The Cleveland Browns are 3-1 for the first time since 2001, and all it took was hanging on to a 41-14 lead for a 49-38 win.
Browns Running game
The Browns have now scored 30 or more points in three straight games for the first time since 1968. The running game is firing on all cylinders after tallying 307 yards, even with Nick Chubb leaving the game with a knee injury (fingers crossed on MRI).
D’Ernest Johnson stepped up after Chubb went down and led the Browns in rushes (13) and yards (95). Kareem Hunt, dealing with a groin injury, added 71 yards on 11 carries. Odell Beckham Jr. added 73 yards to the total, including the game-sealing 50-yard touchdown run on an end-around late in the fourth quarter. The Browns currently lead the NFL in rushing yards, average, touchdowns, and runs of 20 plus yards.
Mayfield had his third straight performance with a quarterback rating of 100 in a row. The first time he has done that in his young career. After eight straight games throwing an interception, Mayfield has not thrown one the last two games.
Over his last three games, Mayfield has completed 67 percent of his passes for 540 yards and six touchdowns to only one interception. The Browns will need him to step up and be the man at some point this season, but the efficiency he is playing with right now has been a perfect complement to the rushing attack.
While Mayfield still has some issues to work out (happy feet), he has shown a ton of growth in a short time with Stefanski. Aside from a bad overthrow in the fourth, that has to be made, Mayfield had a solid all-around performance. There is hope he will be even better as they progress together.
Garrett is easily off to the best start of his career. He has not only been pressuring the quarterback and getting sacks, but he is also making game-changing plays.
Per Pro Football Reference, Garrett has tallied 13 pressures, six hurries, and five sacks in four games. The key has been three strip-sacks in three straight games that have all been cashed in by the offense for touchdowns. Defensive player of the year is calling a quarter of the way through the season.
Once again, Sendejo is part of the bad or ugly. Why he is still starting is a mystery to all who have watched him play this year. He has made a habit of being out of position, overplaying plays, and just getting plain beat by everyone.
Stefanski and defensive coordinator Joe Woods must make a change. At this point, anyone on the field would have to be an improvement over the veteran.
Getting only three
Some may consider this nitpicking based on what the offense did yesterday, but the Browns should have done better on the final drive of the first half. For a team that was moving the ball at will they played that drive like extremely conservative giving them no chance at a touchdown.
Stefanski has been so aggressive overall that it was a bit disappointing to watch the offense run the clock down with passes to the middle of the field and settle for a field goal. Maybe those throws were mistakes by Mayfield, but it felt like that drive was designed to get three. You have to put yourself in a position to have a few shots at the endzone in that situation.
The Fourth Quarter
Closing out a win. That may be the hardest part of changing the culture of a losing team. Giving up 24 fourth-quarter points is ugly no matter what the game’s outcome is, and it shows this team still has some work to do.
The Browns are supposed to be built to put this type of game away with the run game. With or without Nick Chubb, this team must learn to take the ball and ram it down the opposing team’s throat for the win. OBJ made a big play in the end to save this game. Credit Stefanski with a gutsy call and having his playmaker make a play, but it should not have come to that.
The Browns had multiple chances to put this game in the win column long before the final seconds ticked off the clock. To take the next step, this team needs to take that final step of closing out a team. Winning a game most predicted they would lose certainly is a huge step in the right direction.
Update to Chubb injury situation while writing this:
Follow me on Twitter for more great content @WeirdJBronavich.