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    Meyer has personal connections to a lot of his assistants, and a few of their position groups aren't playing up to the Ohio State standard.

    WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The end came for Urban Meyer at Florida when he lost assistants he trusted and tried to do too much himself while leading a new staff that didn't inspire the same faith as when the Gators won two national titles.

    If Meyer is having trouble with his assistant coaches at Ohio State right now, it's not the same problem. It's an overreaction to that problem, with this coaching staff the opposite of that later Florida staff.

    Then, Meyer had coaches he didn't know as well and didn't trust as much.

    Now, he may have coaches he knows too well, and coaches he trusts too much.

    Every time Ohio State loses, like Saturday night's 49-20 loss to Purdue, the view is that the Buckeyes were out-coached. And that's not wrong. Unless the Buckeyes are playing Alabama or Clemson, they'll probably own the talent edge. 

    Meyer is 77-9 at Ohio State. The losses came to Michigan State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Michigan State, Penn State, Clemson, Oklahoma, Iowa and Purdue. In only the two Clemson losses and the Oklahoma game (mostly due to Baker Mayfield) would you say the Buckeyes had less talent.

    More talent usually wins. When it doesn't, looking at the adults making millions (or at least hundreds of thousands) of dollars is the place to start, as opposed to with the unpaid amateurs.

    The Buckeyes appear to have one great assistant coach right now in defensive line coach Larry Johnson, or probably two with quarterbacks coach Ryan Day.

    When they won the national title in 2014, they probably had six in Johnson, Kerry Coombs (corners), Luke Fickell (linebackers), Chris Ash (safeties), Tom Herman (quarterbacks) and Ed Warriner (offensive line.)

    The co-offensive coordinators, Day and Kevin Wilson, are a rising star who was heralded for leading the Buckeyes to a 3-0 start during Meyer's absence and a former head coach at Indiana who lit it up as an offensive coordinator before that. 

    The co-defensive coordinators, Greg Schiano and Alex Grinch, are an overqualified former NFL head coach and a hot name plucked off the Washington State staff after he did a great job as the defensive coordinator there last season.

    They're all at a low point right now. The offense can't score in the red zone and the defense can't stop giving up big plays, and those coordinators are on the hook.

    Meyer, like Hue Jackson with the Browns, is ultimately responsible for everything, and a loss like this starts with him. He's also 182-31 with three national title rings, so he's shown he knows how to do this. But he's also responsible for hiring assistants.

    And on that front, I think he has missed on a few recent hires.

    Johnson is the only assistant remaining from Ohio State's 2014 title team, and I don't think the Buckeyes have substantially improved on any hire since and have taken a major step back on a few.

    I've railed against overpaying assistants, the middle men of college football, in a world where multimillionaire coaches and multi-talented players really determine wins and losses. That's because a place like Ohio State should be able to hire good people. No one is irreplaceable, as long as you replace them. 

    At Florida, Meyer found trouble with a staff he didn't know, after long-time Meyer loyalists like offensive coordinator Dan Mullen left. 

    "I think he's adjusted to the whole staff situation," Mullen told me in the spring of 2015, when the Buckeyes were basking in their national title. "I think he had a group of us that were there a long time and that there was a big security blanket, and all of a sudden when he didn't know anybody in the room, I don't know if he knew ... it was a different type of situation for him."

    The reaction? At Ohio State, after losing his initial staff, Meyer has hired people he knows too well. He went for the blanket instead of the best available. And that's showing up now.

    Look at what happened with former receivers coach Zach Smith. Hiring a staff that you are too close to personally can lead to problems.

    Linebackers coach Bill Davis is the most obvious issue now.

    The best man in Meyer's wedding, he spent more than two decades coaching in the NFL, but he'd never coached in college before his friend gave him a job replacing Fickell. Davis had been an unpaid helper with the Buckeyes the year before, and his hiring for the 2017 season was too easy, and obviously wrong from the start.

    No national search for the best possible replacement would have landed on an NFL assistant fired many times who hadn't recruited or coached teenagers before.

    The linebackers have lacked fundamentals and confidence since Davis arrived. For everyone wondering now why Davis is employed by the Buckeyes, welcome to my corner. It will be a shock if Davis is back next season, and it would show Meyer values personal loyalty over performance if he is.

    While Warinner has revamped and revitalized Michigan's line this season as the offensive line coach for the Wolverines, the line here has struggled under Studrawa. Some of that is due to recruiting failures that occurred under Warinner.

    But Studrawa is another long-time Meyer friend and was the line coach on Meyer's first staff at Bowling Green. Studrawa had a long career in the college game, but he was ousted at LSU after seven seasons and had dropped down to Maryland for two seasons before he was hired in 2016. 

    Right now, Michigan's offensive line under Warinner is better than Ohio State's offensive line under Studrawa. Warinner was promoted, out of necessity and over his skill level, when Meyer named him offensive coordinator in 2015. OSU fans weren't sad to see him go after 2016. But from 2012 to 2014, he was a great offensive line coach for the Buckeyes. Meyer replaced him with an old friend, and the line right now isn't where it has been.

    At cornerback, Meyer replaced Kerry Coombs with Taver Johnson. Johnson didn't have a major Meyer link, but he'd held the same job at Ohio State under Jim Tressel. He was an easy find.

    At running back, Meyer replaced Stan Drayton, when he left for the NFL, with Tony Alford. Meyer was a Colorado State assistant when Alford was a running back there. Alford has done well, and there hasn't been a dropoff from Drayton to Alford. But he's another example of Meyer going with the familiar, of staying in the blanket.

    Schiano, one of Meyer's best friends, was a great hire in 2015. A former NFL head coach in Tampa and the long-time head coach at Rutgers, he probably wouldn't have taken a college assistant's job for anyone but Meyer. 

