CLEVELAND, Ohio — The scoreboard at Cleveland Browns stadium reads zero. The coach stands at the podium assuming blame for shortcomings that have as much (if not more) to do with talent than scheme. And halfway through the season, players are already re-defining what a successful year looks like after a blowout loss.
Only this time, they’re in the visitors’ locker room. The Browns are celebrating down the hall after a 27-0 victory. And somebody else is reminding themselves that it’s OK to lose, that you can’t define your worth from your record, that it’s just a game.
“It’s about opportunities,” Cardinals wide receiver Marquise Brown told Cleveland.com. “It’s about putting it in perspective that we are NFL players, and it’s a blessing to be in the NFL. So you know, we’ve got to treat each Sunday like we’re 0-0.”
MORE CLEVELAND BROWNS COVERAGE
Browns’ win over Arizona a stark reminder of how far they have come — and how far they still have to go: Jimmy Watkins
Browns at Ravens preview: 3 things to know as Browns travel to Baltimore
‘This is what I’ve been preparing and training very hard to get back to’-Deshaun Watson on the 27-0 win over Arizona: Transcript
Hard to do when you’re as bad as Brown’s Cardinals. Since 2022, Arizona is 5-20 with 15 losses in their last 16 games, 10 of which have come by double digits. Around Cleveland, we call that Hue Jackson Bad. Because it hasn’t been long since Jackson was leading the Browns to similar (and much deeper depths), since the most exciting thing about Cleveland football was its draft position, and since Jackson preached his vision to a locker room filled with players who, in many cases, would not stick around long enough to see it.
Five years after Jackson’s departure, Sunday’s game offered Cleveland a chance to see up close how far it has climbed. Cardinals quarterback Clayton Tune reminded of Deshone Kizer, the young quarterback warming the starter’s seat without a prayer to succeed due to a lackluster supporting cast. Coach Jonathan Gannon, a Cleveland native, filled Jackson’s shoes by coaching winning habits on a team that is designed to lose games. And the Browns acted as the many teams who embarrassed Cleveland without much resistance.
“We couldn’t run it, we couldn’t protect, we couldn’t throw it,” Gannon said. “So a lot of things that we need to get cleaned up.”
Sounds like a problem the Browns used to have. But behind a new coach, a new front office and locker room full of talent, they have new ones now. Cleveland has expectations to fulfill and a new standard to meet. The Cardinals would kill to be 5-3, but the Browns are still lagging one game behind in the AFC North race. Speaking of which, they travel to Baltimore next week to play the division-leading Ravens. And while their performance against Arizona was good enough to win by four scores, they’ll have to play better next week.
Because much like the old Browns, playing the current Cardinals has a way of masking your flaws and while emphasizing your strengths. But Lamar Jackson isn’t Tune or Kizer, and John Harbaugh isn’t steering a sinking ship. The Ravens, coming off a 37-3 win over Seattle, might actually be the Cardinals’ inverse.
Unlike Arizona, Baltimore doesn’t get blown out. They haven’t lost by two scores with Lamar Jackson in the lineup since November of 2021. And they haven’t lost — period — in about a month.
The Ravens are the only NFL team to rank top-five in offensive and defensive success rate. Their quarterback ranks third in passing yards per attempt and 12 among all players (second among quarterbacks) in yards per carry. And t
They are better than the Cardinals and, to this point, better than the Browns. They are Super Bowl good. And unlike Brown, their former first-round pick, they will not be thankful for the opportunity to lose by 27 points next week.
“I mean, if you put it all in perspective, it’s a blessing,” Brown said. “It really, truly is a blessing to be here. We wait all offseason waiting to get back here. So I mean, it’s a blessing (to play this game).