A winnless Cleveland Browns team heads into a prime time, nationally televised game against the New York Jets. Quarterback Baker Mayfield leads the Browns to a win with big plays down field, while a Myles Garrett-led defensive lines provided the pressure, earning the city of Cleveland with its first win of the season.
In 2018 the result was jubilation. Strangers were hugging. Children were kept up way past their bed time. Miniature refrigerators full of Bud Light were unlocked.
A year later, the result — though a more substantial victory in the way of point differential and wire-to-wire domination — is much more subdued. That Thursday night in FirstEnergy Stadium was a magical night, but only because of the misery and general nadir of all things football taking place the season prior. This time around, expectations are wildly different. The Browns went into Monday Night as 6.5-point favorites (no Browns team since Bill Belichick’s ’95 squad had been favored by more than five points on the road) and won by 20. Only the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers had a larger margin of victory during Week 2, yet it’s a natural reaction to wonder if the gap could have been wider.
This isn’t nit-picking; it’s progress. Progress in terms of expectation, but more so in terms of what we settle for from our favorite team. A win is a win, but it’s also fair to acknowledge that it will take a lot more in the way of execution to hang with the upper tier of NFL teams. Long gone are the days of hoping for turnovers and luck to keep things close — this team is expected to compete with the best, and the good(?) news is, they’re certainly going to get their shot.
— Scott @ WFNY (@WFNYScott) September 17, 2019
WINNER: Freddie Kitchens
Any time a rookie head coach gets his first win, being in this spot was inevitable. There was some growing concern that Kitchens could dial back the risk-taking in the wake of the interceptions and final score following Week 1. While one could argue that they did in fact run the ball too much too early in the contest (establishing the run is much more than just calling run plays), and there were still a few questionable decisions that led to silly penalties. But it was a substantial improvement compared to the previous week (no one was kicked in the throat, for starters) and Kitchens isn’t hiding from the issues the team still faces as they head into Week 3.
“We said to each other that we’d find out a lot about ourselves after this week, and I think we did,” Kitchens told his team postgame. “We need to keep it going. We had mistakes. We’ll get those corrected. But you stayed together, and that was the key.”
HC Freddie Kitchens in the locker room following our win over the Jets: pic.twitter.com/4ZMzRt5lwB
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 17, 2019
WINNER: Baker Mayfield
Sure, 19-of-35 isn’t world-beating. Sure, there were instances of holding on to the ball to long. And sure, ESPN loved displaying that interception graphic at the bottom of the screen throughout the second half. But the good news is Baker isn’t letting any of these struggles change who he is. He could have easily decided this week was going to be dinking and dunking and checkdowns galore. Instead, he averaged over nine yards per pass attempt, racking up 325 yards in a game many feel could have been even better. The 3rd-and-12 pass to Damian Ratley before halftime was beautiful. The slant to Odell Beckham Jr. (more on this later) will be on the season highlight reel. There are some air-mailing issues to be corrected (one which may have led to David Njoku being injured), but I refuse to believe Baker Mayfield, known for his accuracy, suddenly turned into Chuck Knoblauch.
WINNER: Austin Seibert
Touchdowns would have been great, but Seibert certainly did everything he could to ease concern surrounding the team’s kicking game by burying three field goals (two of which were beyond 40 yards) and both extra points.
LOSER: Gregg Williams
WINNER: Odell Beckham Jr.
He’s going to get all of the publicity for the the RPO that turned into an 89-yard touchdown. To be fair, he should. The play was incredible and was the epitome of why the Browns sent a first-rounder to New York for his services. It was the fastest peak speed through the first two weeks, and Beckham said he did it on tight hamstrings. All of this said: That one-handed catch in the red zone was amazing.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 17, 2019
It wasn’t falling into the end zone with one hand, but holy hell was that an amazing grab by No. 13. Using his left arm to throw down the defender after the catch was the cherry on top.
LOSER: Whomever is responsible for Visorgate
There are a few items worth questioning here. Didn’t Beckham wear this visor throughout the entire Week 1 contest? If the visor is in fact illegal, why did the team’s equipment people put it on there to begin with? Is it only illegal because of some dumb league partnership with another visor company? How was it only deemed illegal once the Browns entered the red zone? Beckham mentioned other players in the league wearing illegal visors — is this true? This whole thing feels immensely avoidable, but with everyone to blame.
WINNER: Myles Garrett
He’s going to catch some shit this week about the penalties, but there’s a reason why Garrett was the guy Kitchens turned to in the video above to call the team together. He had three sacks, two additional quarterback hits, and two hurries. Special mention to Olivier Vernon with four hurries on the other side that led to at least one of Garrett’s three sacks.
WINNER: Greedy Williams
A terrific game from the rookie. While Denzel Ward looked a bit pensive with three missed tackles, Williams looked anything but.
WINNERS: The Offensive Line Outside of Chris Hubbard
If we can collectively agree that the two sacks sustained by Baker Mayfield were due to his holding on to the ball too long, and figure out a way to strip out Chris Hubbard’s brutal run blocking, the Browns offensive line was actually pretty decent in this one. I may be looking at this on a sliding scale because of my very low expectations, but I saw no issues with Joel Bitonio or JC Tretter, while the duo of Kush and Robinson didn’t get embarrassed (with just four pressures allowed between them).
WINNERS: All of the People Involved in This Video
The Browns really did a remake of the “Friends” intro 😂
— ESPN (@espn) September 17, 2019