    He's good. But now, when the defense has problems, Meyer isn't just dealing with a defensive coordinator with an underperforming unit. He's dealing with one of his best friends.

    On one level, maybe that's a good thing. But do you demand the same changes and light the same fires under someone you've known for decades? 

    When Meyer hired his first staff, he didn't know Herman or Warinner or Fickell or Coombs. When the defense needed help after the 2013 season, he didn't know Ash. 

    Now, of his 10 assistants, six had obvious, easy connections to either Meyer or Ohio State - Davis, Studrawa, Schiano, Alford, Taver Johnson and new receivers coach Brian Hartline. And Day was a one-year grad assistant under Meyer at Florida and came off the coaching tree of Chip Kelly, Meyer's good friend.

    Only Larry Johnson, Grinch and Wilson arrived as best available candidates, without personal relationships with the head coach or the school. 

    This is a caution, for instance, of automatically elevating Hartline to a full-time job after Smith's firing. Hartline seems to be doing well in his interim role this season, but if you did a national search for the best candidate, would he bit it? Maybe. But the Buckeyes should at least look around before deciding that.

    Meyer shoulders the brunt of Saturday's loss. He's paid handsomely to do that. He's also paid to hire the best coaching staff possible. By going with the familiar too often lately, he hasn't done that.

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    Ohio State dropped after its blowout loss at Purdue on Saturday night.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The new AP Top 25 college football poll was released this afternoon, and after its loss to Purdue on Saturday night, Ohio State is now 11th.

    Alabama (8-0) stayed at No. 1 after it handled Tennessee, 58-21. Alabama, which received all 61 first-place votes, plays at No. 4 LSU on Saturday. The Tigers (7-1) topped then-No. 22 Mississippi State, 19-3, on Saturday.

    No. 2 Clemson (7-0) handled N.C. State 41-7 and will play at Florida State next Saturday.

    Michigan (7-1) moved up from No. 6 to No. 5 after Saturday's 21-7 win over then-No. 24 Michigan State. The Wolverines take on Penn State on Saturday.

    Appalachian State (5-1) earned the No. 25 spot, the first time the program has been ranked in its history.

    Here is the latest AP top 25. Check out Doug Lesmerises' ballot.

    Record Pts Prv
    1. Alabama (61) 8-0 1525 1
    2. Clemson 7-0 1454 3
    3. Notre Dame 7-0 1400 4
    4. LSU 7-1 1327 5
    5. Michigan 7-1 1250 6
    6. Texas 6-1 1186 7
    7. Georgia 6-1 1136 8
    8. Oklahoma 6-1 1065 9
    9. Florida 6-1 998 11
    10. UCF 7-0 996 10
    11. Ohio St. 7-1 985 2
    12. Kentucky 6-1 754 14
    13. West Virginia 5-1 747 13
    14. Washington St. 6-1 692 25
    15. Washington 6-2 677 15
    16. Texas A&M 5-2 622 17
    17. Penn St. 5-2 528 18
    18. Iowa 6-1 489 19
    19. Oregon 5-2 450 12
    20. Wisconsin 5-2 357 23
    21. South Florida 7-0 291 21
    22. NC State 5-1 186 16
    23. Utah 5-2 180 -
    24. Stanford 5-2 144 -
    25. Appalachian St. 5-1 79 -

    Others receiving votes: Texas Tech 54, Utah St. 50, San Diego St. 48, Fresno St. 35, Miami 34, Virginia 25, Houston 19, Purdue 17, Michigan St. 8, Cincinnati 7, Auburn 5, Mississippi St. 2, Boston College 2, UAB 1.

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    The Browns tied the Buccaneers late in the fourth quarter on a Jarvis Landry touchdown.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - Jarvis Landry helped the Browns tie the Buccaneers in the fourth quarter on Sunday by reaching the ball across the goal line as he fell to the ground.

    Landry caught the pass from Baker Mayfield at the 2-yard line and lost his balance, but was able to reach the ball over the goal line before Buccaneers defenders could get to him.

    It was Landry's 10th catch of the day, giving him 97 yards. Greg Joseph's extra point tied the game at 23 with 2:28 left in the fourth quarter.

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    Nance, who has missed the first two regular games against Toronto and Minnesota as well as the preseason finale because of a sprained ankle, will come off the bench and be on a minutes restriction.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Larry Nance Jr. will make his season debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night in the home opener. 

    Nance, who has missed the first two regular games against Toronto and Minnesota as well as the preseason finale because of a sprained ankle, will come off the bench and be on a minutes restriction. 

    Tristan Thompson will make his third straight start at center. 

    The Cavaliers host the Atlanta Hawks, one of four Eastern Conference teams without a win this season. 

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    Peppers fumbled the ball on a punt return, and the Bucs cashed in.

    TAMPA, Fla. -- Another week, another overtime game for the Browns.

    But the road isn't friendly to the Browns, who tied an NFL record for 24 straight road losses.

    They lost to the Buccaneers 26-23 Sunday on a 59-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro with 1:50 left in OT to fall to 2-4-1.  The kick -- the longest OT field goal in NFL history -- cashed in on Jabrill Peppers' fumble on a punt return that started the Bucs at the Browns' 48 with 3:12 left in the 10-minute session.

    Peppers, who's 32-yard punt return set up Jarvis Landry's gametying 16-yard TD catch in regulation, blamed himself for the loss.

    "I'll take full responsibility,'' he said. "This one's on me. Anybody can say it's not just you, it's a lot of things, I don't care about that. All the miscues we had, we still had a chance to win in that moment and I fumbled the ball.

    "I don't want to hear, 'oh well we could have done this, could have done this,' whatever the case may be, we still had a chance to win the game and  I fumbled the ball and that's just what it is.

    "I take it on the chin. It hurts. Definitely stings to fight all the way back like that and then to go out like that and it's your fault. Take it on the chin, get in there and watch the film and move past it.''

    It was the fourth overtime game for the Browns this season. The record for OT games in a season is five. The Browns are 1-2-1 in OT this season.

    After the Bucs started at the Browns' 48, the Browns sacked Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston on back-to-back plays to knock them back to their own 45. But DeSean Jackson caught a 14-yarder to the Browns' 41.

    Catanzaro, who missed a 40-yarder at the end of regulation, boomed the 59-yarder through the uprights. 

    The Browns lost despite four takeaways by the defense, including an interception by Jamie Collins in OT.

    The Browns got the ball first in overtime and started at their 25, but left tackle Desmond Harrison committed a holding penalty on the first play and the Browns went three-and-out.

    Collins picked off Winston with 6:15 left in the 10-minute OT, but the Browns went three-and-out on their second possession of OT. 

    The Bucs took over with 2:28 left in regulation after the Browns tied it at 23, and drove to the 22, where Catanzaro pushed the 40-yard field goal attempt wide right. 

    End of regulation

    With 4:55 left in regulation, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield was stopped on a sneak on fourth and 1 on a play that would've tied it at 23 had Greg Joseph made the extra point. Nick Chubb gained a yard on third and 2 the play before.

    The Bucs took over on downs at their 1, and the defense came up big, with Emmanuel Ogbah sacking Winston and then Genard Avery making a third-down stop.

    Jabrill Peppers returned the punt 32 yards to the Tampa Bay 16, and then Jarvis Landry laid out for a 16-yard TD catch from Mayfield that did tie it at 23 on the first play of the drive with 2:28 left in regulation. 

    Chubb produces

    It was the first game for the Browns after Carlos Hyde was traded to the Jaguars on Friday, and Chubb made sure they weren't sorry they did it.

    Chubb finished the game with 18 carries for 80 yards and one TD.

    The Browns got three takeaways from their defense on consecutive drives to keep them in the game. Unfortunately for the defense, the offense only scored on one of those takeaways. 

    Chubb ran in from the 1 to cut the Browns' deficit to 23-16 with 12:17 left in regulation. Chubb plowed 21 yards up the middle earlier in the drive, and then Landry leaped and caught an 18-yard pass on third and 9 to the Bucs' 25. Antonio Callaway drew a 24-yard interference call in the end zone to the 1 to set up Chubb's TD.

    Myles Garrett's strip and David Njoku's TD

    The Browns came out with some energy in the second half, with Myles Garrett stripping Jameis Winston and Genard Avery recovering just 29 second into the third quarter to start Mayfield at the Bucs' 26. It was the third straight takeaway for the Browns. Three plays later, Njoku caught a 15-yard TD pass from Mayfield in the left corner of the end zone to cut the Browns' deficit to 16-9.

    But the Bucs came back and scored again on a 2-yard run by Ronald Jones with 28 seconds left in the third to make it 23-9. Key play on the drive was a 24-yard catch by tight end O.J. Howard over Jabrill Peppers to the 1.

    Bad end to the half

    The first half ended with Mayfield fumbling out of bounds at the Bucs' 10 after he had avoided a sack on fourth and 2 and scrambled for a first down with 19 seconds left. Mayfield had gained the first down, but when the ball was knocked out of hands, it went backward and out of bounds, leaving the Browns short.

    The Bucs took over on downs and took a knee to preserve their 16-2 halftime led. It summarized the way the brutal half went for the Browns.

    Mayfield's fumble wasted the Browns' second defensive takeaway od the half that started him at the Bucs' 19 with 50 seconds remaining. With the Browns trailing 16-2,  Genard Avery forced tight Cameron Brate to fumble, and Christian Kirksey recovered.

    And still, the Browns couldn't score on a Bucs defense that had surrendered 125 first-half points in its previous five games, and had allowed touchdowns on 15 of the opponents' 16 trips inside the red zone.

    That's how far the Browns' receiver-challenged offense has fallen.

    The first play of the drive was a throwaway to Landry near the 5; and the second was an incompletion to a tightly covered Landry at the right side of the end zone.  Landry wanted a pass-interference call on the play and didn't get it. Tight end David Njoku was also open on a post route on that play.

    Damion Ratley caught an 8-yard pass on third down, and then the Browns went for it on fourth and 2, with the disastrous result when Lavonte David stripped Mayfield of the ball.

    Kirksey's pick

    With the Bucs up 16-2, Kirksey picked off Winston with 2:19 left in the half. Unfortunately for Kirksey, Emmanuel Ogbah committed a blindside block on the return for a 15-yard penalty. The Browns started at their 25, but went three and out after Mayfield was sacked for a 9-yard loss by former Browns defensive lineman Carl Nassib.    

    First-half woes

    The Bucs outgained the Browns 243 yards to 74 in the first half and made 17 first downs to the Browns' 3. The Browns also went 1-for-8 on third down while the Bucs converted 3-of-4. Winston outpassed Mayfield 184 yards to 64.

    Browns open with safety

    The Bucs started their opening drive at the 1 after cornerback Tavierre Thomas downed Britton Colquitt's 55-yard punt there. Trevon Coley tackled Peyton Barber in the end zone for a safety with 9:18 ft in the first quarter, the Browns' first safety since Oct. 5, 2014 when Tank Carder blocked a punt in the end zone in Tennessee. Little did the Browns know they'd be their only first-half points of the half.  

    Extra points

    With cornerback E.J. Gaines out with a concussion, Damarious Randall started the game at cornerback. T.J. Carrie remained at nickelback and Briean Boddy-Calhoun played safety.  


    The Browns have a rematch with the Steelers next Sunday at 1 p.m. in Pittsburgh. The teams tied 21-21 in the opener in Cleveland.

