J.D. Bagley, @jdbagley5
In a virtually must win situation for the Browns, Freddie Kitchens and Co. came out of East Rutherford on Monday night with a 23-3 victory over the depleted New York Jets, improving their record to 1-1 on the season. The Browns absolutely had to have this one. With their next 5 opponents on schedule boasting a combined 10-0 record heading into Week 3, the Browns couldn’t afford to start the season 0-2. While it wasn’t their best performance by any stretch of the imagination, the Browns got a win on the road for just the 3rd time in the past 4 years and that’s all that matters to this point. Baker was quoted after the game saying “Yeah, absolutely we needed to play better. I think the biggest thing is not losing sight that a win is a win, especially on the road.” He, along with everyone else in that locker room, knows this team is capable of much more than what they’ve displayed on the field over the last two weeks. A tough week of practice is incoming before the Browns get set to face off against the Rams on Sunday Night Football, Cleveland’s first appearance in the marquee game since 2008.
Mayfield and the Browns offense began to take shape early on, driving the ball into Jets territory on their first two offensive possessions, but were held to only field goals in both sequences. The first drive was highlighted by an incredible one-handed catch made by Odell Beckham Jr., nearly in the same spot at MetLife Stadium where he caught his world famous one-handed touchdown during his rookie year in 2014. Shortly after the catch, on 3rd and goal Beckham was forced to leave the game by officials deeming his visor tint too dark and illegal under NFL rules. It’s safe to say you’d like to have your best offensive weapon on the field during a 3rd and goal situation that ended up resulting in just 3 points. Mid way through the 1st quarter, Mayfield scrambled to his right on 2nd down before throwing a high pass to David Njoku in which he leapt up to attempt a catch before being upended, ultimately landing on his head. Njoku left the game and did not return. It’s been reported that Njoku has been diagnosed with a concussion and his status for Week 3 is uncertain. Early on in the 2nd quarter the Browns were faced with a 4th and 2 from the Jets 24 when Jets defensive back Nate Hairston was called for defensive holding, gifting the Browns an automatic first down. On the ensuing play Nick Chubb took the ball 19 yards for his first touchdown of the season, giving Cleveland a 13-0 lead. The 2nd half was underlined by Beckham’s 89 yard touchdown catch, which was the dagger the Browns needed to put this game away late in the 3rd quarter. Last week, Jets DC Gregg Williams was asked about Beckham’s comments on Williams’ dirty coaching tactics, Williams responded with “Odell who?”, then also went on to deflect a question referencing Beckham as one of the most dynamic players in the NFL where he responded “That’s your opinion?”. Beckham got the best of Williams in this coach/player matchup finishing the game with a 6/161/1 stat line and a win to top it off. Outside of a couple big plays, Cleveland’s offense didn’t look all that sharp against a Jets defense missing 3 of their best players in C.J. Mosley, Avery Williamson, and Quinnen Williams. One concern I have with the offense so far is the lack of involvement from Jarvis Landry. Understandably him and Odell are great friends on and off the field, but I wonder how many more games Jarvis can go with the minimal target share he has been receiving before making it a known problem. Through two games in 2018, Landry led the Browns in receptions with 12. Through two games this year, he has just 7 catches compared to Odell’s 13. The offensive line looked slightly improved from last week, giving up just 3 sacks Monday night, an improvement from 5 in Week 1. But it’s difficult to fully evaluate the progress, considering the opponent they were going up against. Baker finished the day going 19/35 for 325 yards 1 TD and 1 INT. If you take away Odell’s 89 yard touchdown reception, Mayfield would’ve only completed 52.9% of his passes for 236 yards. Not shooting any shots at Baker, but he is going to have to play better if the Browns are going to have a chance when the defending NFC Champs come to town this week.
The defensive side of the ball for the Browns looked much better this week, which was expected. After giving up 43 points in the opener, there was really nowhere to go but up. Facing off against the Sam Darnold-less Jets, Cleveland held New York to just 3 points and 251 total yards. You could’ve guessed it, the star on defense last night was Myles Garrett. Dominating Jets LT Kelvin Beachum all night, Garrett racked up 3 sacks to put himself atop the NFL through 2 weeks with 5 total sacks. He has been a nightmare for opposing offensive tackles so far this year, making a strong case for the DPOY award early on. The thing that has me concerned about Garrett so far is the unnecessary roughness penalties. Last night he committed 2 in the first half, along with 1 last week. Automatic first downs are a back breaker for defenses trying to get the ball back into the hands of the offense and when facing superior opponents, these could be very costly penalties. As a team, the Browns cut their penalties in half from 18 to 9, which was a great site to see and goes to show on the scoreboard. One of Garrett’s two unnecessary roughness penalties came mid way through the 2nd quarter when he hit QB Trevor Siemian late, gruesomely injuring Siemian on the play. It has been reported that Siemian will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury. Luke Falk, who had just been recently elevated from the practice squad was thrust into action. Falk finished the game 20/25 for 198 yards in relief. Being down by double digits with only 1 true playmaker on offense is going to be tough on any quarterback, let alone a guy stepping onto an NFL field for the first time in his career. All game long, the offense ran through RB LeV’eon Bell, who totaled 31 touches (21 carries, 10 receptions). Cleveland knew this was the likely plan of Jets HC Adam Gase with no other real threats on the offense and Sam Darnold unavailable to play. The Browns made sure to keep everything in front of them, playing sound defense throughout the ball game. On one of the Jets longest drives of the game, Bell shook off a Denzel Ward tackle before Joe Schobert forcibly put his helmet right on the ball, popping it out and into the hands of T.J. Carrie for the only Jets turnover of the game.
This win was just what the Browns needed. A 20 point victory on the road is no small feat, regardless of who you are playing. Cleveland has so much room to improve on both sides of the ball if they want to compete against the likes of the Rams, Ravens, Seahawks and Patriots, 4 of their next 5 opponents. Baker Mayfield and the offense still haven’t gotten fully into rhythm yet through 2 weeks, which wasn’t fully unexpected. It may take some time to get rolling with Freddie Kitchens as a first time Head Coach, who is still getting adjusted to being the top dawg in the locker room. But, this team has heart and you better not count them out just yet. Baker thrives off the doubters as he has done his whole life. With yet another prime time game on the horizon, Cleveland will have a second chance early on to show the national audience what Cleveland Browns football is all about.