First of all, the calf.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said after Sunday's 24-3 loss here in the opener, it was good enough. He strained it in the second practice of training camp and didn't return to practice until two weeks ago and that was the question everyone wanted to know after his career-low 82 passing yards.
"Felt good enough," Burrow said.
Missing most of camp a factor for a total of 142 yards, the lowest in head coach Zac Taylor's 57 games?
"It's tough to tell," he said. "A lot of variables that go into it."
Center Ted Karras talked about the lack of communication and there were also moments Burrow appeared not to be on the same page with his receivers.
"That happens in Week 1. Those things happen when the quarterback doesn't perform in training camp," Burrow said. "That was obviously something I would have liked to have done, but no excuses. It's, obviously, not very good today. We've got to do better."
Tee Higgins had no catches on eight targets. The longest completion was 12 yards to wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, who said the Bengals failed to capitalize like they usually do against man-to-man defenses.
After the Bengals fell to 0-2 last year, Burrow told everyone to relax and they were rewarded with a second straight trip to the AFC title game. Burrow didn't say that Sunday, but he was on the same plane.
"Nobody is panicking in here, guys," Burrow said. "Week 1 doesn't define anybody's season. Obviously, not very good out there. Anybody that watched saw that. But we have been in this spot before and come back stronger and had great years. That's what we are going to do.
_Kicker Evan McPherson was shaking his head and not because the rain caused him to miss a 51-yard field goal that would have cut the Browns' lead to 10-6 in the middle of the third quarter. "I hit the miss good." But he couldn't remember playing in the rain during his two seasons in the NFL. It was a fairly steady rain and Taylor said his team's inability to respond with field position on special teams doomed them.
The Browns had 30 more return yards and rookie Brad Robbins' first 10 NFL punts netted 37.4 yards while his counterpart was more than six yards better.
"It was tough for both teams. That's not just us. So then it comes into managing those conditions and doing a great job running the ball, which I was pleased with the most part, what we did in the run game," Taylor said. "Then special teams and field position. I think they did a better job handling that today than we did."
Taylor blamed himself for an illegal shift penalty (two players in motion at the same time) because he got the call in late. There was also an illegal formation penalty right after that, but Taylor said he didn't think the time Burrow missed in camp was a contributing factor. He again pointed to the conditions.
"I think early on it was immediately a different game than we've had to play in a long, long, long time with the rain," Taylor said. "I only say that because of how it affects both quarterbacks in the game."
_Bengals safety Dax Hill came up with his first NFL interception in his first start at safety and it was a huge one because he lugged it to the 50 early in the third quarter, the Bengals had a shot to tie it at ten. Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was chased out of the pocket and as he rolled to his left, he threw it over the middle to Hill.
"The elements played a factor in this game so I just wanted to get my hands on the ball and score," Hill said. "First one being a starter and being in a full-time role, it feels good."
_With the Browns driving in a scoreless game, Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie made a triumphant return to the field where he tore his ACL Halloween night. Late in the first quarter, Nick Chubb ran Cleveland to the doorstep of the red zone after safety Nick Scott ranged into the end zone to knock away Watson's bomb for Olympic sprinter Marquise Goodwin. Then it was linebacker Germaine Pratt up to his old tricks. "Playoff P," appeared to rip the ball from backup running back Jerome Ford and when the ball popped out at the Bengals 13, Awuzie grabbed it.
But in his first game back, Taylor made sure Awuzie didn't get overloaded and he rotated him rookie DJ Turner.
"Every week we'll have to look at that," Taylor said. "But for week one, that's what it was."
_For the first time since the finale of his rookie year in 2020 when he got hurt in the first series, Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins had no catches.
"It's definitely frustrating, man. Just ending the game with no catches, being the competitor I am, I don't want to end the game without any catches," Higgins said of his eight targets. "So definitely, I put my foot down and get back to work, grind out, work out, get to meetings, do all the, all the little things, and then come back next week, bigger and better than ever."
Higgins didn't blame not having his quarterback this camp.
"I feel like we got enough reps. He practiced all week, so I mean, it just came down to execute," Higgins said.
_ Robbins got better as the game went, but some early struggles decisively dictated field position. With the Bengals trailing, 3-0, and facing a fourth-and-three from the Cleveland 38, Taylor opted for Robbins and not McPherson or Burrow.
"It's a long field goal with those conditions," Taylor said. "We just needed the field to flip in our favor to punch in some of those points."
But Robbins, who didn't have a touchback all last year at Michigan, had one here.
"We're a directional team," Robbins said. "When we made the decision to go right, I just pulled on it a little bit and it hooked back towards the middle of the field. Thought I'd get lucky with the bounce. That was on me."
But to be fair, could it have been a tougher debut for a punter? On the road. Wind. Rain. Six punts on the first six series.
"Overall, I think I should do better," Robbins said. "I'm a 24-year-old rookie. I've played a lot of football in my life. I've played in a lot of big games."