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    Chance after chance was there for the Browns. They failed to take advantage of them.

    TAMPA, Fla. -- If this game ends up as the one that starts the spiral downward of the Browns' season, they'll have no one to blame but themselves. This was a game there for the taking and they couldn't take it. This is one, entering a brutal stretch against Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Atlanta, that they will regret.

    The Buccaneers came into this game allowing 440 yards of offense per game. The Browns managed 74 in the first half.

    The defense forced four turnovers. The offense only managed one score off of those turnovers.

    The Bucs gave the Browns the ball with excellent field position in overtime. The offense couldn't capitalize.

    The Browns defense got a stop in overtime, and Jabrill Peppers fumbled the punt return. It's what set up the game-winning 59-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro.

    Sometimes you just lose to better teams, like what happened in New Orleans in Week 2. Last week, the Chargers were better by a significant margin.

    This game went from a 23-9 disaster to a game the Browns should have won. They didn't.

    They gave it away. They might have given away their season, too.

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    Let us know how Baker Mayfield did for the Browns on Sunday.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - The email landed in my inbox around the end of the first quarter on Sunday.

    "Sorry guys but we picked the wrong QB once again we should have gone (with) darnold," read the critique from Ron. At that point, the Browns trailed 3-2, and the offense had 28 yards and two first downs.

    Ron wasn't happy.

    He probably felt even worse when the Buccaneers won the game in overtime with a 59-yard field goal. But, to borrow a phrase, we're not here to talk about that. We're here to talk about Mayfield.

    The Browns' rookie quarterback finished 23-of-34 passing for 215 yards and two touchdowns (104.4 QB rating). He was 2-for-3 for 16 yards in two overtime possessions that went nowhere.

    Mayfield rushed for 41 yards, with 35 coming on second-and-26 play in the fourth quarter. Another rush, on fourth-and-2 in the second quarter, ended with Mayfield fumbling the ball out of bounds short of the first down marker at the Bucs 10-yard line.

    He was sacked five times.

    What grade do you give Mayfield against the Buccaneers? Check out the poll below and let us know what you think. You can explain your grade in the comment section.

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    After the Browns' 26-23 overtime loss in Tampa Bay, coach Hue Jackson has vowed to be more involved with the offense. Is this a good idea?

    TAMPA -- Hue Jackson couldn't watch it anymore.

    The Browns head coach has watched his offense score just four touchdowns in the last three games.

    His team is now 2-4-1 after the 26-23 overtime loss in Tampa, and Jackson is frustrated.

    Very, very frustrated.

    I wondered how long it would be before Jackson would grab back some of the offense from new coordinator Todd Haley.

    Well, it begins this week.

    "I have to," Jackson said. "I want's what I know...I need to be a little more involved."

    I bet Haley will be less than overjoyed when he hears that.

    Here's my problem: I'd like to tell Jackson not to micromanage the offense. But I have a hard time defending how Haley has been performing in the job.

    It's not all coaching, but there are issues with play-calling. And Haley seems to have a hard time figuring out who are his best play-makers and how to get them the ball.

    Jackson has vowed to "jump in head-first...hands...feet..."

    My guess is, Jackson is thinking that if he's going to lose this job, he's going to do it his way.

    The Browns had three first downs at halftime against the NFL's worst defense.

    That's right...THREE!!!

    It was pathetic.

    Want good news? The Browns finally scored in the first quarter.

    But it was the defense...a safety thanks to tackle Trevon Conley.

    I want to defend Haley, but the Browns offense has scored just six points in the first quarter all season.

    That's six points in seven opening quarters.

    That's two field goals.

    Teams should have some element of surprise and production in the first quarter because they prepare plays to run early in the game.

    At halftime, the score was 16-2!


    Haley and Jackson have not exactly been singing in harmony since training camp. There were a few minor clashes that appeared in "Hard Knocks."

    The last few weeks, Jackson has been talking about Duke Johnson Jr. and Nick Chubb getting the ball more.

    That finally happened Sunday after John Dorsey traded starting running back Carlos Hyde to Jacksonville.

    That set up Chubb as a starter. The rookie had 80 yards in 14 carries (4.4 yard average). The only real disappointing play was when he failed to score from the 2-yard line in the fourth quarter.

    But overall, it was a good start for the powerful back from Georgia.

    Jackson has spent much of his life calling plays.

    It was his play-calling and tactics on offense with the Cincinnati Bengals that partly inspired the Browns to hire him as head coach in 2016.

    But doing both jobs, Jackson struggled in Cleveland.

    Jackson stressed Haley is the play caller, but I wonder if that will change in the future.


    Haley was a former head coach in Kansas City.

    He spent the previous six years calling plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A split with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led to head coach Mike Tomlin firing Haley.

    The Browns quickly hired him.

    But now, there are problems.

    Jackson insisted "it's not accurate" to claim there is an issue between the head coach and the coordinator.

    But the offense is regressing.

    Mayfield has taken a significant step backward after his blazing first two games -- 63 points scored in six quarters.

    Since then, the Browns have scored 49 points in the last 12 quarters.

    The development of Mayfield is one of the ways the coaching staff will be judged this season.

    "I'll do whatever I need to do," Jackson said. "I'm the head coach of this football team."

    A few times, Jackson mentioned being the head coach.

    And ultimately, the head coach makes these decisions. But you also can be sure Haley won't simply back down. That's not his personality.

    Jackson's record fell to 2-10-1 in games decided by three or fewer points in his two-plus seasons with the Browns.

    This years, it's 1-3-1.

    He is 0-19 in road games with the Browns.

    The Browns have a lot to work out, and who runs the offense falls under that heading.

    And Jackson's job will be decided with how that turns out.

