The Cleveland Browns won a football game for the first time in 635 days.
If No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield’s performance (17 of 23, 201 yards) against the New York Jets on Thursday night was any indication, the Browns’ 21-17 victory will not be the last game the team wins this season. Mayfield entered the game late in the second quarter for an injured Tyrod Taylor. It would be shocking if he gives way to Taylor ever again for reasons relating to anything other than injury.
Mayfield immediately provided Cleveland’s offense with a spark it has been missing for quite some time, and he moved the team efficiently down the field, generating points on three of his four drives. The field goal drive to end the first half got things started for the Browns, but Mayfield also led two touchdown drives — one each in the third and fourth quarters — to bring the Browns back from a 14-0 deficit and snare their first victory since Christmas Eve of 2016.
Mayfield had some help along the way, as the Cleveland defense for the third straight game held an offense to a below-average performance. Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi did excellent work up front. Denzel Ward forced another turnover on the back end, setting Cleveland up in field goal range in the process. Joe Schobert, Chris Smith, Trevon Coley, and Genard Avery chipped with in strong play as well.
And in the end, the Browns — the Cleveland Browns! — came away with a win. Crack open, folks. This does not happen often.
Here are a few more things to know about Cleveland’s first victory in seemingly forever.
It was an ugly night for Tyrod Taylor. The Browns’ starting quarterback was dreadful from the start — not that he had much help from his dreadful offensive line, which gave up three sacks and numerous pressures — and ended up completing just 4 of 14 passes for 19 yards. He missed several open throws, including a deep ball to Antonio Callaway that would’ve resulted in a long touchdown pass. He under-threw Callaway by about five yards, and the pass fell incomplete.
In the second quarter he went down awkwardly while under pressure and eventually left the game with a concussion.
He was relieved by No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, who immediately showed better rhythm in the passing game, including with his first career pass, which was a completion to Jarvis Landry. (It’s unclear exactly why the Browns ran a much more limited playbook with Taylor in the game than a rookie who had never played in the NFL, but that is certainly what happened.) Mayfield eventually got the Browns into field goal range in the two-minute drill, and new kicker Greg Joseph banged a 45-yarder through the uprights.
Mayfield showed all the skills that made him the No. 1 overall pick. He was accurate to short, intermediate, and deep zones. He kept plays alive with his mobility and made things happen outside the pocket. He fit throws in tight windows and threw guys open before they hit the top of their break — the kind of stuff we haven’t seen from a Browns quarterback in literally years.
Mayfield even caught a game-tying two-point conversion pass from Landry, on a play that should look at least somewhat familiar to anyone who watched last year’s Super Bowl.
His presence in the backfield also loosened things up for Carlos Hyde, who found himself with far more room to run once Mayfield entered the game and eventually finished with 23 carries for 98 yards and two scores — including (gasp) the game-winner.
Denzel Ward is a playmaker
The Browns came into this game leading the NFL with eight takeaways, and rookie cornerback Denzel Ward was a big part of that with two interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger during his first career start back in Week 1. Ward made another big play in this one, stripping Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson of the football deep in Jets territory midway through the third quarter, then recovering the fumble himself and returning it to the 8-yard line.
The Browns, being the Browns, only turned the opportunity into a field goal — and one that just barely went through the uprights at that. In any event, Ward is off to a very nice start to his NFL career, as he’s been a secondary complement to the Browns’ playmakers up front: Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjob