The Cleveland Browns lost their top wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr. on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. After Baker Mayfield threw an interception on the first pass play of their opening series is when it happened. Odell was chasing the defensive back and suddenly tried to stop and seemed to hyperextend his leg. We as fans were all hoping that it was not going to be too serious, though bookies and online betting sites like at playersbest.com are reeling. As they game went on, he went from being downgraded to questionable to than out. How will the Browns and Baker respond to losing one of the premier wide outs in the game.
Odell Beckham Jr is out for the game
After that fateful play, the Bengals were able to score a touchdown and lead the game 7-0. I can honestly say over the past year in a half since Odell became a Brown, the offense has seemed to be forcing him the ball. I get it, he is a game changing player, but I think this was hindering the passing offense. Baker and the Cleveland offense came out and started to do the things that made them a top 10 scoring offense. Head Coach Kevin Stefanski began to feed Kareem Hunt and trust that big offensive line. Baker and the offense began to find its rhythm. As they marched down the field, they did stall and had to settle for a field goal try by kicker Cody Parkey. With a successful kick, the Browns trail 7-3.
As we make our way into the second quarter, the game starts to open up. The Bengals drive down the field and the Browns defense is able to stiffen up and force a field goal. The score is now 10-3 Bengals. The Browns come out and begin a steady march down the field. With Hunt running the ball and Baker hitting open receivers in the play action game, the Browns are able to score a touchdown on a pass from Baker to rookie tight end, Harrison Bryant. This offense finally looked like it had flow and everyone was touching the ball.
Baker’s play without Odell Beckham Jr
Mayfield was able to prove to all the haters that he is an elite quarterback in this league. Since Odell went down, the Browns were forced to go deep into their receiving corps. You started seeing more snaps going to players like Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones. This was the ultimate mix of run and pass as the offense was humming. The game became a shootout and was not for the faint of heart. This game became a slugfest of offenses trading touchdown after touchdown.
With the absence of Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns offense became a passing juggernaut. Baker’s accuracy was impeccable and he was hitting the opening receiver and not forcing the ball. There was another touchdown pass to Bryant and then next was able to hit David Njoku. On the next drive after the Njoku touchdown, Baker was able to find Hunt out in the flat for another touchdown pass. At this point, it made the game 31-27 Browns with about 4:53 left in the game.
The last 2 minutes of the game
As both offenses were trading touchdowns, the game was coming down to whoever would have the ball last. After the Browns defense could not stop the Bengals offense, the Browns were now trailing 34-31 with only 1:06 remaining in the game. This was setting up for the most telling moment of Baker’s young career. How was he going to handle a 2 minute drill with trying to either tie the game or win the game.
Baker had struggled up till now in the fourth quarter. His quarterback rating was not very good and he had more interceptions than touchdowns at this time. Kevin Stefanski was dialing up some really good plays, but Baker was able to hit the open receivers. Higgins came through big with two very clutch pass catches. The most impactful was a leaping catch by Higgins that was for 30 yards. This got the Browns down to the 24 yard line and was setting up the final play of the drive. After spiking the ball, Baker and the Browns came up to the line of scrimmage. With Baker dropping back to pass, Baker was able to hit Peoples-Jones with a back shoulder throw into the endzone. With an amazing move and toe drag, Peoples-Jones was able to come down with the touchdown catch.
Going forward without Odell Beckham Jr
The Browns are able to beat the Bengals 37-34 and move to 5-2. This has been one of the best starts for the Browns in a long time. It will be key for Stefanski to keep this momentum going as they play the Las Vegas Raiders next at home. This by far, was possible the best performance by Baker. He was 22 for 28, 297 yards, 5 touchdowns and 1 interception. In seeing how this offense ran once OBJ went down, you could say that Baker plays better without Odell in the lineup. The crazy part here is that you never want to think that about your top receiver.
Going forward, this offense will be much different, but it will be an offense that throws the ball to the open man and not force feeding the superstar. Nick Chubb is due to come back from a knee injury very soon, so the top rusher on the team with be added to the mix. With OBJ out of the lineup, we may see an emergence in the growth of Baker. As a fan of this team since the 1980’s, I’m excited to see how the rest of this season goes and can only hope they continue to get better and make the playoffs.
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