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    Jackson doesn't rule out taking the playcalling back from Todd Haley.

    TAMPA, Fla. -- Coach Hue Jackson was furious about the Browns' offensive performance during Sunday's 26-23 overtime loss to the Bucs, and didn't rule out taking the playcalling back from offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

    Is he concerned about butting heads with his strong-willed OC?

    "It's not going to be about butting heads,'' said Jackson. "I'm the head coach of the football team. I will do what I feel I need to do to get this team where it needs to be.''

    Pressed further on that issue, he reiterated, "I'm the head coach of the football team, period. Period. There's nothing else that needs to be said. Nothing. I'm the head coach of the football team.''

    Asked what that might look like next time out, which is Sunday in Haley's old stomping ground in Pittsburgh, he said, "I don't know. I haven't thought through that part of that yet. I'll figure that out as I move forward.''

    He was asked if Haley his playcaller.

    "Yeah, he's the playcaller,'' he said. "Trust me when I say I'm not trying to create any issue here, but I think if the offense is not playing well, and we haven't over a period of time, being a head coach and an offensive guy who's done this, I think I have every right as a head coach to jump in and see if I can help and assist and get this thing to where I think it needs to be, because we need to be better on offense. And if that's my specialty, then I need to be involved more and I will be.''

    He confirmed that Haley's called all the plays so far this season, but he made no promises that will continue. Haley was the Steelers' offensive coordinator for the previous six seasons.

    "Yeah, I mean, I've been respectful,'' said Jackson. "That's why you bring guys in and you make them the coordinator. Again, there are some things we've got to fix fast to get this thing back to where it needs to be.''

    He's tired of watching the offense sputter week after week, especially with Baker Mayfield at quarterback.

    "I feel like I have to (get more involved). And I want to,'' said Jackson. "That's what I know, so I'm not going to continue to watch something that I know how to do keep being that way. That's just the truth. I mean, that's nothing against anybody in our building. I just think that's what I do, and I think I need to be a little bit more involved."

    The Browns' offense failed to score a first-half point against a Bucs defense that was horrible in the first half all season, surrendering 125 points. The Bucs had also allowed TDs on 15 of 16 trips inside the red zone, and the Browns couldn't score when handed the ball at the Bucs 19 following one of the defense's four takeaways. The offense is last in the NFL this season in converting takeaways, and the Browns' D just keeps producing them. The four-turnover game pushed their league-high total to 20.

    The Browns also went three-and-out twice in OT, and converted only one of the four takeaways into points.

    "I've got to figure that out,'' said Jackson. "I've got to figure that out. I've totally got to figure that out. I've got to jump in head first, all hands, feet, everything and go figure that out. It's just that simple.''

    The Browns have thrown only seven TD passes this season, which is near the bottom of the league. Against the Bucs, they converted 3-of-14 third downs. In the first half, they were outgained 243 yards to 74.

    Jackson said he was involved in going for it on fourth and 2 at the end of the half instead of kicking a field goal "because I needed to jumpstart our offense. You're in fourth and 2, I thought we had a good play call. And we did. It's unfortunate. Baker is running for it and made it, and the guy stripped the ball out and the ball goes backwards. Normally it doesn't happen that way where the ball goes backwards. The ball normally goes forward. Could've kicked a field goal, no question, but I thought our offense needed something to feel good about in the first half. We did not play well.''

    He indicated he may have had something to do with the second-half improvement, in which the Browns scored 21 points.
    "We made some adjustments,'' he said. "I think our guys started making some plays. I think the protection was a little better. Baker's getting hit way too much. We have to figure that out. He's getting hit way too much. Ball came out a little quicker. He did run around and make some plays. But we've got to find a way to get this offense up and going in the first half.''

    The Browns already forced Haley to use Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson more by trading away his workhorse back Carlos Hyde. Chubb responded with 80 yards on 18 carries and scored on a 1-yard run. It could be the first of major changes coming on offense.

    Not the least of which is Jackson getting way more involved, and possibly even taking back the playcalling.

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    Mary Kay Cabot and Dan Labbe talk about the Browns' loss to the Buccaneers.

    The Browns lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, 26-23, in overtime. It drops them to 2-4-1 on the season.


    The offense struggled again, especially early when they managed just 74 first-half yards. They were unable to take advantage of the four turnovers forced by the defense.

    Mary Kay Cabot and I talked about the game on Sunday night from Tampa. We discussed:

    • What an expanded role in the offense looks like for Hue Jackson.
    • How the Browns fix their receiver situation.
    • Why it's important to give Baker Mayfield another receiver.

    Want our podcasts delivered directly to your phone? We have an Apple podcasts channel exclusively for this podcast. Subscribe to it here. You can also subscribe on Google Play and listen on Spotify. Search Orange and Brown Talk podcast or click here.

    You can also use our podcast's RSS feed in your podcast player of choice.

    You can download the podcast here.

    Get the best Browns news and perspective in your inbox at lunch time every weekday. Sign up for our Browns newsletter.

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    The Cavs lost their home opener, 133-111, failing to correct many of the same issues that plagued them in back-to-back losses on the road to open the 2018-19 season.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue was asked pregame how to best define a good night on defense with the league's widespread offensive eruption.

    "I don't even really know," he said.

    Well, the Cavaliers' performance on Sunday night against the woebegone Atlanta Hawks -- who had lost their first two games by double figures -- certainly doesn't qualify. 

    The Cavs lost their home opener, 133-111, failing to correct many of the same issues that plagued them in back-to-back losses to open the season.

    Burned by another dreadful second quarter, the Cavs watched a 15-point lead evaporate quickly, as the Hawks regained control in that quarter, overcoming a sluggish start and taking a lead into halftime that they never relinquished. 

    The common denominator in three straight losses to open the season: a problematic defense. 

