full four quarters. I think there are 16 more of these but this one stings and it should.”
Mayfield threw for 321 yards, most of it coming in the first half, when the Browns could do no wrong against a porous Chiefs defense. He led three TD drives of at least 75 yards, two capped by Nick Chubb and the other by Jarvis Landry, and he did a masterful job of keeping the ball out of the hands of the potent Kansas City offense.
Chubb and former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt did their part, too. They pounded away against the Chiefs defensive front, dictating the tempo of the game and piling up an astounding 318 yards in the first half alone.
Yet it’s Week 1 in the NFL.
And apparently, that means the Browns are incapable of winning.
They’ve won just once on opening weekend since returning to Cleveland in 1999, losing an NFL-record 17 straight games to start the season. Their last opening win on the road came in 1994, a year before Mayfield was born. And all those markers of ineptitude were extended Sunday following a comprehensive second-half collapse.
“We didn’t play our best when it mattered,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said quite simply. “We didn’t coach our best when it mattered.”
That began after the Chiefs churned up nearly half the third quarter and pulled within 22-17 on Travis Kelce’s touchdown reception. Chubb fumbled the ball deep in Cleveland’s territory, and the Chiefs melted the rest of the quarter away before Harrison Butker made it 22-20 heading into the fourth.
Then came perhaps their biggest gaffe.
The Browns had extended their lead to 29-20 and were threatening to regain the momentum when Mahomes, rolling to his right, chucked the ball deep downfield.
Tyreek Hill somehow adjusted to the fluttering throw and pulled it down near the 50-yard line, then turned around and pranced the rest of the way for a 75-yard touchdown reception.
Suddenly, the full crowd inside Arrowhead Stadium for the first time in nearly two years was booming.
Perhaps it flummoxed Browns punter Jamie Gillan, who inexplicably dropped the snap when they were forced to punt on their next possession. The Chiefs took over at the 15-yard line and Kelce’s second TD catch gave them their first lead.
“You knew how the game was going to go,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “They were measuring us against them. We were kind of doing the same. We knew they were a good football team. Our guys were pressed to perform out there.”
The final mistake? That came when Mayfield, trying to rally the Browns in the closing minutes, threw a weak pass toward the sideline with just over a minute left. Mike Hughes stepped in front of it for an interception that clinched the game.
“We had a chance,” Mayfield said. “I mean, outside of them kneeling the ball on their last possession, we had a chance to go down and win the game. Regardless of what happened before, we had a chance to win the game.”
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McPherson’s 33-yard kick in OT lifts Bengals over Vikings

By MITCH STACY AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Burrow came to the line on fourth-and-inches on the Bengals 48 and planned to sneak the ball over for a first down late in overtime.
Seeing the middle stacked, Burrow checked to the second planned play, a pass to tight end C.J. Uzomah that had worked perfectly in practice last week.
That call worked. Burrow rolled out and hit Uzomah in stride for a 32-yard gain to set up Evan McPherson for a 33-yard field goal that gave the Bengals a 27-24 overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings in the opener Sunday.
“It was a beautiful ball, and he was dropping dimes all day, so I was just another one,” Uzomah said.
“They had that check-in there last year,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer noted. “Exact same play. We talked about it. It was a quarterback sneak, and they checked it and made a nice throw to the tight end.”
Cincinnati’s Germaine Pratt recovered Dalvin Cook’s fumble to set up the winning drive. Minnesota challenged the ruling that Cook had fumbled, but it was upheld after a replay review.
“I know I had it,” Pratt said. “There was no doubt in my mind.”
Greg Joseph kicked a career-long 53-yard field goal as time ran out in the fourth quarter to tie the game for Minnesota, which had battled back from a 21-7 second-half deficit.
Burrow threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns in his return after major knee surgery, and rookie Ja’Marr Chase had 101 yards on five receptions, including a 50-yard scoring pass from his former LSU teammate.
“That first game is important,” Burrow said. “You need momentum early in the season.”
Burrow, who flashed his considerable potential last season before tearing up his left knee in Week 11, completed 20 passes on 27 attempts and didn’t show any residual effects from being sacked five times by the Vikings. The 24-year-old played only one series in the preseason, in the final game, as he continued to rehab.
“When the game’s on the line, I like the ball in my hands,” Burrow said.
Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon, making a return from a foot injury that sidelined him much of last season, rushed for 127 yards and had a 2-yard touchdown plunge in the third quarter.
Kirk Cousins passed for 351 yards and two touchdowns to Adam Thielen for the Vikings.
“Way too many mistakes,” Zimmer said. “Very disappointing. Then we get a chance to come back and rally, then we fumble the ball and give up a fourth-and-inches throw. They played better than us today.”
KICKIN’ IT
McPherson, a rookie out of Florida who hit the game-winner, kicked his first NFL field goal earlier in the fourth quarter, a 53-yarder that was so high and long that it drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd of 56,525.
“It’s a good feeling to watch those balls go through the uprights and know I did it before and can do it again,” McPherson said. He also converted all three of his PAT attempts.
NO MORE DROPS
Chase, taken as the fifth overall pick by the Bengals in the draft, had been plagued with dropped passes throughout the preseason and took the social media criticism that came with it. He didn’t drop any Sunday. He grabbed five of his seven targets for 101 yards in his NFL debut.
“I had a couple guys come up to me and say, ‘You know, I hope Ja’Marr comes to play today.’ ” Burrow said. “I said don’t worry — it’s Sunday, it’s game day, he’s going to come ready to play.”
PENALTY PROBLEMS
The Vikings were penalized 12 times for 116 yards, including for three false starts on the first drive of the game. They had four penalties on their first eight plays. The only turnover of the game was Cook’s fumble in overtime.
UP NEXT
Vikings: At Arizona on Sunday.
Bengals: At Chicago on Sunday.
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Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy
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