CLEVELAND (AP) — The ring of honor was new and exciting. Everything else about the Cleveland Browns’ home opener had a familiar ring.
Cleveland dropped to 0-2 for the third straight season and fourth time in five years Sunday, losing 16-14 to the Kansas City Chiefs, who made bigger plays, made better halftime adjustments and didn’t make as many costly mistakes or penalties.
Afterward, Cleveland coach Eric Mangini, whose job security may hinge on the next few weeks, was visibly upset at seeing another victory slip away.
“I’m disappointed for all of us because the result should be different, but until we change the self-inflicted wounds, it’s going to be hard,” Mangini said. “It’s going to be hard week in and week out.”
It’s about to get real hard for the Browns, who will face Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and New Orleans before their bye.
If things don’t change quickly, it may be bye-bye for Mangini, whose job was saved by a four-game winning streak to end last season.
One of those victories came over Kansas City. But those were the 2009 Chiefs. The 2010 Chiefs are different.
Two wins in the first two weeks has changed them.
Brandon Flowers returned an interception for a touchdown, Ryan Succop kicked three field goals and Thomas Jones vaulted for a late first down on a fourth-down gamble by coach Todd Haley as the Chiefs improved to 2-0 for the first time since 2005.
A feeble four-win squad last season, the Chiefs, who also knocked off AFC West champion San Diego on Monday night, believe this year can be different.
“Two-and-0 in the NFL is hard to do,” said Jones, who catapulted over the line to pick up the game-clinching first down with two minutes left. “But we can’t rest.”
Despite a short work week to prepare for the Browns (0-2), the Chiefs were able to make just enough plays to squeak by. Last season, Kansas City didn’t get its second win until Nov. 15.
“This win says a lot,” Haley said. “These guys are understanding what it is all about, and that’s becoming a team. I’m not saying we’re there yet, but we stuck together and won. This was a huge win to come into a hostile environment against a team that was fighting. We started the process last year and are continuing it.”
Kansas City also learned its lessons from a 41-34 loss to Cleveland last December, when Browns running back Jerome Harrison ran wild for 286 yards — third most in NFL history — and return specialist Joshua Cribbs returned two kickoffs for TDs.
Harrison was held to 33 yards on 16 carries and his fumble set up a field goal for Kansas City.
The Chiefs angled kicks away from Cribbs, allowing him one punt return for 5 yards and one kickoff return for 19. He did burn them for a 65-yard TD reception from Seneca Wallace.
Wallace started in place of Jake Delhomme, who injured his right ankle last week in his debut for the Browns , a 17-14 loss at Tampa Bay. Wallace finished 16 of 31 for 229 yards, but one of his attempts in the second quarter was run back for a TD by Flowers.
“It was a bad, bad decision by me,” Wallace said. “I’ll take responsibility for that.”
The loss also tainted Cleveland’s unveiling of its ring of honor, a tribute to the franchise’s glorious past and great players. For now, the Browns’ best memories remain decades old.
Clinging to their 2-point lead, the Chiefs were faced with a fourth-and-inches at the Cleveland 36 with two minutes left. During the two-minute warning, Haley decided that instead of punting and perhaps pinning the Browns deep, he would go for it.
And when the call came in from Kansas City’s sideline, quarterback Matt Cassel and his teammates were thrilled.
“I was absolutely all for that play,” said Cassel, who finished 16 of 28 for 176 yards and two interceptions. “It showed a lot of respect for the guys up front and the guys who run the ball. It was a great move. You should have seen the huddle. The linemen were lighting up, the running backs were lighting up.
“It was a statement that we’ve got confidence to go for the win.”
Jones took the handoff from Cassel and leaped over the pile. Following a measurement that showed he picked up the first down by the nose of the ball, the Chiefs then had to endure a lengthy review by the replay officials upstairs.
When referee Carl Cheffers announced the play stood, Kansas City’s sideline erupted in celebration.
“I wish it didn’t go to review,” Haley said. “We were trying to put it away and did. That’s a good feeling. Two weeks in a row that you end the game in that kneel-down situation, I’m all for that.”