    "We had a good thing going in the first quarter and then we couldn't defend the perimeter," Kevin Love said. "Our switches weren't there and our coverages weren't there for the next three quarters. They were just free-stroking out there. Our schemes, when the guy was beaten covering for the other man so it wasn't a good outing for us."

    While the Cavs have been pointing to their transition defense, which was lackluster once again, the problems on that end of the floor go much deeper.

    Hawks rookie point guard Trae Young decimated Cleveland's switch-heavy scheme, attacking mismatches off the dribble and getting into the paint with little resistance. He also scorched the nets from 3-point range, piling up 35 points and hitting six bombs.

    In the fourth quarter, the Cavs finally started springing some traps, hoping the extra defender would fluster the 20-year-old rook. That's when Young poked more holes in Cleveland's already-vulnerable defense, using his vision and deft passing to rack up a career-best 11 assists.

    Closeouts were lethargic, as the Hawks went 22-of-47 from beyond the arc.

    Young led the way with six long-range hits. Kent Bazemore added four, helping him pour in 23 points. Kevin Huerter, one of three first-round picks playing for Atlanta, canned three. 

    The interior defense was flimsy. The Hawks scored 52 points in the paint and Atlanta grabbed nine offensive rebounds, turning those into 13 second-chance points. Center Alex Len scored 16 points on an efficient 7-of-12 from the field to go with 11 rebounds and dunked on multiple Cavaliers. 

    As for the transition defense, the Hawks raced to 11 fastbreak points, becoming the third straight team to reach double figures in that category. 

    The Cavs gave up multiple 40-point quarters. Even in this new NBA era, where defensive success needs to be redefined, that's not good enough. 

    It all added up to Cleveland's worst loss of the young season.

    "The last three quarters were pretty damn alarming," Love said. "Opening Night at home we expect to play better. We expect to play better in front of our home crowd. I don't know if alarming is the right word but it sure sounds right, just with our effort level. Our effort level wasn't there, especially defending the 3-point line. They were just gunning and we weren't getting into them. We weren't physical."

    Losing to Toronto and Minnesota on the road is understandable. Both teams are out of Cleveland's weight class. The Hawks? They are one of the teams the Cavs should be able to handle, especially at home. There are only a handful of nights when the Cavs can claim to be the more talented team, even favored in a game. 

    Sunday was one of them. It didn't matter. The Cavs still got knocked out. 

    If anything, the home-opener loss against Atlanta showed that winning will be a challenge all season. Yes, even against teams like the rebuilding Hawks.

    Collin Sexton struggles

    This was supposed to be Collin Sexton's night.

    As Lue said before the game, the bigger the moment and the bigger the stage, the better Sexton plays. It's something the Cavaliers noticed when scouting him in college and one of the reasons they selected him with the eighth overall pick, making him a franchise building block.

    Sunday's stage: Sexton's home debut -- a matchup against fellow first-rounder Young, who went three picks ahead of Sexton in the 2018 NBA Draft.

    These are the matchups that typically bring out Sexton's best. Not Sunday night.

    The first duel between Eastern Conference rookie point guards went to Young. Decisively. Sexton scored just four points on 2-of-11 from the field. He had twice as many fouls (4) as assists (2).

    Meanwhile, Young became the first rookie since Stephen Curry in 2010 to record at least 35 points and 10 assists in a game.

    Bright spot 

    Jordan Clarkson has been able to erase the memories from a horrific postseason quickly. The bench spark plug tallied 19 points on Sunday night, going 7-of-12 from the field, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.

    "He's been really good," Lue said. "I think coming off the bench, giving us the offensive spark, giving us what we need, to score the basketball. I think defensively he's trying. He's fighting the bigs on the switches, he's fronting the post like he's supposed to. He's boxing out. So Jordan all around he's been really good, preseason onto the regular season, so hopefully he can keep it up."

    He has scored at least 15 points in all three games this season and is once again among the league leaders in bench scoring. 


    Omari Spellman, who had a brief high school stint at North Royalton, returned after missing the second game with an ankle injury.

    Spellman tallied 17 points on 6-of-9 from the field and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. His spacing created problems for the spread-out Cavs defense all night.

    Up next

    The Cavs will return to the court on Wednesday night, hosting the Brooklyn Nets at The Q.

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    Peppers took responsibility for his mistake that set up the Buccaneers game-winning field goal.

    TAMPA -- Damarious Randall thought the Browns defense had picked up his backfieldmate, Jabrill Peppers following his fumble on a punt return in overtime. Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston completed a 14-yard pass to DeSean Jackson at the Browns' 41-yard line for 14 yards. It was fourth down.

    "I was like, hey, man, we got your back, and then I see them lining up for a field goal," Randall said. "I'm like, no way he's making this field goal."

    Which is fair. Bucs kicker Chandler Catanzaro had sent a 40-yarder just to the outside of the right upright at the end of regulation. This one, however, snuck just inside the same upright and the Browns came away overtime losers for the second time this season.

    It shouldn't have been that way, though. The Browns defense forced a Bucs three-and-out and Peppers fielded a punt at the Browns' 24 and found room. He made it out to the 38 and, after leaping a defender, the ball got punched out by Anthony Auclair and Tampa took over.

    Peppers said he had yet to watch the play when he spoke after the game, but he recalled the ball getting away from his body after he leapt a defender and the ball getting punched out.

    "Crucial, crucial mistake," he said. "Just can't have that happen in overtime."

    It was a heartbreaking wrap on what has become a positive for Peppers. He had a solid day returning against the Chargers last week. Sunday, he managed a 32-yard return in the fourth quarter. The first offensive play after that return, Baker Mayfield hit Jarvis Landry for a 16-yard touchdown that tied the game at 23.

