During an offseason of excessive and unwarranted hype, the biggest question about the Browns was whether and how they’d handle adversity. On Monday night, adversity smacked them in the face with a two by four.
After a 31-3 loss to the 49ers, the Browns must quickly regroup on a short week to face the Seahawks, who had extra time to rest after beating the Rams on Thursday night. Then comes Cleveland’s bye followed by a trip to New England and a trip to Denver, followed by a Week 10 home games against the Bills.
The schedule softens after that, with two games against the hapless Bengals, two against the Ben-less Steelers, the Dolphins, the Cardinals, and a home game against the Ravens.
But if they lose to the Seahawks, the Rams, and the Bills, the Browns will be 3-6 at best once the clouds part for what could be a solid stretch run. By then, Cleveland’s margin for error may be down to zero, forcing them to run the table in order to get to the playoffs.
That vibe will change dramatically if they can beat the Seahawks in Cleveland, where the vibe for the 2-3 home team will be far different than it was in Week One. A potential Super Bowl run has quickly morphed into survival mode, and it will test every aspect of Freddie Kitchens’ learning-on-the-fly abilities as a head coach.
The Browns desperately need to beat the Seahawks, or at least to remain far more competitive than they were on Monday night, when they began to dig out of a 14-0 hole before the bottom fell out and the blowout happened. It’s one thing to lose on a late field goal or a failed final drive; it’s quite another to be outclassed almost for a full 60 minutes.
The Browns surely will say all the right things. Indeed, they’re definitely not short on confidence. But they’ll need to fly back to Ohio and get their act together quickly, or they’ll soon have two weeks to lament a 2-4 start while also trying to figure out a path through the weeds in the hopes of somehow beating the Patriots.