The Cleveland Browns’ 19-16 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday – their first home win of the season and first win since Week 4 in Baltimore – did not come easy. There was a missed extra point after Jarvis Landry’s first-quarter touchdown. There were the repeated failures to score right near the goal line. And there’s was almost a Bills defensive touchdown that was eerily similar to a play that doomed the Browns against the Patriots. And yet, the Browns won to improve to 3-6.
Here’s three takeaways from the game.
Scoring in the red zone was a problem… until it wasn’t
In the first half, with the Browns on the one-yard line, they were unable to score via this play calling:
- 1st & goal: Incomplete pass (penalty)
- 1st & goal: Run for -1 yard
- 2nd & goal: Run for 1 yards
- 3rd & goal: Incomplete pass (penalty)
- 1st & goal: Run for 0 yards
- 2nd & goal: Incomplete pass
- 3rd & goal: Run for 0 yards
- 4th & goal: Run for -2 yards
On these calls, it was easy for anyone to suss out what Freddie Kitchens was calling. There was no spread sets to create a lane for Nick Chubb to run in – instead Chubb was repeatedly taken down by a stacked box. Efforts to get the ball to Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t work either. The end result was nine cracks at the end zone and zero points to show for it. It was continued incompetence for everyone involved.
In the fourth, when the Browns got back inside the 10 after Baker Mayfield (who threw for two touchdowns in a single game for the first time all year Sunday) found Landry. After a failed rushing attempt, Cleveland spread out a bit and scored, with Mayfield finding Rashard Higgins in the back of the end zone:
Per ESPN, the Browns were the first team since the 1993 Jets to run six plays from an opponent’s 2-yard line or closer on a possession without scoring. For a franchise that has specialized in being inept, this was another new, frustrating layer. For the team, it had to make the game-winning touchdown all the more enjoyable.
Kareem Hunt makes an impact
There are fair and obvious reasons to feel uneasy about Hunt being on the Browns when you consider why he was suspended in the first place. But he’s also going to be part of what Cleveland’s offense will be moving forward if Sunday is any indication. He’s back, for better or worse.
Hunt looked explosive every time he was involved in a play, either as a runner, pass catcher or blocking. On the ground, Nick Chubb remains the team’s workhorse – he had 20 carries on Sunday vs. four for Hunt. Hunt, though, had seven catches on nine targets vs. two catches on four targets for Chubb. He finished with 74 all-purpose yards while playing 57.6% of the team’s offensive snaps and looked similar to the Pro Bowl-caliber player he was with the Chiefs. When he’s on the field with Chubb, it’s going to be hard for defenses to deal with.
Hunt is going to help the Browns, which is all that really mattered to the team in the first place.
A strong Baker Mayfield performance
There were some Mayfield miscues. When he was sacked in the third quarter for a safety, it was his decision to hold onto the ball and not recognize a blitz coming pre-snap that really caused it. He also overthrew Beckham on the Browns’ first play of the game with Beckham not making a huge impact on the game despite a team-leading 12 targets.
But this game also was a reminder that Mayfield can be great. His first touchdown on Sunday was a perfect ball to Landry that was equal parts accurate and powerful:
For the day, he finished with 26-38 for 238 yards and two touchdowns. This was as good as he’s been all year something the Browns desperately need to continue as they try to build on their third win of the season.