    "All of that is negated by the fumble," Peppers said.

    "I fumbled and lost us the game," he added later in response to another question about the long return. "That's what's going to be remembered about this game. That's what I'm going to remember about this game. Getting the yardage on punt return, that's what I'm supposed to do."

    The fumble happened right after Peppers jumped over a diving Jacquizz Rodgers. The ball was recovered by Isaiah Johnson.

    "Just got to stop," Peppers said. "Had positive yards on a punt return, should have just went down, fighting for extra yards, trying to make something happen."

    Head coach Hue Jackson said he told Peppers when he was walking off the field with him to put his head up and pointed to other plays the second-year safety had made. He also didn't mince words after the game.

    "In a huge moment, he's got to make that play; he knows that as well as anybody," Jackson said. He's got to hold onto that ball for his teammates."

    "I'll take full responsibility," Peppers said. "This one's on me. Anybody can say it's not just you, it's a lot of things, I don't care about that. All the miscues we had, we still had a chance to win in that moment and I fumbled the ball."

    It was the toughest play on a tough day for the Browns.

    "One bad play can just outshine everything you did," Peppers said.

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    Landry caught 10 of his 15 targets, but he can't do it all alone.

    TAMPA, Fla. -- Unless the Browns trade for an Amari Cooper or a DeVante Parker, or sign a Terrelle Pryor, things won't get much better on offense this season.

    During Sunday's 26-23 overtime loss to the Bucs, it was once again Jarvis Landry and The Others, and that's just not going to cut it. Landry was targeted a game-high 15 times, and caught 10 passes for 97 yards, including the gametying 16-yard TD in regulation.

    After the game, which dropped the Browns to 2-4-1, he couldn't use his left arm to put on his shirt, and he had a wrap on it. He said he'll play in Pittsburgh, though, so he should be okay.

    But Landry needs some help and so does Baker Mayfield.

    After Landry, the three other Browns' receivers combined for five catches for 43 yards: Antonio Callaway (1 of 2 targets for 14 yards), Damion Ratley (3 of 3 targets for 23 yards) and Breshad Perriman (1 of 1 targets for 6 yards). Meanwhile, the Browns were trying to keep pace with a Bucs offense that features the high-octane trio of Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and more.

    Furthermore, the lack of a supporting cast is wasting Mayfield's big arm. The two longest completions were for 20 and 23 yards.
    Hue Jackson vowed to dive in and fix the offense, which might even mean taking the playcalling back from offensive coordinator Todd Haley soon.  But Jackson might soon discover that even if he changes things up, he might not have enough weapons to compete with the good offenses in the NFL such as those of the Bucs, Chargers, Steelers and Chiefs.

    The Steelers and Chiefs are up next, and those could be long games if the Browns don't get some help.

    Rashard Higgins should be back soon from his sprained MCL, and that will help a lot. He's one of Mayfield's favorite targets and he's reliable. But even that won't be enough.

    The Browns need to seriously consider trading for a receiver and getting help right away. It won't be easy. It's tough to walk onto a new team and pick up the offense overnight. But they have to try something.

    Pryor is being released by the Jets, and he could help the Browns once his torn groin heals in a few weeks. The Dolphins are fielding calls about 2015 first-round pick DeVante Parker, who was inactive on Sunday. Parker's agent Jimmy Gould on Sunday told ESPN that Dolphins coach Adam Gase "is incompetent''  so there might be no coming back from that.

    ESPN's Adam Schefter reported earlier Sunday that the Broncos are shopping Demaryius Thomas, 30, who's been struggling in Denver. Some of these receivers might not make sense from a compensation and salary standpoint, but John Dorsey must do something.  

    The Browns' offense was shut out in the first half by a Bucs' defense that was giving up first half-points at an alarming rate, an average of 25 per game. And the red zone? They allowed TD on 15 of 16 trips. But the Browns couldn't score when they got inside the red zone, despite the fact the drive started at the Bucs' 19 thanks to one of the defense's four takeaways.

    They were outgained 243 yards to 74 in the first half, and fell behind 16-2. That's a big hole to dig out of. They tied the game at 23 on a 16-yard Landry TD catch, but they went three-and-out on their two possessions in overtime.

    Life is tough enough on a rookie quarterback. It's almost impossible without a good enough supporting cast.

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    The Browns lost to the Buccaneers 26-23 Sunday on a 59-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro Watch video

    The Browns lost to the Buccaneers 26-23 Sunday on a 59-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro with 1:50 left in OT. The kick cashed in on Jabrill Peppers' fumble on a punt return that started the Bucs at the Browns' 48 with 3:12 left in the 10-minute session.

    Mayfield rushed for 41 yards, with 35 coming on second-and-26 play in the fourth quarter. Another rush, on fourth-and-2 in the second quarter, ended with Mayfield fumbling the ball out of bounds short of the first down marker at the Bucs 10-yard line.

    He was sacked five times.

    It was the fourth overtime game for the Browns this season. The record for OT games in a season is five. The Browns are 1-2-1 in OT this season.

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    The Browns forced four more turnovers on Sunday and the offense, yet again, failed to cash in on many of them.

    TAMPA -- Jameis Winston dropped back with 1:04 left in the first half on Sunday and hit his tight end, Cameron Brate, for 10 yards and what should have been a first down -- except T.J. Carrie punched the ball loose and Christian Kirksey recovered and returned the ball to the Buccaneers 19-yard line.

    The Browns, trailing 16-2 at the time, had the ball in perfect field position with 50 seconds left. Four plays later, Baker Mayfield, on fourth down, scrambled and appeared to have the yardage for a conversion but fumbled the ball backwards just enough to negate the first down. The Browns came up empty.

    It was the second time in the final 2:30 of the first half that the Browns came away with nothing off of a turnover. Kirksey intercepted Winston on a first-down pass and, after a penalty, the Browns took over at their own 25. They lost six yards on the drive.

    The Browns are up to 20 takeaways on the season, the most by a Browns defense through seven weeks since 1989. That team also had 20 takeaways at this point.

    Half of the Browns turnovers this season have come in two of their games. They forced six in Week 1 against Pittsburgh and finished plus-5 in turnover margin. They forced four against Tampa Bay on Sunday and finished plus-3.

    In those two games, they have scored off one of those turnovers just twice. One of those scores -- against Pittsburgh -- came after Jabrill Peppers scooped a fumble and returned it to the Steelers 1-yard line.

    Browns defenders were straightforward about how it impacts them.

    "Go out and keep doing our job," Kirksey said. "That's what defense is for. Whenever the offense is struggling, we've got to pick it up even more."

    "Just keep playing football," safety Damarious Randall said. "At the end of the day, everybody's got jobs. As long as we can do our job to the best of our ability to try to give this team a chance to win in the fourth quarter of every game, I feel like that's what we've been doing."

    Which is what you'd expect them to say. The reality is that the offense hasn't been holding up their end.

    "We got to capitalize on defensive turnovers," quarterback Baker Mayfield said. "Our defense is playing great, we have to take that momentum and run with it."

    Sunday, the Browns offense didn't run more than four plays in a possession following a turnover. Two of those possessions ended in punts, another in the failed fourth down conversion and, probably the most painful of them all, a three-and-out in overtime following Jamie Collins' interception.

    That possession started at the Buccaneers 45-yard line, realistically a first down away from considering a game-winning field goal attempt. Instead, the Browns gained nothing on a first down run and, following a 7-yard completion to tight end David Njoku, Mayfield took a sack on third third-and-3 from the 38-yard line, negating any realistic chance to consider going for it on fourth down.

    Turnovers are the great equalizer in the NFL, or at least they should be. It's why the Browns defense can come away from a game in which they gave up 456 total yards of offense and feel like they did what they needed to do to win the game.

    The inability by the offense to cash in turnovers has cost the Browns at least two games already. Consider that this team's record with those two games as wins would be 4-3.

    Seriously, all the Browns needed to do to be above .500 after seven games was win two games in which they were a combined plus-8 in turnovers. For as complicated as this game can be sometimes, something like that is simple.

    Slow starts are killing this team. The inability to find ways to win close games is killing this team. Penalties are definitely killing this team.

    All of those mistakes, though, get erased when a defense forces turnovers at the rate the Browns are forcing turnovers.

    "We didn't capitalize on some of those (turnovers) early," head coach Hue Jackson said after Sunday's loss. "That's what you got to do."

    The Browns defense keeps giving gifts. Their offense keeps taking them back to the returns counter.

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    Mayfield was hit helmet-to-helmet, but the flag was picked up because he was a runner.

    TAMPA, Fla. -- Baker Mayfield was miffed that a helmet-to-helmet hit on him after a long fourth-quarter run in Sunday's 26-23 overtime loss to the Bucs wasn't flagged.

    The officials threw the flag on the play, but then picked it back up, saying Mayfield was a runner when safety Jordan Whitehead drilled him in the head. The problem is, he had already initiated his slide.

    "There's a lot of stuff being put on protecting the quarterback,'' said Mayfield. "It doesn't seem like the Browns are getting a lot of calls. They can review and they can say I was a runner, but I started my slide. It's helmet-to-helmet contact. I felt it. But I got up and let the guy know he's going to have to hit me a lot harder than that if he wants to affect me."

    Head referee Shawn Hochuli announced over the loudspeaker after the flag was picked up, "the quarterback is still a runner and therefore is allowed to be hit in the head.''

    But coach Hue Jackson, who argued a number of the Browns' 14 penalties for 114 yard, asked for clarification.

    "They said he was a runner,'' Jackson said. "What I know is he should be protected once he starts to slide. He says 'no he was like any other normal runner who's out there running,' but I thought he had slid and got down before he got hit. That's what the guy said to me. He said he's not afforded that protection out there. That was different from what I know."

    The NFL declined to comment on the non-call after the game, and no pool report was requested.

    Mayfield had scrambled 35 yards for a first down to the Tampa Bay 41 on the play. A 15-yard penalty would've moved him to the 26. He got the Browns down to the 2, but Nick Chubb gained only a yard on third down and then Mayfield was stopped on fourth and 1 with 4:55 left in regulation.

    A miffed Jackson doesn't rule out take the playcalling back from Todd Haley

    But Jarvis Landry helped make up for it by laying out for a 16-yard TD catch that tied it at 23 with 2:28 left in the game.

    Still, Landry was as mad about the non-call on Mayfield as anything else after the game.

    "Tom Brady gets that call,'' he said. "Aaron Rodgers gets that call. Any other quarterback gets that call. It's tough to beat a team and feel like you're playing against another team as well (the officials). It's a problem. It's really a problem.''
    Landry added, "All quarterbacks turn into a runner but when they slide, they get their protection back. I don't understand the difference and he hit them in the head. He hit him in the head.''

    He lamented that Emmanuel Ogbah was flagged 15-yards for roughing on Jameis Winston for what seemed like a lesser offense.

    "All he did was jump,'' said Landry. "He didn't even tough him in the head. It makes no sense.''

    He added, "We're the most penalized team in the NFL. Every week it's 12-15 penalties. Nobody listens. It's not to attack the referees, but somebody should be taking a look at this stuff. We get apologies but it's game changing plays. People's jobs, lives are at stake. I don't understand why it's not a bigger issue.''

    Fortunately for the Browns, Mayfield didn't suffer a concussion on the play.

    The Browns will send it into the NFL for clarification, but as usual, it won't do them any good.