With the Browns defeat of the Ravens, your Cleveland Browns took over first place of the AFC North. For everyone in the back, let me repeat that the CLEVELAND BROWNS are in first place for the first time since 2014. The Browns have yet to play their best football, even yesterday, and they are 2-2 and lead the division. It’s victory Monday over a division opponent so let’s look at how the Browns got here.
Chubb was the star of the day racking up 165 yards on 20 carries while scoring three touchdowns. He is the first Browns running back to score three touchdowns in a single game against the Ravens. Chubb also caught three passes for another 18 yards giving him 183 yards from scrimmage. All of this against a defense that came in giving up only 60 yards per game on the ground. But as stated in the keys to victory article, the Ravens defense against the run was exploited by the Chiefs. The Browns saw that and used it yesterday to take control of the game — great work by the offensive staff.
Yesterday was the best game in Jarvis Landry’s career. He was able to grab eight receptions for 165 yards most of that coming in the first half. He was an absolute monster in the first half helping keep the Ravens offense in check by keeping them off the field. Per film analyst Jake Burns on twitter, the Ravens were so concerned with stopping Beckham that they were undisciplined within their zone scheme. This analysis is not to take anything away from the great game by Jarvis but to show the effect having multiple threats can have on a game.
Both the offensive and defensive lines took charge for most of the day yesterday. On offense, we saw the line open enormous holes for Nick Chubb and keep Baker Mayfield upright for most of the day. The much-maligned offensive line clearly enjoyed their best game of the year. Let’s all hope it is the first of many more great games from that front.
On the other side of the ball, the defensive front was able to keep Lamar Jackson and the Ravens run game in check overall. Seeing the box score, you might say, but they gave up 173 yards. While that usually is not slowing a run game, but this is the Ravens. A team that came into this game average well over 200 yards a game on the ground. They also were able to sack Jackson four times in the game. Preseason sensation defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence made a great play to intercept Lamar Jackson in the second half. Once again the Browns defense was well prepared and made big plays when needed to finish off the game.
The front office and coaching staff kept pumping up Whitehead as a player they liked. Most fans felt the same way at the outset of the season. Then some boneheaded plays over the last couple weeks had fans wondering about him. While those plays may still creep up for the young man, yesterday was a masterpiece. White forced a Mark Ingram fumble at what may have been the most crucial point of the game. The Ravens were on the verge of getting themselves back in the game at that point. That play swung the momentum back to the Browns. He also had a great interception on a deep throw from Jackson. Finally, he had the big hit on Jackson that allowed Lawrence to intercept Jackson late in the game. His play was what a beat-up secondary needed to help keep the number one scoring offense in the NFL in check.
The Coaching Staff
Freddie Kitchens and the entire offensive staff had their best game of the year by far. It was helped by a defense that was a bit overrated coming into this game, but creativity was again a part of the game. Freddie looked like he was back with two big gimmicky plays and a lot more pre and post-snap creativity. He had one set that allowed for multiple reverses turning into Odell Beckham Jr. passing downfield. Later in the game, he used a shovel pass with an option for Landry to pitch it to OBJ creating space for a 29-yard shovel pass to the two-yard line in the third quarter. This creativity, plus more personnel sets and movement, brought out what we came to expect from Kitchens last year. This mindset, and of course giving the ball to Nick Chubb a lot, is what we should expect to see the rest of 2019.
Steve Wilks and his staff continue to have a great year. Putting aside the Baker Mayfield interceptions that have put them in a horrible position this Browns defense is tremendous. Joe Schobert is having his an excellent start to the season. The beat-up secondary has held up against some good football teams. The defensive line continues to dominate and create havoc, even with a “quiet” day from Myles Garrett. Everything is clicking right now, and it comes down to being well prepared week in and week out. The defense had this talent for the last three years and now has the coordinator to get the most out of it. They are the strength of this team so far and should be going forward.
Overall this was the Browns best performance of the year. It was also Mayfield’s best performance of the year. He seemed more comfortable today as he stepped up into the pocket more and delivered passes with more authority. Freddie finally provided some of the creativity he had in the past. For all the hoopla out there this team improves each week and mistakes are becoming a thing of the past. Hopefully, this game is the turning point the players and staff were looking for to take off on what can still be a great year. Even with all the growing pains, the Browns sit atop the AFC North. The future is still bright Cleveland so enjoy it. On to San Francisco.